Our second club preview was written by another new contributor, Michael Kline. Michael opens his K&G account with a preview of Arsenal’s West London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, who officially start the AVB Era this week:
BY MICHAEL KLINE
Tottenham Hotspur will be heading into the 2012/13 season with a new manager, new players and a new identity. André Villas-Boas will attempt to navigate his newest club back to the UEFA Champions League for only the second time in the past decade. After finishing fourth last season, Tottenham were booted from the competition this season by their southwest neighbor’s, Chelsea, Champions League triumph.
Villas-Boas will bring his heralded 4-3-3, or 4-2-3-1, into the new season, hoping for more success than he previously had at Chelsea. He seems poised for success with the foundation for his system seemingly already in place.
It is no secret that Tottenham’s strength is their midfield. Harry Redknapp left André Villas-Boas a fantastic midfield, one that the Portuguese manager has upgraded even more from last season, with the arrival of newly signed Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson.
AVB’s biggest problem with the Chelsea squad was the lack of a creative midfield. He fancies a 3-man triangle in the midfield composed of a defensive mid, box-to-box mid and an attacking mid responsible for an advanced playmaking role. He has this in bundles at Tottenham with Scott Parker, Rafael Van der Vaart, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Sandro Raniere and even Tom Carroll coming through the ranks.
And with Luka Modric, who earlier this summer appeared set for a “dream” move to Real Madrid, looking more and more likely to remain a Tottenham player, the midfield is in position to do special things this season.
Another strength, perhaps less glamorous than the first, is the opening fixtures on the Tottenham schedule. With a new system being put into place, the importance of getting off to a good start and finding a decent bit of form simply cannot be understated. Tottenham will face Newcastle on the road to open the season before playing West Bromwich, Norwich City, Reading and Queens Park Rangers ahead of their September 29th clash against Manchester United. Tottenham should get at least 12 points from those opening matches, putting them in a good position before facing Manchester United.
Last season Emmanuel Adebayor led the North London club in scoring, finishing tied for 4th in the Premier League with 17 goals and adding another in the FA Cup to bring his season total to 18 goals in all competitions. Tottenham acquired Adebayor on a season-long loan deal from Manchester City last season, and if they fail to secure his services again for the upcoming season, André Villas-Boas’ squad will lose an instrumental puzzle piece. As has been evident so far in the preseason, Tottenham is missing a pure goal scorer without Adebayor in the squad.
Daniel Levy and André Villas-Boas have been extremely patient in the transfer market, despite being linked with nearly every footballer in Europe. But if they fail to complete a move for Adebayor’s replacement, Tottenham fans will be worried about the squad’s firepower, and rightfully so. The club will be left with Jermaine Defoe, not an ideal surrogate, and Harry Kane, an inexperienced 19 year old, to carry the scoring burdens. That is scary especially when you consider the amount of matches Tottenham will have on the schedule this season.
Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, however, fit perfectly into a system that demands pacey and electric inside forwards on the wings.
Something else that needs to be mentioned is the defence in AVB’s system. Villas-Boas employs a high defensive line in his 4-3-3, and it has struggled so far in the preseason (like it did during his stint at Chelsea). The main problem with the defence at Chelsea was the obvious lack of pace at the centre-back position. Unlike Chelsea, however, Tottenham seem to be a bit better in this regard. The retirement of Ledley King has made way for Younès Kaboul to be paired with the 2011/12 Dutch Player of the Year, and new Tottenham signing, Jan Vertonghen. A slight learning curve is understandable, but the Tottenham faithful will surely encounter frustrations if Villas-Boas’ defence fails to succeed yet again in England.
Without the addition of a prolific striker, Tottenham doesn’t seem capable to compete for the league title. But a top-four finish and appearance in the FA cup semifinals certainly seems realistic and within reach. Deep appearances in both the Carling Cup and Europa League aren’t as important, but would also be embraced.
Follow Michael on Twitter @mkline08.