Summer Priorities: TottenhamSaturday, May 25, 2013
Despite upgrading Harry Redknapp with Andre Villas-Boas it was a case of deja-vu for Tottenham as they once again missed out on Champions League football on the final day. Unlike last season - when they finished 4th but were desperately unlucky to see 6th placed Chelsea win the trophy - they must take some blame this time for allowing Arsenal to close the 7 point gap that emerged after the North London derby. Failure to add an established striker to the squad in either transfer window was a major issue and they did not replace Luka Modric or Rafael van der Vaart with the required quality. This loss of creativity meant the team often struggled to breakdown sides who packed men behind the ball (losing 1-0 at home to Fulham was a key turning point) and they badly missed the injured Sandro and Younes Kaboul for much of the campaign. The season was far from a disaster however, with AVB showing greater tactical nous than his predecessor and developing an attractive but disciplined playing style as Spurs broke their own Premier League record with 72 points (which would've been enough for 3rd place in seasons gone past). The biggest positive was of course the form of the outstanding Gareth Bale who has emerged as a truly world class talent, although many claim Spurs' dependence on him means they can be fairly labelled a "one man team".
- Gareth Bale: He was already a very good player but the consistency shown this season has allowed Bale to be mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo without anyone bursting in to laughter. He could still cut out the "theatrical falls" but 24 goals and 8 assists in all competitions were the the driving force behind Tottenham's season as the Welsh wizard produced multiple match-winning performances and sealed the treble of PFA Player, PFA Young Player and Football Writers Player of the Year awards. Spurs chairman Daniel Levy must do everything he can to hang on to his prized asset for one more season but it could prove beyond him, with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid circling.
- Michael Dawson: The club captain has shown incredible grit and determination to force his way back in to the first team after AVB told him he'd be 3rd choice - and even gave him the chance to leave back in August last year. Instead of making the reported move to QPR, Dawson worked his butt off and it paid off, ending the season as the first choice partner for the excellent Jan Vertonghen and he will find himself back in the England set-up before long.
- Sandro: A key reason for Spurs' drop in form in 2013 was the loss of Sandro in early January. Before his knee injury the Brazilian had formed an excellent midfield partnership with new signing Mousa Dembele and the stats showed that no player in any of Europe's five major leagues had made as many interceptions as Sandro. He was also ranked fourth in the Premier League for number of tackles at the time of his injury which meant for combined tackles and interceptions he was clear of the rest in European football. AVB will be desperate for the 24-year old to be fighting fit when things kick off again in August.
Declining or Returning to Form:
- Emmanuel Adebayor: Classic Adebayor. After a fine loan season his performances dropped significantly once a permanent deal was sealed. The striker revealed recently that he spent much of the campaign with niggling injuries which meant he was only able to show his best form from April onwards and he certainly improved in the final weeks (his goal at Stamford Bridge was sensational), but there is always that nagging feeling he only gives 100% when it suits him and 5 league goals is an extremely poor return for a player of his undoubted quality. If AVB was confident he'd see a fully fit and firing Adebayor next season then he would be worth keeping - but is it worth the risk?
- Benoit Assou-Ekotto: It was a frustrating season for the Cameroon left-back who is one of the most improved players at the club in recent seasons and has become a firm favourite with the fans. This season saw a return to bad habits including numerous examples of lost concentration, poor decision-making and Assou-Ekotto often found himself on the bench as a result, with Jan Vertonghen or Kyle Naughton preferred.
- Scott Parker: Player of the season two years ago but at 33 it appears age is finally catching up with Scott Parker. The midfield terrier still gives it everything and runs himself in to the ground game-after-game but he has struggled to fit in with Tottenham's passing style since replacing Sandro and often turns in circles looking for the simple pass which slows down attacking plays. As a result the Tottenham fans have started to give the midfielder a hard time and he could find himself heading for the exit in the summer.
- Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson: Both men had disappointing starts to their White Hart Lane careers but chipped in with important goals towards the end of the season and should be in AVB's plans for 2013-14
- Convince Gareth Bale to sign a new contract: Spurs must try to keep Bale for one more season if possible, which will mean giving him a big pay-rise to have one more crack at the Top 4 with him in the team - whilst agreeing to let him have his big move if he wants it next summer. Keeping him will help lure some big names to the club this summer, despite the lack of Champions League football.
- Striker x 2: Assuming one of either Adebayor or Jermain Defoe will be leaving the club then AVB must be allowed to add two quality forwards to the squad and one of them must be a striker with a proven goalscoring record at the top level.
- Left back: There is plenty of depth in the center of defence and Kyle Walker has the right-back spot nailed down but Spurs could do with a new left back to challenge Assou-Ekotto. Danny Rose returns from his loan spell at Sunderland but he may not be the answer so expect to see AVB dip in to the market.
- Creative midfielder: Lewis Holtby has potential and young Tom Carroll will be more involved next season, but if Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone are seen as surplus to requirements then Spurs must add another quality central midfielder to provide competition for Sandro and Dembele.
- Back-up winger: When Spurs have been without Bale and / or Aaron Lennon they suffer badly from a lack of width and a lack of back-up in the squad. The return of Andros Townsend will help after some excellent performances at QPR but another winger should be on the White Hart Lane shopping list.
- Luke Shaw: The young Southampton full-back could follow in the footsteps of Gareth Bale by making the move up from the South coast but you have to feel Chelsea or Manchester United may pip Spurs to the post.
- Leandro Damiao: The Brazilian forward has been linked with the club for two years but the asking price of £22million has always been the sticking point. Reports suggest that price has dropped slightly this summer so Spurs may be looking to speak to the Internacional president Giovanni Luigi once again.
- Christian Benteke: Benteke appears to be the perfect fit for the Tottenham system but there's every possibility the Belgian powerhouse could choose to stick with Aston Villa after firing them to safety with 19 goals. If not, he's suggested his preferred move would be Arsenal but Spurs would still be expected to make an offer if Benteke became available.
- Roberto Soldado: Valencia have money trouble so Spurs may be able prise Soldado away for a reduced fee this summer. The striker has scored 27 goals for the La Liga outfit this season so would still cost upward of £18million.
- Christian Atsu - AVB knows him well from his time at Porto and the winger could provide back-up for Bale and competition for Aaron Lennon, although Liverpool are also interested.
Who do you think Spurs will move for this summer? Can they hang on to Bale for one more season?