Although many would love a go at managing Tottenham, Harry Redknapp’s current predicament is unlikely to arouse much envy at the moment. Tax evasion allegations aside, the gaffer’s biggest headache regarding the club is a great deal more positive, yet still troublesome.
The problem in question is that of deciding who, out of all of the fantastic players the club employs, gets the nod in the first team in the Premier League, the Europa League, and possibly even the FA Cup, if Harry decides to give it a real go. Few would argue that the summer additions of Scott Parker, Emmanuel Adebayor and Brad Friedel to the Spurs ranks has made the decisions any easier.
Between The Sticks
Harry seems pretty clear in this area of the pitch. He has already demonstrated that Friedel is the first choice in the Premier League by starting him in all five of the games so far. Friedel’s experience and reliability can only really be matched by the likes of Shay Given and he will be crucial in the big games later on in the season.
Although not quite possessing the athleticism and reaction speed of Gomes, fans feel safe when he is shot at from distance and during set pieces, unlike Gomes – whose eccentricity leaves most fans feeling as if they’re about to have a heart attack every time he goes near the ball. His composure appears to be getting worse and it is this problem which has left him as third choice keeper behind Cudicini, who has been give the nod in the Europa League.
In an area often riddled with injuries, selection is most definitely problematic. Kaboul has, so far, been outstanding at centre back, whether partnered with King in the last three league games or Bassong against Stoke in the Carling Cup.
However, when Dawson regains fitness, does Harry risk breaking up the seemingly successful partnership that Kaboul and King have developed in the attempt to reignite the stellar partnership Dawson and King achieved in the 2009/10 season? Throw Gallas into the mix, who had some quality performances last season (especially against Arsenal), and you really are spoiled for choice.
The Europa league is Bassong’s place to shine, but who to partner him? King is of course out of the question. My choice would be Gallas, although he has just suffered yet another injury setback. Experience will be key in this position, especially if Harry continues to blood the talented yet inexperienced midfield youngsters such as Livermore and Carroll. With Dawson and Gallas both out, Kaboul may have to be risked in both competitions to save Corluka playing out of position.
Cult hero, Benoit Assou-Ekotto links up with Gareth Bale magnificently. Which is why they are both definite starters when fit. BAE has no real competition for his position, even though Danny Rose made some very bright appearances there at the end of last season. For this reason Tottenham’s left side essentially picks itself in the league.
Understandably they are not being risked in the Europa league group stages, instead offering opportunity to young Andros Townsend at either left back or on the left of midfield, whose pace and flair is getting a lot of people excited. When Pienaar returns from injury, we may see him getting most of his games out in Europe with Townsend in behind.
Although last year Corluka and Aaron Lennon would have been first choice to man the right flank, the arrival of Adebayor and rise of Kyle Walker has changed everything. Walker, who is perhaps not as good defensively as Corluka, is a potent force going forward; strong and quick, he offers the team so many more options at the other end.
With the partnership of Jermain Defoe and Adebayor banging in the goals, Van Der Vaart’s role of playing off the striker finds itself under question. Van Der Vaart will get goals; is he a player that you would want to leave out your team if he was at your disposal? No. For that reason he should be played on the right, rather than sacrificed for the sake of the Defoe and Adebayor partnership. He is prone to drift and cut inside onto his left foot, but if played with Walker the team still possess the necessary width and someone fast enough to track back and defend the oppositions break.
Krancjar is someone else to consider in this part of the pitch, although naturally left sided, he played incredibly well against Wolves and Liverpool starting on the right. Van Der Vaart’s technique and goal-scoring will give him the nod over Niko when fit, but he is prone to injury, and at least with Niko in the team there is definite competition for places. Krancjar could most definitely boss it in Europe, especially with Van Der Vaart not eligible for the group stages of the competition.
If you were to play with Lennon on the right you would have to go with Corluka as right back to add some strength and tackling ability to that side of the pitch. This in fact could be successful in Europe, utilising Corluka’s reliability over Walker’s relative inexperience, when facing teams not used to Lennon’s pace.
The real question here is whether to use Sandro or Parker. Modric is crucial to the team, and his position is definitely not under threat with his last three performances. Sandro is most definitely a promising talent, yet Parker’s experience in the Premiership is so valuable to the team at the moment that it seems unlikely Sandro will feature unless, like against Wigan, Modric is forced out wide due to an injury to a striker.
Sandro however, is a combative player (he wears a gum shield!) and should be utilised in the Europa League at the moment until he recovers fully from injury and begins to put pressure on Parker’s position in the Premier League first team. His end-to-end and tireless presence would compliment either Livermore or Carroll, who appear to be Harry’s first choice on a Thursday night. Gio dos Santos is another conundrum altogether, although in Europe he could potentially play in the position Van Der Vaart assumed last year behind a striker, where he is so good for Mexico.
The best strike force for the league is not under question; Defoe and Adebayor will be first choice, but in the Europa league, Pavlyuchenko has been essentially anonymous, Kane is incredibly inexperienced and it would be too risky to include Adebayor in the competition at this stage. Harry may have to include Defoe before the latter stages of the tournament, if they do not pick up points in the next games against Shamrock and Kazan.
The right hand side and centre of the field in particular demonstrate the strength in depth of the squad, yet it does create issues as to who to select at the right time and in the right place. Should VDV be played out on the right, or should Lennon, or Krancjar play there? Who should play up front against the teams of Europe? Sandro or Parker?
And who should be the starting centre halves in each competition? These are just a number of questions on Harrys mind. Does it make life difficult? Maybe. Does it prove that Tottenham have one of the most talented squads of depth in the league? Definitely.