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Tottenham Hotspur Season Preview: Life after Bale
It seems inevitable that Gareth Bale will leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer. Although like many fans I was originally hopeful that the Welsh star would condemn reports linking him with moves away to La Liga giants Real Madrid, the longer this particular transfer saga drags on it seemingly becomes a matter of when and not if. It is undeniable that the impending sale of Gareth Bale is a huge loss for the club. However, we must move on, look to the future and focus on the numerous benefits of his sale. I for one am extremely excited at the prospect of the season ahead and cannot wait for the first game at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
In the 2012/2013 season Tottenham amassed a club record 72-point haul in the Barclays Premier League. Unfortunately it was not enough to usurp long-standing rivals Arsenal for 4th place and the much-coveted Champions League berth. I was and still am a huge fan of the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas. Further to that, when I heard Steffen Freund would be joining him as assistant head coach last season I couldn’t help but be filled with enthusiasm. Although AVB’s playing style can be frustrating at times, you cannot argue with the results. 11 away wins (another club record), which include a first away win over Manchester United for 23 years, is a fantastic achievement. What many people forget however is the fact that AVB failed last season. Harry Redknapp was fired for not achieving Champions league qualification even after a 4th placed finish following Chelsea’s win in the competition. AVB was subsequently hired to bridge the gap between the top teams and cement the clubs position. Having failed to do so in a transitional first season at Spurs, AVB will be looking to finally put his numerous critics to bed in 2014.
Tottenham’s chances this season hang in the balance. The sale of Bale is pivotal. Should Bale stay, I believe the side will be extremely successful as a result of good signings this summer in Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and seemingly more to follow. Should Bale leave, it is a matter of whether Spurs have enough time to find further replacements. Many have guessed at the situation, but no one is sure about where a deal is at and even if it will happen. Looking at Spurs’ spending already this window, in my view they are actively spending the money that will eventually be received for Bale. The reason for this is that had Levy approved the sale for Bale earlier in the window, Tottenham would have struggled to adequately replace the player, as other clubs would push up prices due to our financial flushness. AVB is changing to a 4-3-3 this season rather than the 4-2-3-1 of last term, hence the addition of Brazilian international Paulinho. A midfield three of Sandro, Dembele and Paulinho is dynamic and could prove the best midfield in the league this season. Add to that the back up of Holtby, Siggurdsson and Capoue and you have a potent combination.
I have previously stated that the sale of Gareth Bale will actually improve the team. Too often last season the team looked to Bale for a moment of magic (with him supplying on numerous occasions). Bale regularly saved the teams blushes and proved the difference, generating no less than 26 points as a result of his goals. Bales performances paved over the cracks of what was actually an average side. Many made the joke of Tottenham’s ‘one man team’, but I have to admit they were right. Without Bale’s performances, Tottenham would have struggled to finish above 8th and AVB’s career, as a football manager could have been finished. Bale’s sale will afford Tottenham the opportunity to build a much more rounded side for the coming season and one that plays as a team, rather being reliant on a single player.
Acquisitions such as Jan Vertonghen, Hugo Lloris and Moussa Dembele were fantastic for the club last season. However, the team were severely lacking in numerous departments. The loss of Younes Kaboul and Sandro to injury was crucial, whilst Scott Parker and Michael Dawson lacked the quality to adequately replace them. Tottenham’s lack of a consistent striker was evident for all to see. Whilst the last minute signing of Clint Dempsey went some way to compensate, but he didn’t fit the profile of signings at the club and has subsequently been sold. Much lies on the shoulders of Roberto Soldado this season and should Bale leave, the pressure will be intense for him to fill the void. Assou Ekotto was an extremely weak link last season and it seems as though his time at the club may be up. Danny Rose may fill the slot for the time being. However with Carlo Ancelloti stating, "Coentrao is thinking about leaving”, a move for the player as part of the Bale deal would be more than welcome.
The transfer policy of buying young and proven internationals rather than ageing bargains under Harry Redknapp is particularly refreshing. The imminent sale of Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone, along with the release of David Bentley and William Gallas goes to show the changing times at Spurs. Newly appointed technical director Franco Baldini is changing the DNA of the team. Hugo Lloris, Moussa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen, Paulinho, Gylfi Siggurdsson, Nacer Chadli, Soldado and Capoue are all in their 20’s whilst being extremely athletic, technically gifted and regular internationals. Tottenham are building a team capable of playing attractive football that could be involved in the side for years to come. As previously mentioned, we could see this list added to. Baldini is understood to be chasing the Argentine winger Erik Lamela, as a direct replacement for Bale and Coentrao may be a part of any deal of the Wales star. Add to that a centre back and Tottenham will be a genuine force in English football this season with the strongest squad I have seen as a fan.
The Premier league itself is in transition this season. New managers at Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United will be under pressure to perform. Arsenal are yet to strengthen and Liverpool also face losing their star player. I believe Tottenham will capitalize on the situation and will achieve Champions League qualification this year. Roberto Soldado will be under pressure but he is an experienced player and will flourish whilst aiming for a place in the Spanish team for next years World Cup. Much will be asked of the diminutive midfield tri, but I believe they will prove to be the pick of the bunch in the league this season. In a World Cup Year, all will be looking to impress. Notably Tottenham’s diminishing English contingent. Don’t be surprised if Jermain Defoe contributes a healthy return from the bench this season.
Although the loss of Gareth Bale is a major dent in Tottenham’s hopes this season, the ability to create a more balanced side with the fee is extremely beneficial to the future of the club. Tottenham are slowly building a side that is not only capable of finally usurping Arsenal this season, but creating a genuine title challenge in the next two to three seasons. Add to that a brand new state of the art training facility and plans moving forward for a new stadium. Tottenham may lose their star player this summer, but the club is bigger than any one man and it seems the future is extremely bright.
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