Thursday, August 17, 2006

Preview of the new season

Despite the final day disappointment, no Spurs fans can really complain about last season. I mean, 65 points, that’s a huge improvement on our Premiership average. And what’s more significant is that we qualified for the UEFA Cup through the league for the first time since the Eighties. Every season for as long as I can remember, I tell friends that our target for the season is a top six finish – well at last we managed that.

So where next? As the new season dawns on us, I thought it an appropriate time to preview the new campaign. Will we improve on last season and secure a place in next season’s Champions League, or will we do an Everton/Middlesbrough/Ipswich and see our league form collapse following the distraction of a European run?

This is a subject that has occupied many hours of conversation and blogging for Spurs fans over the last three months, so I thought it easier for me to outline the five key reasons for optimism and those reasons for caution.

On the one hand, I feel we can improve on our 65 points and fifth place, because:

  1. Spurs have a young team that has been strengthened again this summer. I think the squad can only improve.

  2. The capture of Berbatov suggests we can score more goals next season than we did last term. At his previous club he managed 69 goals in 154 appearances. His international goals to game ratio is even more impressive.

  3. Arsenal, our closest rivals last season in the League (as well as in the world generally), look a weaker side now than they did in May. They may have kept Henry, but they’ve lost Bergkamp, Pires and Judas, and are possibly close to losing Cole and Reyes. Yes Rosicky looks useful, but he’s only one player.

  4. Surely the law of averages mean we will concede fewer last minute goals than last season? A marginal improvement in concentration levels would mean a lot less points thrown away in the last few minutes of matches.

  5. Similarly, we drew a huge proportion of our matches last season, so we only need a marginal improvement to theoretically turn those one-pointers into three-pointers.
However, the pessimistic part of me is concerned about:
  1. Losing Carrick is obviously a blow in the footballing sense (although I agree that financially we’ve done incredibly well out of it – especially if you look at Hargreaves, who kept Carrick out of the England team, now being valued at ‘just’ £17 million). Now I know we’ve signed Zokora but he will probably need time to adjust to English football. And I’m still not convinced that he’s a better passer or provider than Carrick.

  2. Last season’s cup competitions were disastrous for us – to go out of both cups at the first hurdle against lower division sides… thinking about it sends a shudder down my spine! One would guess that we’ll have more domestic cup ties this years, and add to that the UEFA Cup, and you can see how there is a danger our league form may suffer. Do we have enough strength in depth to accommodate this?

  3. Despite a fairly large squad, how strong is it beyond the first eleven? I think we have two weak areas, as I’ve mentioned before. We need to strengthen the left midfield and right back positions before the August transfer window closes. Selling Andy Reid yesterday was a good decision providing we can find a replacement. Jol is usually pretty good at ensuring replacements have been lined up quickly (e.g. Zokora was signed as soon as ManUre made their first bid for Carrick). The Chimbonda/Neill links seem to have died down, so this position is still another grey area for us right now.

  4. After last season’s league ‘success’ I think we may have made ‘a rod for our backs’. There will be added pressure on us this year and teams will be that little bit more determined to get one over us.

  5. Last season Arsenal were very poor domestically by their standards. Can they really have another season as bad as that? You could argue this either way (as I’ve also mentioned Arsenal in the reasons to be optimistic), but it will be interesting to watch. Having moved to their new stadium, if their league form continued to decline it would make me laugh. Loudly.
All in all, what would make me happy? Fourth place or fifth place plus a domestic cup would bring no arguments from me! Coupled with a good European run obviously. On the other hand, failure to qualify for European football at all would be a huge embarrassment.

In reality, what do I expect? I think we can improve on last season’s 65 points but I’m not sure if even that will be enough for Champions League football. As long as we have at least one exciting cup run, then fifth place would be acceptable to me and a threshold that is very attainable.

It will certainly be interesting to look back on this preview later on in the season…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some good points N7teen - but this early on we need to be positive. Let's us on the good bits of last season and where we can go from here under the watchful eye of Martin!!