Last Season: 4th

In: Jan Vertonghen (£11m, Ajax), Gylfi Sigurdsson (£8.8m, Hoffenheim)

Out: Steven Pienaar (£5m, Everton), Ledley King (retired), Niko Kranjcar (£6m, Dynamo Kiev), Vedran Corluka (£6m, Lokomotiv Moscow), Louis Saha (released), Ryan Nelsen (free transfer, QPR)

If they were an Olympian: Louis Smith. Did everything required to win the gold medal in the men's pommel horse final, however he lost out to rival Krisztian Berki who won the gold medal due to a complicated technicality. Similarly, Spurs achieved what they set out to do last year and finish top 4 only to be denied Champions League football by Chelsea.

A young up and coming manager has replaced a hugely experienced and well respected manager at one of England's biggest clubs. The previous sentence could have been lifted from articles reporting on Andre Villas-Boas' arrival at Stamford Bridge last year. Again Villas-Boas steps into the shoes of a manager who was vastly more experienced than he and had provided some of the club's greatest recent memories.

However unlike at Chelsea, where there is still almost unanimous agreement that the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti was folly, there has been a quiet acceptance that Harry Redknapp may well have acheived all that he was going to and many Tottenham fans had grown tired of Redknapp and the collapse that he oversaw last term was the final straw.

Like Brendan Rogers, AVB is consistently compared and likened to Jose Mourinho. Unlike Brendan Rogers, AVB is always quick to play down comments of comparison with his fellow Portugese. The general consensus is that AVB will be a far better manager having experienced what he did at Chelsea, where he was too quick to judge players and too regimented in his approach to man management. Whether you believe this or not, there are noticeable differences with the squad he inherits at Tottenham to the one he had at Chelsea.

For one thing, there is not the huge trophy winning experience at White Hart Lane as there was at Chelsea. Ironically the only two players in the Spurs squad to have won the Premier League are Carlo Cudicini and William Gallas, both of whom won it with Chelsea. Secondly there is a youth to the Tottenham squad that AVB did not have at Chelsea.

The Tottenham squad is a slightly curious one; there are a number of good centre backs and plenty of central midfielders, however there are only two wingers and one centre forward. The lack of forwards is an ongoing issue and the club have been negotiating with Emmanuel Adebayor for months but there are serious financial obstacles to his arrival and surely the club must be thinking that given the wages he will command, that money could be used to attract a younger player who has a more proven track record than Adebayor, whose second seasons are rarely as good his first.

The club have acquired Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, both of whom are young and talented as more than adequate replacements for those whom they have replaced. The striker conundrum is a difficult one as it is not yet clear how Villas-Boas will line his team up. Redknapp's favored formation last year was 4-5-1 but it remains to be seen if Villas-Boas fancies Jermain Defoe as a lone forward. Width was vital to all that was good for Spurs last year and so expect to see Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon remain fixtures in the side, and so the question is whether Villas-Boas wants two or three central midfielders.

The elephant in the room is of course Luka Modric, whose prospective move to Real Madrid has been even more tiresome than Robin Van Persie's on the basis that Van Persie has not had an endless list of international teammates lining up to discuss the cruelty of his situation. Yet Modric has had an constant stream of fellow Croatians pronouncing the cruelty and selfish nature of Tottenham which has become an unpleasant sideshow to the Modric transfer.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wants £40m for the Croat and Madrid are unwilling to pay such a fee, Madrid's argument is that there are similar players out there for less. The question is whether Levy will blink and whether Tottenham reckon they can coax another season out a player who clearly does not want to be at the club.

It still seems more probable that Modric will go rather than stay, but every day that passes makes his move less and less likely. There was talk of both Chelsea and Manchester United retaining an interest but Levy's reluctance to sell to a direct rival, as well as neither club's willingness to match the huge fee, makes it look as though it's Madrid or nothing for Modric.

Assuming that Modric departs, it still leaves Spurs with midfield options with Rafael Van der Vaart, Sigurdsson and maybe even Giovanni Dos Santos as likely replacements. However the major benefit of Modric was his willingness to play as an orthodox central midfielder whilst the other names mentioned prefer to play much higher up the pitch.

The answer to the Modric question may actually lie with Tom Huddlestone, who has finally returned to fitness after a succession of long term injuries. Technically Huddlestone is one of the most gifted players in the league and there are few players who can hit a ball as sweetly as the man Tottenham fans affectionately refer to as "Thud". Huddlestone has a passing range to rival Modric's and is a superior physical presence but lacks the Croatian's deft movement and ability to drift past players. Nevertheless it would be an intriguing prospect if Villas-Boas did deploy Huddlestone as Modric's replacement and it would be of major benefit to Roy Hodgson if Huddlestone was to succeed in such a position.

Tottenham are in some aspects the reverse to Liverpool this season, whilst this blog has discussed that the spine of Liverpool's side as being fairly strong; Tottenham's core is where most of their issues lie. Brad Friedel is still an excellent keeper although how many more years he has left is debatable and Tottenham have been heavily linked with Hugo Lloris of Lyon. It is unclear what AVB's preferred defensive pairing but it seems likely that whichever partnership will require an adjustment period.
The midfield problems have already been discussed and at the moment the club only have one striker,  and he has been second choice for the past 2 seasons.

Apart from Chelsea fans, most neutrals would probably like to see Villas-Boas succeed at Spurs as many were sympathetic to his time at Stamford Bridge. Tottenham in many ways are a far better fit for Villas-Boas than Chelsea ever was. He has a far younger squad to work with and players who are hungry for their first major pieces of silverware, rather than the trophy laden squad he worked with at Chelsea. Spurs fans will be far more receptive to the Portugese as he has replaced a man that many were growing tired of, rather than at Chelsea where Villas-Boas succeeded a man who was universally liked and respected inside and outside the club.

There is a clear gap in the depth of the Spurs squad in comparison to the Manchester sides and it is unlikely that Tottenham will be able to bridge that gap this season. However the club should be quietly confident that they can repeat last season's top four finish as well as enjoying successful cup runs.

Predicted Finish: 4th (FA Cup winners, Europa League winners)

Key Man: Rafael Van der Vaart. With the expected departure of Luka Modric and the continued absence of strikers, much responsibility will rest on the shoulders of the Van der Vaart. In two seasons with the club the Dutchman has scored 24 goals in 61 games, a very impressive return. He will be required to create and score again this season as Tottenham look to get back in the Champions League.


Underrated: Younes Kaboul. Heavily criticised during his first spell with the club, Kaboul's development in the past 18 months has been tremendous. Once a liability, he was the first name on the team-sheet for Spurs last year. Dominant in the air and with tremendous pace and power to recover for the few mistakes he does make, the Frenchman should form an excellent partnership with new signing Jan Vertonghen.


Watch out for: Tom Huddlestone. A personal favorite of this blogs. As outlined above, if the Englishman can put his injury woes behind him then he could be a key figure for Spurs this year.

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