Harry Redknapp

Why Redknapp leaving for England will benefit Spurs

The speculation surrounding the vacant England managerial position still seems to point to Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp being the favourite to be approached for the job. I believe the Tottenham hierarchy should accept any FA approach to speak with Harry Redknapp as it could be the key to turning the North London club from a team challenging the top four of the Premier League into to a club challenging to win the Premier League.

At one point this season Tottenham were within touching distance of the two Manchester clubs and were in a position where you could genuinely count them as title contenders. But then they stuttered, going on a run of 5 games without a win including defeats against Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton. I put the collapse of Tottenham’s season down to several factors:

  • Injuries to Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon
  • Moving Modric out of the centre
  • Transfer activity in January
  • Lack of strength in depth
  • No ‘Plan B’

The injuries to Bale and Lennon at different times gave Tottenham a major problem. They are two key players in Tottenham’s pacey attacking style and they didn’t really have any like-for-like replacements of anywhere near similar quality to replace them with. That said, it was a mistake to move the pivotal figure of his team (Modric) out of the centre of his midfield. All this did was disrupt another position in the team, forcing a further change to the line-up, whilst also restricting the influence Modric was able to have on games from a wider starting position. Kranjcar or Rose coming in for Lennon or Bale would have been a better option and would have caused less disruption to a side that was previously in good form. With Rose replacing Bale on the left, the side could have retained the 4-4-1-1 shape and Rose’s pace could have even maintained the way in which they attacked down that flank. Similarly on the right, putting Kranjcar in for Lennon would have meant only one change to the team and would have seen a clever player in a position that he has played many times during his time in England.

You could point to the transfer activity in January as key to the failure to deal with the injuries and lack of squad depth. Spurs allowed Steven Pienaar to sign for Everton on loan late on transfer deadline day and failed to ensure they signed a replacement. As it turned out, Pienaar would undoubtedly have been the first name in Harry Redknapp’s thoughts when Lennon, and later Bale, were injured. There could also have been raised eyebrows over the decision to allow Vedran Corluka to leave on loan whilst not bringing in a replacement who could provide back-up for Kyle Walker at right back. Kaboul has deputised at right back when necessary but hasn’t looked entirely comfortable with his positioning in this role.

The lack of strength in depth at Tottenham is well documented and I’ve already hinted at two instances of this when they suffered injuries in wide areas. You could look at the manager for not looking to bring in reinforcements in the right areas. You could suggest it is down to the manager to rotate the side slightly and give game-time to fringe players to keep them at a level where they could step into the team at any moment and perform to the required standard. You could counter that with the argument that that back-up players just aren’t good enough, but then you’re back to the initial failings of the manager’s transfer activity.

All of the above points have contributed to Redknapp being exposed as not having a successful ‘Plan B’ to turn to when his thin-on-quality squad was stretched in key areas. In some games Redknapp has adopted a 4-3-3 formation with Bale and van der Vaart in floating attacking roles behind a main striker. This is not a formation Redknapp has used before and should not be confused with the 4-4-1-1 regularly used with van der Vaart behind Adebayor in attack. This change to 4-3-3 was only implemented because Aaron Lennon was still out injured Redknapp didn’t trust anyone else to step into his boots on the right of midfield without continuing to waste Luka Modric in this position. When the difficult run of fixtures began, Rafael van der Vaart was also unfit and struggling with injury. Against Manchester United and Everton, Redknapp went with a 4-4-2 formation and lost both in the absence of the Dutch creator.

As well as the injuries to Tottenham players forcing changes to their own team, there is also the suggestion that other teams had found a way to play against them. That they had found a way to counteract Spurs’ quick attacking style and attack them when the time was right. Chelsea demonstrated at Wembley in the FA Cup Semi-Final how to absorb Tottenham’s attacking play, limit them to just a few shots on target, and exploit frailties in a tired defence. Even during this game, Redknapp’s choice of substitution and tactical alteration in the second half directly led to Chelsea ceasing the initiative in the final 15 minutes and running our comfortable winners.

Tottenham need to capitalise on their improvement in the last few years and take this opportunity to develop themselves so that they can become title contendors. But to take the next step it is vital that they have a manager who is as tactically aware as they come. Someone who could mastermind victories in high-pressure games, implement suitable tactics for different opponents and positively change games with substitutions and tactical tweaks. There’s no doubting Harry Redknapp is a good manager. But as Kevin Keegan showed with Newcastle in 1996 – man management and motivational skills will get you so far, but you need that extra tactical awareness to implement a ‘Plan B’ or even a ‘Plan C’ when things aren’t going well or when teams find a way to play against you. I would suggest Redknapp has taken Tottenham as far as he can, and that they need a manager of the tactical astuteness of someone like Rafa Benitez to take them forward and compete with the best teams in England and Europe.

So whilst the uncertainty around the England job remains, Daniel Levy and the Tottenham Board would be wise to accept any approach from the FA to speak to their current manager.

Pictures courtesy of watchmeruletheworld.com and ladbrokes.com.

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Phantom goal shouldn’t mask Chelsea dominance

Whilst most of the post-match talk will be of the goal that shouldn’t have been, Chelsea gave their finest performance of the season to show they mean business as they remain in 2 cup competitions and chase a top 4 league finish.

Back to his best?

Didier Drogba reminded us all of what he can do with a fantastic goal that was a throw-back to the Drogba that physically dominated opposition defences prior to his malaria scare in late-2010. Holding off ex-Chelsea defender William Gallas, Drogba pulled a long ball from Frank Lampard out of the sky and rolled Gallas beautifully before lashing an unstoppable shot past another former blue Carlo Cudicini in the Tottenham goal. This has become an increasingly rare sight in the last 18 months as Drogba doesn’t seem to bully centre-halves or have the explosive burst of acceleration that he did before suffering from the disease. But he showed he still has the ability to score goals in the big games with one of the best goals to grace the new Wembley stadium.

That goal came two minutes before half time and gave Chelsea a lead they deserved after seeing off an enthusiastic start from Tottenham and eventually controlling the pace of the game. Tottenham’s only effort on goal in the first half being a Rafael van der Vaart header cleared off the line by John Terry.

Second Half

As the second half began it was Chelsea who started quickly and looked the likely team to score the next goal. They couldn’t have predicted that it would come in such controversial circumstances though, as replays showed the ball hadn’t actually reached the goal-line before it was cleared. Referee Martin Atkinson, who was in charge at the Emirates Stadium one week ago and failed to punish Mario Balotelli for a dreadful tackle on Alex Song, gave the decision without the help of his assistant and awarded Chelsea their second goal.

Initially, that goal seemed to spark a bit of urgency into Tottenham. And they pulled a goal back 7 minutes later when a Scott Parker through ball found Adebayor one-on-one with Chelsea ‘keeper Petr Cech. The Togolese front man rounded Cech and was brought down, but referee Atkinson rightly waived play-on as Gareth Bale was there to pass the ball into an empty net unchallenged. There was then a lengthy delay before the action re-started, as David Luiz received treatment before eventually leaving the field to be replaced by Gary Cahill. This allowed emotions to simmer down on the pitch and the momentum that the goal would have given Tottenham had lessened somewhat when the action did re-start several minutes later.

Spurs began to throw more bodies forward in search of an equaliser. But Chelsea still looked the more likely scorers, looking dangerous on the counter attack with Kalou, Ramires, Mata and Drogba all looking dangerous. A spell consisting of 4 successive Tottenham corners was about as dangerous as Tottenham looked as they struggled to test Cech enough in the Chelsea goal.

Spurs Collapse

With 15 minutes remaining, Harry Redknapp replaced Dutchman van der Vaart with striker Jermain Defoe and as such changed to a 4-4-2 formation. This proved to be part of Tottenham’s downfall. Although they had to do something to try and rescue the match, this change allowed Mata, who had become more influential in this second half and had outshone Luka Modric all afternoon, to get on the ball a lot more and find space in between the Tottenham midfield and their under-performing defence. It was Mata who, after playing a simple but effective one-two with Frank Lampard, advanced towards the Spurs goal unchallenged through the centre of the pitch and lofted a brilliant ball for Ramires to lift over the advancing Cudicini to make it 3-1 on 77 minutes.

Frank Lampard added a fourth for Chelsea with 9 minutes left. Hitting the back of the net directly from a free kick, although questions should be asked of Cudicini as the ball sailed into his net at a good height for a goalkeeper and into the side of the goal he was covering. Chelsea then brought on Malouda for Ramires, and shortly after Torres for Drogba, as concentration on the Blues bench undoubtedly turned to Wednesday evening’s clash with European Champions Barcelona. The one blemish on this Chelsea performance was John Obi Mikel’s kick out at Scott Parker for which he was lucky to only receive a yellow card. Parker was uncharacteristically enraged at this, perhaps showing his frustration as it dawned on Spurs that they would face a fourth successive trophy-less season, and was booked for his reaction. Sandro then replaced Parker in the 90th minute to prevent the situation escalating.

The scoring wasn’t finished yet though as Mata capped a fine second half performance by playing another lovely ball through to substitute Florent Malouda to slot past Cudicini to ensure the final score was Chelsea 5-1 Tottenham.

Mata and Drogba will have to be at their very best if Chelsea are to have any chance against Barcelona over two legs. But this dominant and clinical victory means they will appear in at least one final this season when they return to Wembley in three weeks to face Liverpool in the FA Cup final.

Why Glenn Hoddle Should Be Considered For England

27 March 2012

It has been seven weeks since Fabio Capello left his position as England manager. And to this day we are no nearer knowing who might take the reigns for the European Championships this summer and beyond. Stuart Pearce is in temporary charge but isn’t thought to be a long-term candidate for the job.

The media circus that surrounds the job, seem to give the indication that they want Harry Redknapp to take the job. But it is worth pointing out that the television pundits and newspaper editors do not speak for a nation of supporters, despite several of them trying to imply that this is the case. Redknapp’s Spurs team have struggled since the speculation began. This could have been impacted upon by the constant speculation surrounding Redknapp. But it is undoubtedly also due to a good Spurs team being hit by a couple of injuries and what could be argued as either a lack of squad depth, or Redknapp’s lack of ability to manage his resources and find the tactics to build on what had been a good Tottenham run. This may have swayed some people’s thinking and given some people food for thought, espeically at the FA where there is often a clamour for the flavour of the month – as seen at Chelsea whenever the managerial job is vacant.

One name that has been thrown into the ring this week is that of Glenn Hoddle. The man who was appointed England manager immediately after Euro ’96 and who was sacked for non-football related comments in an interview with The Times newspaper in January 1999.

Previous Reign Re-visited

Hoddle’s last England reign was a big success on the pitch. The qualification campaign for World Cup ’98 ended successfully with a heroic 0-0 draw in Rome to ensure England won the group and Italy had to qualify via the play-offs. Earlier in the campaign there were routine wins all round, confidently seeing off Poland, Georgia and Moldova twice each. The only defeat of the campaign came with a 1-0 reverse against Italy at Wembley. A game famously remembered for Matthew Le Tissier being handed a rare England start, only for his brother to leak the team news to a global audience hours before kick off. Gianfranco Zola hit the winner in that game for a very good Italy side, whilst England were missing regular goalkeeper David Seaman and Alan Shearer’s regular international partner Teddy Sheringham.

The World Cup itself, held in France, had it’s ups and downs. It started with a 2-0 win against Tunisia in sweltering heat. Next up came a 2-1 defeat to Romania, with a mistake from Graeme Le Saux allowing Dan Petrescu to score a last minute winner. Then came a match England had to win against Columbia. David Beckham and Michael Owen were handed their first starts of the tournament and Hoddle’s England won 2-0 to set up a second round match against Argentina. An entertaining match was played out in St. Etienne but the key moment in the game was David Beckham’s sending off in the 47th minute of the game. The score at the time, 2-2, was how it finished after 90 minutes and extra time. But being reduced to ten men with so much time left to play took its toll on England and reduced their attacking threat greatly. England then exited the competition after coming out second best in the penalty shoot-out that followed.

The System

The thing that sets Hoddle apart from every other England manager in recent times is the system he used for the national team. England played a 3-5-2 formation with wing-backs under Hoddle, and this helped the team keep possession of the ball with more bodies in the midfield area. Possession is much more important in international football and is something England have struggled with both before Hoddle and after, right up to the present moment in time. England were able to control more games and dictate the pace of games using this formation, taking advatage of the extra option that the third man in central midfield gave them. It didn’t hamper the attacking side of the game either, with wing-backs such as Graeme Le Saux, Gary Neville and later Darren Anderton all given licence to get forward and almost become wingers when the team attacked. There was a growing sense during the World Cup in France that England could have gone all the way to the final playing this way, hence the over-the-top backlash David Beckham recieved after the tournament for his part in the Argentina match.

Another Chance?

Many England managers of the past have been good domestic level managers but haven’t had the ability to successfully lead an international team. The difference in style between the English league and the international scene is clear to see and many managers struggle to see this. Most are either too naive in thinking England can play as we do domestically and still win something, or don’t possess the managerial ability to cope with putting together a different tactical style for the international game. I believe Glenn Hoddle is the exact opposite to the usual England manager and is actually better suited to international football as opposed to domestic football. His views, philosophy on football and wish to play a continental style makes his brand of football better suited to managing an international team than it does in the up-and-at-them domestic game.

The suggestion of Hoddle returning as England manager has seen some people ridicule his chances and ruling him out without a moment’s thought. But the statistics point to Hoddle having a win ratio of 60.7 per cent. This is only bettered by World Cup winner Sir Alf Ramsay and the under-appreciated Fabio Capello. Do the FA see him as a viable option? Only time will tell. But his international record and his on-the-pitch philosophies should make him one of the stronger candidates.