Tottenham’s chances of Champions League qualification took a dent on Sunday as they drew 2-2 with a stubborn and defensive Everton side. No one should blame Everton for the way they approached the game, many sides have struggled this term against the pacy North London outfit, and Everton did what they needed to in order to get a result. However, their draw with Everton represents more than just two points dropped for Tottenham. Even if Spurs manage to win all of their remaining games (which seems highly unlikely), Champions League qualification is no longer in their hands.
All and sundry have praised Andre Villas-Boas for what he has achieved at White Hart Lane this year. He deserves his plaudits too: after all he’s doing what Harry Redknapp did but with an inferior squad. However, like Harry last season, AVB has presided over a drop in form that could well cost Spurs another shot in the Champions League next season.
This article is not designed to elicit a kneejerk reaction or to suggest in any way that Villas-Boas’s job should be anything other than very secure. The Tottenham class of 12/13 have been thoroughly enjoyable to watch and AVB should be applauded for his ability to get his team playing attractive football that gets results. However, if Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League this raises a number of issues for the London club; none of which are easy to deal with.
Will Spurs be able to improve next year?
Chelsea famously failed to give Villas-Boas time, and player power prevailed, with AVB being shown the Stamford Bridge exit door after just 9 months in charge. Many have asked the question, ‘What if?’ in relation to AVB with the clear intimation being that things may well have been different if AVB had been given more of a chance to instill his playing philosophy into the Chelsea players.
The Chelsea case study is a fantastic reason for Spurs to keep the faith with AVB. He is very obviously a good manager and is a great fit at Tottenham for a number of reasons. Quite simply, it would be churlish for anyone to suggest that AVB could lose his job at Spurs this summer. However, if Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League, this failure will significantly weaken their ability to attract top quality players to the Lane.
Up until the mauling by Inter at the San Siro, AVB had performed exceptionally well with a slightly above average squad and one or two top quality individual players. If Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League, the chances are that they will struggle to develop beyond their current ability. It’s difficult to see how Spurs will improve without significant investment to their squad, and it’s unlikely that many world-class players will be interested in a move to a club that can only offer Europa League football.
Will they keep their Welshman?
AVB has been lauded for his achievements so far this season, and rightly so, but it’s clear that his job has been made a lot easier as a result of the form of Gareth Bale. The Welsh winger has been exceptional form this term, and his contribution is one of the principal reasons for Tottenham being in the hunt for Champions League places.
Speculation has been rife regarding the likelihood of Bale’s departure, with a number of reports suggesting that Man Utd, Barcelona and Real Madrid are all interested in the 23 year old. The best players generally want to test themselves against the best, and Bale will want to be playing Champions League football as soon as possible. He may have the patience to try to achieve that with Spurs, but if (as intimated in the previous section) a lack of qualification results in a lack of squad improvement, it’s conceivable that Bale may look elsewhere in his bid to pit himself against the crème de la crème of world football.
Losing Bale this summer would be catastrophic for Spurs as not only would they be losing their best player, but again would be weakening their chances of acquiring players of a similar level.
Will they get the striker they desperately need?
Tottenham’s strikers have not been performing particularly well this year. Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor have amassed 13 Premier League goals between them – to put this into context Gareth Bale, who has played either on the left or behind the striker, has amassed 17 of his own.
Ever since the departure of Dimitar Berbatov Spurs have been crying out for a true goalscorer. The inability of Spurs two strikers has led to an overreliance on other players to weigh in with goals. To compete with the very best, it’s imperative that Spurs invest a decent chunk of money in a proven striker. However, this is easier said than done. As already stated, the best players want to play in the best competitions and if Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League it is likely to be extremely difficult for them to acquire a striker who could make a significant difference to their squad.
The difficulty with Spurs’ issues is that they’re circular. If they fail to attain Champions League qualification, they won’t be in a position to attract top quality players and will struggle to qualify for the Champions League next year. If they lose Gareth Bale, they will be unlikely to be able to improve upon this season’s performance. If they fail to get a quality striker, they may struggle for goals next season, making it more difficult to get into Europe; thus reducing their chances of acquiring a striker.
Andre Villas-Boas has pinned a lot of hope on Arsenal failing to record a win in their game in hand against Everton. That may well be the game that decides whether Spurs play in the Champions League next year. Given the possible permutations that could arise from Spurs not qualifying; Tottenham fans will be desperately hoping for an Everton win. If that doesn’t happen, and Arsenal pip Spurs to 4th, Spurs hopes of developing from ‘Champions League hopeful’ to ‘Champions League regular’ will be significantly diminished.