In August’s season preview, I raised the following questions:
Was last season the best it was going to get for Spurs?
Did Spurs overachieve last year?
Can they maintain their progress this time?
Will Carrick be missed?
Will Berbatov score regularly in the Premiership?
The answers have come during the course of the season and while at times early on as Spurs stuttered through some indifferent displays and results, it looked as if the response to the first two, would have to be in the positive now on the final day (with UEFA Cup football achieved for a second successive season) we can answer that Spurs have improved and didn’t overachieve last season.
Spurs have maintained their progress - in mid-season after losing at Sheffield United they threw off the shackles that had restricted them for much of the season and produced a level and style of football not seen at White Hart Lane for some considerable time. They played exciting football during an impressive period that brought Cup and League progress, lifting them to the heights attained last season, fifth, but with a refreshing, more open, attacking style of football.
Michael Carrick was missed and we all knew that would happen. Martin Jol had built the team around him and it took some time for the players to become accustomed to his absence. Zokora, Jenas and Tainio have now taken over the central midfield role and shown more authority as the season has progressed. Numerous injuries prevented a midfield partnership being formed with Tom Huddlestone having to play far more matches than would have been expected at this early stage of his career but he will have benefited the experience.
Dimitar Berbatov has not disappointed. He has grown in stature and reputation throughout the season. The early European games gave an indication of his ability and class and as he became accustomed to the Premiership so his worth increased. Naturally, rumours abound of ‘big’ clubs looking to take him from Spurs. Look at the league table to see why he and Keane and Defoe have been so important to Spurs’ position this year. The goals against column is similar to those of the relegated clubs but Spurs have managed to score thirty goals more than the clubs in the bottom three – that’s down to the combined contributions of the three strikers, reliable, consistent goal scorers. Those goals have lifted Spurs to fifth position and overcome the deficiencies in defence and without them Spurs would have experienced a totally different season. Every team needs goals and would give a king’s ransom to have strikers of the ability of those three. Berbatov can not go – Spurs took the money for Carrick and made Manchester United a better team – Berbatov must stay to make Spurs even better next year.
The season has seen Spurs again unable to keep a clean sheet – only six in the Premiership through the season, only one club with a worse record in the League, Accrington Stanley. The injury to Ledley King obviously was a factor but individually the players come with some considerable reputation – the England goalkeeper, an England prospect, a French international, a South Korean international and others but as a unit they continue to concede goals. Midfield inadequacies haven’t helped but even in recent months when the team has been more settled, defensively the team has been uncertain and prone to lapses. A break through into the top four will only come about if the defensive frailties are resolved.
Highlights of the season:
The UEFA Cup experience – eight successive wins and not just scraping past opponents but doing it in style.
The exciting, winning football which started with the win over Fulham in the FA Cup.
The array of ‘goal of the season’ strikes from Berbatov, Keane, Huddlestone – quite exquisite, and so many of them.
The poor start to the season and meaningless displays at Anfield, the Emirates Stadium and Reading.
Losing out in the Cups after promising so much, especially having been in a good position in all of the games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Sevilla.
Goal of the Season:
Which of Berbatov’s goals could you select and some of Robbie Keane’s volleys? But I’ll select Paul Robinson’s goal for its novelty value and to set him alongside Pat Jennings, goal scores extraordinaire.
Most Haunting Memory:
The big screen at White Hart Lane, glowering down at us with the score:
Tottenham Hotspur 0
After seven minutes of Spurs’ biggest European game in years, we knew the European dream was over and the screen just emphasised the point and mocked all of us who has arrived with such optimism.
Best memory of the season:
Berbatov’s goal against Manchester City (I wrote this on Saturday evening) to secure a European tour for next season.
Jermaine Jenas’ goal against Arsenal – such joy around White Hart Lane!
Spurs have proved themselves this season – Martin Jol turned it around when it was looking dodgy so here’s to next season – full of optimism. Don’t disappoint us by selling Berbatov or some of our other top players – remember Mr Levy, you said it, “Tottenham Hotspur are not a selling club!” Make sure you prove it this summer.