Tottenham Hotspur: 10 Areas For Improvement This Season
Tottenham Hotspur Still Have Room For Improvement
After finishing with a club record 72 points last season before going a summer spending spree that totaled over €100 million, it is easy to see that this season's Tottenham Hotspur squad is the club's deepest and most talented in recent memory. The quality and depth of the squad led both fans and pundits to point out that a spot in the top four of the Barclays Premier League is the bare minimum requirement for manager Andre Villas-Boas this season, with some commenting that the team should challenge for the league title.
During the first four games of the season, Spurs have looked up to the challenge, recording nine points from four league matches and sitting pretty at second in the table. Sure, they lost the North London Derby to hated rival Arsenal, but for a squad that went under so much reconstruction during the summer and has a history of starting poorly in the league, these results are welcomed from all fans at White Hart Lane. After all, new signings Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Christian Eriksen have played brilliantly so far, giving the rest of the squad's big-money signings time to integrate without a heap of pressure.
Even with all of this positivity surrounding Tottenham, there will always be a hint of pessimism surrounding supporters because of the team's long history of breaking down when things look best. I have taken this pessimistic attitude and turned it into a list of the 10 things that Spurs need to do in order to improve this season.
10. Get Vlad Chiriches A Work Permit
Vlad Chiriches has yet to get a work permit despite signing towards the end of August for a reported fee of €8.5 million. This has kept Chiriches from being able to consistently train with his Tottenham teammates, a significant issue when it is considered that Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen are the clubs only proven center backs. If Chiriches does not get his work permit soon Andre Villas-Boas could be forced to overwork his other central defenders, a move which could prove costly in the long grind that is the Barclays Premier League season.
9. Make Sandro A Consistent Part Of The First XI
Despite proving to be a stalwart in the center of Tottenham's midfield last season before going down to injury, Sandro has only received 31 minutes of Barclays Premier League action this season. While this may come down to a slow recovery from a significant knee injury, the facts are that Spurs have historically been a better side when Sandro is in it. His defensive presence will allow creative central midfielders such as Moussa Dembele, Paulinho, Christian Eriksen, Gyfli Sigurdsson and Lewis Holtby to play in a more advanced role, which will surely result in more goal-scoring opportunities. It is critical that Villas-Boas finds a place for him.
8. Play Fringe Players In The Europa League
During the 2012-2013 season, it seemed as if Tottenham was playing its best 11 during every Europa League game, and it resulted in the squad being taxed at the end of the season. Integrating fringe players into the competition will not only keep those players sharp for when they are called upon in Premier League games, but keep the squad fresh as a whole for the entire season. Besides, with Tottenham's Europa League group stage opponents being Tromso, Anhzi Makhachkala and FC Sheriff -- who are from Norway, Russia and Moldova -- the team will not need its top players to advance to the knockout rounds.
7. Place Emphasis On Premier League Results
To go along with playing fringe players in the Europa League comes the fact that Spurs need to place more importance upon Barclays Premier League ties than any other matches. Games in the league are what will advance the club to the UEFA Champions League, and acceptance into this competition will ultimately be what elevates the club's status. Ultimately, if Spurs want to be one of the top clubs in Europe, they need to prioritize finishing in the top four of their own league before trying to win any cups.
6. Integrate Erik Lamela Into The Side
Of all Tottenham's signings this summer, Erik Lamela was the most expensive and possibly the one who will have the longest lasting impact. Despite costing €25.8 million, the Argentine has been described as a potential bargain signing, as he has the ability to create or score goals from any of the three attacking positions. If Lamela is able to live up to this impressive billing, he could become as valuable as Gareth Bale -- but first, he must be integrated into the squad. Villas-Boas should continue the slow integration strategy he has taken with Lamela thus far, as allowing his confidence to build up will surely pay dividends both later this year and for the foreseeable future.
5. Find A Strike Partner For Roberto Soldado
While it is expected that Roberto Soldado will be playing in a lone striker formation with two wingers to supplement him in the attacking positions, finding another striker capable of scoring goals will be crucial to Tottenham's success this season. While some people may want Jermaine Defoe to be this provider of supplementary goals, Villas-Boas has never appeared to be terribly impressed with what Defoe brings to the table. A move in the January transfer window for a large target striker would provide a good supplement to the trickery and movement that Soldado brings to the table.
4. Keep Players Level-Headed
While Tottenham has a great group of talent and depth in their squad, maintaining a level head will be crucial in big games and throughout the grind of the season. At times in the past, Tottenham has appeared to be overwhelmed and unnerved by games against big clubs such as Manchester United,Arsenal and Chelsea. In order to truly compete with these clubs at the top of the table, Tottenham will have to avoid stupid decisions -- like when Emmanuel Adebayor received a red card in the 18th minute of what turned out to be a 5-2 loss to Arsenal last November -- and consistently pick up positive results against the big boys.
3. Get Better Results Against Small Clubs
Challenging for the summit of the Barclays Premier League during the 2013-2014 season will require Tottenham to pick up nearly every point possible against smaller clubs. After all, Tottenham dropped points to Norwich City, Wigan, Newcastle United, Stoke City and QPR last season, and ultimately finished one point out of fourth place and three points out of third place. Picking up these lost points from last season will be of the utmost importance to the squad, and will be an indication of just how much the squad has improved this season.
2. Have Younes Kaboul Replace Michael Dawson
One cannot doubt the impact that club captain Michael Dawson had last season when he fought back from the brink of a transfer to become a starting center back in 23 games. But despite the remarkable story of Dawson's during the 2012-13 season, the facts are that he should sit behind Younes Kaboul in the depth chart. Kaboul is a much better player with the ball at his feet, and is much more mobile than Dawson, key factors in Villas-Boas' preferred system. This transition could be painful inside for Dawson, but he is the ultimate professional and will not make a ruckus of the situation.
1. Figure Out The Team's Best XI
While keeping the squad fresh will be critical to the long-term health of the squad, finding out who the best 11 is will be equally crucial. Doing this will allow the main players to develop a continuation and understanding of each other, which will be very helpful in big games when team efforts prove to be more important than individual efforts.