After wins against Arsenal and Chelsea, Spurs have little pressure on them as Manchester United. Harry Redknapp would have taken 6 points from those three games in a heart beat. Even if Spurs lose to United this weekend, they will still control their own destiny in the pursuit for fourth. In essence, they have nothing to lose against United and should play like it.
What has been remarkable about Spurs recent run, is the poor form of their strikers. Neither Crouch, Defoe, or Pavlyuchenko have been reliable goal scorers. Of the four goals scored in their last three games, only one came from a striker and it was on a penalty. The failure to score against Pompey at Wembley, despite dominating possession could be discounted, as Harry did, to being just one of those days, but the fact is that it also demonstrated a lack of class among the front two. Defoe has 21 goals in 39 games, which is a more than respectable total, but many of those goals came in bunches early in the season. Peter Crouch has just 7 in 34 games, which is just not good enough. And the remaining strikers have contributed a handful.
What is also remarkable about the Spurs run is that they have rarely had their two best players on the field at the same time. Aaron Lennon who came into his own this year has been out since January, while Luka Modric broke his leg in August and didn’t return to full form until the winter. Yet when one has gone down another has stepped up. The loss of Modric, saw Lennon fill the creative void, as he handed goals to Defoe on a silver platter with pin point crosses. When Lennon went down, Gareth Bale stepped up to provide that offensive spark from LB and then LM. If Bale and Lennon were on the field at the same time Spurs would be quite a force.
Yet Spurs have found a way to put themselves in pole position with a two point lead on Manchester City with just four games left in the season. In fact, the road for City is exceptionally difficult. They travel to the Emirates to play Arsenal this weekend. They then host Villa and Spurs, and finish away at West Ham, which is never an easy place to play. Spurs have United this weekend, followed by Bolton at home and City and Burnley away. Playing relegation fighters at the end of the season is certainly not what one would hope for, but I would take Spurs last four over City’s.
But a win at Old Trafford accompanied by rivals Arsenal doing Spurs a favor against City, could see Spurs on there way. But can they close the deal? Spurs fans are used to disappointment and false dawns. In their last two league trips to Old Trafford, for instance, Spurs have been on the cusp of getting a result. Two years ago Paul Robinson missed a savable late shot from Nani and last year Howard “I never make a decision against the big 4” Webb wrongly, and later apologized, for awarding a penalty to to United, a decision that spurred a United comeback and victory. In some sense Spurs are due for a result at Old Trafford.
What will be interesting to see from Redknapp is where does he put Luka Modric and Gareth Bale now that Wilson Palacios has returned from yellow card suspension. For my money, his best bet is to bench the largely ineffective Bentley and play Modric on the right with Gareth Bale and Assu-Ekkottu at left back. This gives Spurs defensive cover and a certain solidity. But who will score?
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