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Spurs show top four style

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Phil McNulty | 23:25 UK time, Saturday, 28 November 2009

Harry Redknapp had spent his night freezing in Villa Park's driving rain - but radiated the warm glow of satisfaction after watching Tottenham emerge as prime contenders to shatter the Premier League's glass ceiling.

Spurs showed they can take candy from a baby with the best of them when they scored nine against what eventually amounted to little more than an open goal against Wigan Athletic last Sunday.

Arguably a better example of Redknapp's work in renewing Spurs, and a more reliable measure of their chances of breaking into the top four, came as they earned a thoroughly deserved point at Aston Villa, a club with pretensions on a par with their own.

It was a game in which Tottenham's hearts and minds were tested. Foul weather, fired up opponents heavy on pace and power determined to put Redknapp's men through the wringer - and yet it was classic counter-punchers Villa who were clinging on at the end.

Spurs may not have scored nine goals and claimed three points, but Redknapp may just have got as much pleasure out of how his side went about their business here as he did in the Wigan rout.

It did not start well as Villa, as potent as ever from set-pieces, were rewarded with an early goal from Gabriel Agbonlahor after James Milner's corner unlocked all manner of confusion in the Spurs six-yard box.

Spurs recovered their composure and showed great mental strength (while giving the lie to pundits who perpetuate the myth that they do not like cold and rain 30 miles outside London) to earn a draw. Michael Dawson's crashing late equaliser was the very least they merited.

dawson595.jpgMichael Dawson celebrates his equaliser with Tottenham team-mates

Villa boss Martin O'Neill was magnanimous enough to admit as much and agree that his side was hanging on at the end, such was the scale of Tottenham's eventual supremacy.

After watching Spurs disappoint at Arsenal recently, they looked more of a top five team than top four - but the way they performed at Villa Park, especially in the second half, hinted that there may yet be more on offer for them this season given the circumstances of those around them.

At Arsenal they were stripped of the pace of Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon, and chose a strategy alien to Redknapp and Spurs by simply punting the ball towards Peter Crouch's head.

Defoe and Lennon were back at Villa Park, and while neither were at their best their presence helped Spurs to play in a style that suits them best, a measured approach built on the foundations of patience and passing.

And with Liverpool suffering a crisis of confidence and Manchester City forgetting how to win football matches, it was the perfect occasion for Spurs to show they are superior to Villa, the other side likely to be in the shake-up for fourth place.

Spurs, as results have proved, are no match for Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal in a long title race - but Redknapp's faith in their ability to finish fourth is justified as they showed they are, for now at least, the equal of the other contenders.

Current form suggests there will never be a better chance for an outsider to break up the Premier League's Gang Of Four. And so far Spurs look the most likely.

Whereas Villa were limited and lacking in subtlety once their early storm had blown out, Spurs shrugged off a sluggish start to make the best chances of the first 45 minutes and more or less camp out in opposition territory after the break.

And Redknapp's relentlessly positive approach was in sharp contrast to the negativity and timidity shown by Mark Hughes' Manchester City at Liverpool last Saturday. Villa simply could not get - or keep - the ball after half-time, whereas it showed no terrors for Spurs as they passed and showed commendable patience until their chance came.

Spurs also showed a determination to avoid allowing the momentum built by the humiliation of Wigan to descend into despair of defeat at Villa Park.

Of course there will be days when Spurs disappoint, and the continuing fitness problems of Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate may yet cause trouble in time. The absence of Lennon and Defoe at Arsenal, plus the sadly-missed Luka Modric, also hinted that Spurs could have difficulties with squad strength as the campaign progresses.

But as the players departed in a deluge after a pulsating second period, they looked a much better bet for a top-four place than Aston Villa.

And this was also reflected in Redknapp's optimistic mood when asked about Tottenham's chances of staying in the top four, saying: "It's hard but not impossible. We have got some very good players at this club. We have got a chance. Why can't we?"

True, they have a chance. No guarantees but a genuine opportunity.

O'Neill was realistic, looking like he wanted to keep the lid on any expectation or false hope that might invade Villa Park as he said: "Spurs are very good indeed. Manchester City are very good, and I think if any teams are going to threaten it then those two will give it a proper go and have a proper chance.

"We're battling to hang in there" - and indeed they were for most of the second half having been gripped by negativity once they failed to build on the lift Agbonlahor's goal gave them.

Villa, as stated here before, have a top-six look about them. They are fiercely-committed and superbly well-organised at the back. The worry is a lack of variety, a lack of different strings to their bow and the stylish Stilyan Petrov would benefit from a truly commanding and creative presence alongside him in midfield.

Stewart Downing may yet emerge into that role, but for now Villa look short of top four status.

For Spurs a point was possibly less than they deserved - but it may prove precious in the months ahead after showing there may also be substance to support the style that is taken as read at White Hart Lane.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    How much have Spurs spent since Harry returned?

  • Comment number 2.

    As usual Harry Redknapp has built a solid unit at Spurs.The 9-1 thrashing of Wigan was a sign that Spurs had added the required ruthless streak to their game that epitomizes a top six side,but yesterday at Villa park when they outplayed Villa but happily settled for a draw showed that Spurs still lack what it takes to break into that top four.
    While Spurs,Villa and Manchester City will always gladly settle for draws,and celebrate such as an achievement,teams such as Chelsea,Manchester United,Arsenal and to some extent Liverpool regard drawn games as points lost.That is the difference between the top four sides and the pretenders to the the throne.
    Spurs should have taken all three points yesterday but gladly settled for a draw. In the second half of the season when the big boys get into their stride and comeout with all guns blazing,Spurs will find out that yesterday was not a point gained but two points lost.

  • Comment number 3.

    I dont agree that Spurs settled for the draw at all. If anything I think they were looking to win the match after they took off Krancjar and replaced him with a 3rd forward in Robbie Keane. They also took off the defensive Wilson Palacios and replaced him with Jermaine Jenas who really started to deliver dangerous balls to the front line after his arrival.
    To say that Spurs will finish in the top 4 is still a premature assumption as we arent yet half way through the season (I do however think that the league this year is a top 2 and there will be a scramble for 3nd to 7th.) I do agree with Phil though as I too think that Spurs look the most likely of the contenders up to now. Man City are drawing far too much, Liverpool are too dependent on the obvious 2 players in their team and they look completely ineffective and one dimensional without them and Villa dont really have a plan B or a really creative influence in the team (especially in the middle of the park). Spurs still await the return of Luca Modric, Ledley Kind and Jonathan Woodgate and have a strenght in depth all over the pitch that gives them the foundations to maybe even push as high as 3rd place as I believe Arsenal to be a little lacklustre in the winter months.
    Only time will tell............

  • Comment number 4.

    1. At 07:28am on 29 Nov 2009, RobSmiley wrote:

    How much have Spurs spent since Harry returned?

    ----------------------------------

    Not all that much overall. Redknapp bought back most of the players sold by Ramos in the January transfer window last year for less than they had got for selling them, (Defore and Keane for instance) and he got Cudicini on a free.

    The summer he bought more players in but what he spent was largely cancelled out by players he sold on such as Bent among others.

    He'll be spending again in January but that'll be offset by selling players such as Pavaluechenko (however you spell his name)

  • Comment number 5.

    To richmay1...can't agree at all with the suggestion that Spurs settled for a draw. The whole body language from the team and Harry Redknapp was that they were going for the win once they drew level.

    I was also impressed with the way they kept playing their football even when they were behind - plenty of composure and order.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think there is sometimes a little bit of a myth regarding the amount of money Spurs spend considering the amount of money they make. Spurs have just made very healthy annual profits and there is no sign of financial constraints at WHL.
    Liverpool are a good example to compare, they have spend easily an equal amount to Spurs (if not similar)and they havent re-couped anywhere near.

    Although he has his critics, I think that Daniel Levy is very astute and knowledgeable about the transfer market, there havent been very many 'big money' mistakes since he has been there and he makes funds available. A £20 milltion profit on Berbatov for 2 seasons at WHL seems to be one of the best bits of business since the Prem started if you ask me. There arent many Utd fans that will say they would spend over £30 million on Berbatov if given the opportunity again......I'm pretty sure they would settle for Villa or Silva....I would!

    Things will only get better for Spurs once the new ground is completed as well.

  • Comment number 7.

    So going by Mr Mcnulty's logic, Tottenham Hotspurs drop 2 points and now they can break the glass ceiling of the premier league erm ok.

  • Comment number 8.

    We've definitely lost the confidence and swagger we had this time last season, not to mention the calm of Barry in the midfield. I'm delighted, Phil, that you've mentioned Petrov, as there are some Villa fans (not a lot, but some) who think of him as something of a weak link, rather unbelievably. Interestingly, these are some of the same fans who say that we're not technically good enough, fascinating given that they then call for Petrov, our one really technical midfielder, to be dropped! Some people should think back on what they actually think before speaking.

    Our problem is also the system. We're proven to be better with the 4-3-3 because it gets the best out of our best players. We pass the ball better, Petrov has more options on the ball, and we don't get driven through the midfield like was sometimes the case yesterday (and on numerous occasions over the past few years). I have a feeling that Milner will move into the centre, where he will surely play his football for many years to come (given his energy, calmness under pressure and tactical awareness), with Downing moving into a wide-forward role on the opposite side to Young, with hopefully some fluidity between those two, the centre-forward (probably Gabby) and an attacking presence from the midfield three. The question is, with Petrov and Milner the midfielders, who's the third? The answer is that we don't have him yet. We need someone creative, frankly someone better than Barry at playmaking (Barry was more pivot than throughball). I firmly believe that we are this player and that system away from being able to match Spurs blow-for-blow at their best, not to mention sides above them even, given our younger players capacity to develop further (Delph I see as a long-term Petrov replacement).

    To Spurs fans, I would say firstly that I admire the footballing ethos on show from your team yesterday and you deserved a point at the very, very least, but don't get too excited. We were as poor as we have been in a long time (we've lost playing better than that) and got away with it. It's a crazy, crazy league this year, and one week you guys hammer Wigan and on another you get hammered by Chelsea; well we lost to Wigan and beat Chelsea. It really is strange this year and we cannot take any general suppositions from any one game this year, it really is impossible.

  • Comment number 9.

    Mr McNulty,my point was that Spurs should have beaten Villa yesterday and gained three points,instead of settling for a draw and losing two points that would have contributed in pushing them towards the top four position I feel they have the potential to reach.
    To break into that top four Spurs need to be consistent.They need to grind out results on cold and wet days,however I just do not feel Spurs are consistent enough to do this.
    Last season Aston Villa were in a similar position and showed so much potential and promise to crack that top four spot untill they collapsed and Arsenal stormed in to snatch the last Champions League spot.
    In the second half of the season the big boys will step up a gear,and the question is will Spurs,Villa and Manchestr City be able to keep up and match them pace for pace?
    I doubt it.

  • Comment number 10.

    At 09:19am on 29 Nov 2009, cameron13 wrote:
    So going by Mr Mcnulty's logic, Tottenham Hotspurs drop 2 points and now they can break the glass ceiling of the premier league erm ok.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    Its 'Hotspur' Cameron13, and I would also like to add that a point away at Villa after trailing 1-0 at half time would be looked at as a point gained rather that 2 points dropped. I seem to remember them taking all 3 points from the team that are sitting pretty at the top of the table at the moment as well.
    Please suggest another team whose recent form suggests they have a better chance of 'breaking the glass ceiling' of the Prem..........

  • Comment number 11.

    This article couldve been written either way, Phil chose the positive side but could so easily have said that Spurs failed to beat a side(in the battle for 4th spot with them) that were there for the taking. Liverpool v Man City just last week..ring any bells?

  • Comment number 12.

    Settled for a draw?
    I think that anyone watching the second half of the spurs villa game would be hard put to agree with the analysis that Spurs settled for a draw, they scored the equaliser on 77 minutes and never let up their play for the whole of the second half. Those who think they settled for a draw need to watch the whole match and not just MOTD highlights

  • Comment number 13.

    To cameron13...by going to one of their main rivals for a top four place and outplaying them actually, even if they did not win. Very sound logic I think.

    An excellent performance and in some ways just as significant, if not moreso, than scoring nine goals against an awful Wigan side. Spurs showed attitude and ability and were very impressive.

  • Comment number 14.

    #7 - While you might call it dropping 2 points, the fact remains that having played against every other side with top 6 pretensions other than Manchester City, Tottenham are currently sitting in third place. If Chelsea win this afternoon they will be staying there till next week. If you ask pretty much any manager in the country outside of the big 4, they would bite your hand off to take that return.

    Its probably going to be very close come the end of the season, Arsenal have just lost one of their best forwards for a long period, so they may not be racking up the points as quickly as they would like. There could well be a very small margin between 3rd and 7th come May.

  • Comment number 15.

    When you say the big boys, presumably you include Liverpool in there too.
    Well they've finally been found out and so far nothing short of a CL Final type of miracle will keep them from finishing up as also-rans.
    True consistency is the key and it's early days yet but how anyone could watch that match and not say Spurs looked more like the home side than Villa did is incredible.
    There's still a way to go but with Harry at the reins Spurs are moving fast and furious plus there's January's window.
    Long may it last!

  • Comment number 16.

    To MontytheVillain I feel Stilyan Petrov is at least someone who gets on the ball and tries to make the team play. I was sceptical about him when he first arrived at Villa Park, but there is no doubt he is at home in the Premier League now and Martin O'Neill never makes any attempt to hide his admiration for him.

    I've seen Villa at home to both Manchester City and Spurs this season, and on both occasions they started well then seemed to run out of steam and ideas. They appeared to lack variety. I did also see them win at Liverpool, and maybe with all the pace they possess up front they are more suited to playing away from home, with all the chances to hit teams on the break that scenario can present.

    There was some talk at Villa Park yesterday about Stewart Downing perhaps eventually playing in central midfield, but do you feel they need someone who also has a bit more steel in there? Nigel Reo-Coker and Steve Sidwell have not made the place their own.

    One further question - how much are Villa missing Gareth Barry?

  • Comment number 17.

    I agree with you about the other four perhaps not being quite so pleased with a point at Villa Rich BUT.. If Liverpool don't climb out of their slump soon then i think Tottenham are the only REAL challengers for 4th spot.

    Villa are still the same as last year, good side but they don't have enough about them to go on a run of 5/6 wins and it's at least another season before Man c can maybe step up a level and produce form over 38 games.

    Harry is a excellent manager and also a very lucky one which can only help. He's got them playing well and if they can pick up more points than Liverpool over the Christmas period then they will take some stopping.

    Having said that, i still think there will be a lot of drama this season and it WILL go down to the wire and Liverpool will have the experience in reserve when it matters most.

    carp fishing in france

  • Comment number 18.

    Harry's spent what we made off of the Berba/Keane deals and then some, but his buys have been very decent for the most part (2.5 for Kranjcar! bargain), and have generally gone up in value - Chimbonda is the only bizarre buy I can think of though at least we made the money back; I'm guessing we bought Naughton in order to sell Hutton this Jan. I know that Keane has come for some stick from Spurs fans but the huge difference in form since after February isn't only due to Palacios; we were struggling badly in winter with the Bent + Pav/Campbell pairing.

    I've questioned Harry's tactics and team selection even throughout this season (esp in the games against the top 3 - what was that all about?), but I am fairly pleased with how we've approached games with a bit of belief now - in the past it's been us hanging on at the end, but I don't think anyone can say that we weren't going for the win at Villa Park.

    I think people are writing off Villa way too early - their defense has been superb and will save them points even with inconsistent performances elsewhere on the pitch. Imo their tactics are well-suited against the better sides, which is why they've shown great form against the top 4 this season. Meanwhile we play too openly and will probably drop some very silly points like against Stoke at home, and our performance are still far too inconsistent - it seems like we don't really have a genuine plan until after HT, we just rely on individual players to save us. Overall I'd say Liverpool are still the surest bet to round off the sky 4 since I can't see us/City/Villa going on an extended run, but who knows, it's too early to tell.

  • Comment number 19.

    Phil, you make a good point about steel, but if our steel is to come from NRC he's got to learn to pass, which if he hasn't done by now he's probably, sadly, not going to. Sidwell seems to be a squad player, not a regular, first-choice, top-four first team player.

    I would reiterate that the problem is the system. 4-4-2 doesn't suit us because we have a rather large pitch, meaning that our best midfielders will always look exposed in a central two. 4-3-3 with one main central striker is not, as some would believe, a negative system, indeed in some ways it's more positive than 4-4-2, given the latter's modern propensity for having two specialist holders. I would be sceptical about Downing moving into the middle, I'd think it more likely that Milner will with Downing as a wide forward, but whoever does so will surely have to do so in a 4-3-3. I feel that Milner should with a creative central midfielder alongside him and Petrov, with Milner providing the box-to-box industry to complement Petrov's specialist holding and Playmaker X's forward-thinking game.

    How much are we missing Barry? Well, even when we had him he wasn't the Playmaker X that we need now, and indeed we had the problem with him and Petrov that their roles were too similar and it was difficult to play them together, especially in a 4-4-2. However, we miss him in two respects: firstly, in his quick releasing of the wingers, especially Young, in particular on the counter-attack, as when the wide players get the ball now they are closed down instantly as they get the ball later than with Barry, giving the opposition time to get to them; secondly, the calm he exuded to the rest of the side, perhaps imbuing the likes of Young with the confidence and self-expression that we lack now. However, like I say, there were still creativity problems when Barry was around - now they can look chronic on occasion.

  • Comment number 20.

    I think that Villa have the foundations and base of a good team, but like we have already said, there is just that small spark missing and I think that lies in the middle of the park, another forward and the drop in form of Ashley Young.
    For some reason Agbonlahor seems to get a lot of stick from the fans at Villa Park and I seem to remember his getting boo's from the crown last season. He has 8 this season of Villa's 21 goals (over a third) where will the goals come from if he gets injured?
    I agree also that Petrov is an excellent player but I think he is being stifled by the fact he doesnt have a regular partner he can rely on in the middle of the park. I think that Villa should look for a new addition in the middle of the park in January. Somebody accessable to them and that wont break the bank, someone proven and tested in the top flight. I would actually go for someone like Danny Murphy. He is proven, he has been really consistent and is fantastic as set-pieces (Villa's main strength). A swap deal with someone like Sidwell or Reo-Coker and I think Hodgeson would listen. If not there is also the likes of Kevin Nolan who has been amazing for Newcastle and Jermaine Jenas (who they have been linked with over the last 2 seasons) who if he doesnt get regular starts ahead of Huddlestone and Palacios will look to move in a last ditch hope of getting into the England squad (however unlikely!)

    Lastly, what has happened with Ashley Young? Player of the month on 3 occassions last season and this season he has been really quiet. He swung in a couple of good corners yesterday but his free kicks were awful. He needs to spark if Villa are going to get a chance of the top 4.

  • Comment number 21.

    ndg1984, you say we lack spark and then advocate the signing of Nolan? And Murphy, well, him and Petrov in the middle of a pitch like Villa Park in a 4-4-2 would just be waltzed through.

    We have to play 4-3-3, it will get the best out of our best players, including Ashley Young. Agree with you about Gabby, one of our best performers this seaonn.

  • Comment number 22.

    #9

    my point was that Spurs should have beaten Villa yesterday and gained three points,instead of settling for a draw and losing two points that would have contributed in pushing them towards the top four position I feel they have the potential to reach.
    To break into that top four Spurs need to be consistent.They need to grind out results on cold and wet days,however I just do not feel Spurs are consistent enough to do this.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    I can't agree that Spurs 'settled for a draw'. We spent the entire second half all over them, and unlike the week before when everything went in, it looked like it was going to be one of those days.

    Once we drew level, we had chances to win it as well, that's not settling for a draw.

    You also say that Spurs need to grind out results on cold and wet days. Firstly, what does the weather have to do with it? We've already ground out results and won against Sunderland at home and Portsmouth away when we probably should have drawn or lost.

    And on the consistency issue, if Spurs' main challengers for 4th are going to be Villa, Man City, Liverpool and to a lesser extent Arsenal, then it's not like they're overly consistent either (except Man City who are very consistent at drawing).

    Arsenal lost away to Sunderland last week, Liverpool have won one league game in 2 months, also losing at home to the team we drew away with yesterday, so I'd say that Spurs have come out of the early part of the season quite well.

    Also, Rome wasn't built in a day. This time last season we had about 12 points, we've been building momentum ever since and I believe Spurs will continue to get stronger.

  • Comment number 23.

    spot on mr Mc

  • Comment number 24.

    MontytheVillain, I know where your coming from, but I think they are all better suggestions that what you have there at the moment. Reo-Coker looks like he has been playing for Graham Taylors England as he is only capable of passing sideways and backwards and Steve Sidwell is average at best. If you could get someone like Nolan (which you could on the cheap) and Martin O'neill who is famed for getting the best out of players could get Kevin Nolan playing like he did when he was at Bolton then he would give more of a dimension that what you have there at the moment. I dont see any other proven options that you could go for. Who would you get?

    Also, considering the amount of money that Randy Lerner has at his disposal, are you a little dispondent at the lack of big signings since he has been there? If Doug Ellis was still at the healm then the Villa fans would be vying for blood and asking him to dig deep again. There hasnt really been any change at all in transfer policy but nobody is moaning about it that much......cant get my head around that myself?

  • Comment number 25.

    With all due respect, ndg1984, there is absolutely no lack of funds forthcoming from Mr. Lerner, and the transfer policy has transformed dramatically. MON has spent wisely, building the foundation of a good side. We really are not in bargain basement territory, come on, we just spent £12m on a player we knew couldn't play until nearly Christmas and £6m on a youngster who had never played a minute at a higher level than League 2! The reason nobody is moaning about Lerner or calling for blood there is because there is absolutely no problem, quite the reverse, and I politely suggest that you might do well to check your research there.

    In the summer there was a concerted, but very quiet, attempt to sign Wesley Sneijder. Granted, when Inter decided they could afford him after all (an my goodness that was drawn out) there was only going to be one destination for him, but the point is that that is the bracket we were going for, proving that we can at least compete financially, and it is that level of player we need to take us to that mythical next level (of course, playing three in the middle). You will understand my incredulity, therefore, given these circumstances, at your suggestions of Murphy and Nolan (though Jenas, although I disagree he's what we need, is more in the right bracket).

    As joe strummer said above about Spurs, Rome wasn't built in a day. O'Neill's built the foundation of a very good side. When he took over we were in such dire straits that you wouldn't believe for a club of our size; now fans are moaning that we're only fifth. What we now need is that finishing touch, that aspect of quality that separates the great from the good.

  • Comment number 26.

    Good article but april 10th/17th/24th will go a long way to decide this issue - Woolwich Arse nal home..Chelski home...Man Utd away Nuff said.

  • Comment number 27.

    For a man that is worth what Mr Lerner is then the quality of player you have bought hasnt been that great....really it hasnt. Stuart Downing for 12m is not good business and 6m on Delph is a risk.

    Its all very well being 'linked' to world class players but I think we will all agree in assuming Wesley Sneijder wouldnt have taken too long to mull over an Inter/Villa conundrum! With the money that Villa apparently have, you dont have a single world class player and this puts you at a distinct disadvantage to the other top 4 pretenders.

    Liverpool; Gerrard, Torres, Mascherano
    Tottenham; Modric, Defoe, King (when fit!)
    Man City; Tevez, Given, Robino...and other 'fringe' world class players.
    Villa; ?, ?, ?. Friedel, Young, Agbonlahor (all really good, not world class though)

    My research was well checked, I just didnt think that Shorey, Collins, Dunne, Delph, Warnock, Heskey, Cuellar, Downing and Habib Beye are really going to do much to set the league alight. I dont think Sneijder would like right in that list. Spending £5-10 million on players is what Hull, Fulham, Stoke and Birmingham do. Spurs, Liverpool and Man City are looking a bit more ambitious than that, thats all.

    I think when you see the amount of money you have spent on the above list and seen the improvement they have made since arriving than before then it shown a lot of outlay but no real improvement in th team.

    One more thing, Nolan and Murphy do fit like a glove into that list and if you remove the claret and sky blue tinted glasses you will realise that those players DO NOT constitute a top 4 place.

    If Mr Lerner starts paying 10-20m on players then you can look at better quality and an improvement.

  • Comment number 28.

    Oh, yeah......You spent 4m on Marlon Harewood.......way to go mr lerner!

  • Comment number 29.

    If you just look at the teams in terms of how much the current squads cost Spur's should be expecting a top four finish:
    Man City 253.4 million
    Chelsea 208.85 million
    Man Utd 196.6 million
    Spurs 169.6 million
    Liverpool 152.2 million
    Arsenal 92.3 million

    Obviously there are other key factors, the amount clubs like Arsenal spend on scouting and of course the overall wage bill. Also just to note the Man United side of 2006-2007 won the league with a squad which cost less than the current Spurs team does against a Chelsea side which cost about 230 million so it is possible to win the league at that cost.

    As an extra point of intrest this is the net expenditure of these clubs over the past 5 years:
    Man City 228.8 Million
    Chelsea 97.5 Million
    Spurs 93.4 Million
    Liverpool 87.99 Million
    Man Utd 4 Million
    Arsenal –27.9 Million

    Personally I feel the cost of squad table provide's a more accurate assesment of the current teams as certain factors can effect it heaviley. If I had chosen to review spending over the last 4 years for example Chelsea's net spend would have been around 8 million meanwhile the Man United figure does not include players such as Ferdinand and Rooney who were bought before the period.

    Nevertheless it does again show that Spur's spending is at a level where they should expect to be a main contender for Champions League football and probably should be putting up a stronger fight for the league title itself. It also serves to proove how farcical City's recent run of results have been as, in terms of finance, they should be in another league to the other contenders.

  • Comment number 30.

    Anyone claiming that Spurs 'settled for a draw' obviously didn't watch the match, as it was clear to even the most oblivious and/or blinkered of spectators that Spurs were pushing to the end, as were Villa in fairness, for all three points. In fact, the final ten minutes or so were probably the best of the match. Ultimately, neither side really deserved to lose so a point each was fair, but Spurs would have got two points if (theoretically) they awarded three points per draw and awarded the third point to whoever was more dominant. But they don't. Bye.

  • Comment number 31.

    Does it surprise me that when i turned on my computer and directed it to the BBC sport website this morning i am reading this from Mr McNulty or for that matter any london based media?

    No.

    Unfortunatly i couldnt be there or watch on TV yesterday due to being at the ATP finals, but following the bbc ticker and Mr McNulty's "twitter updates" it doesn't surprise me to read a completely spurs focused blog.

    In every one of your comments/updates/twitters Mark you were always channeling towards and focusing your comment on either what spurs were doing, or what spurs had to do, never how good villa started or well they were defending.

    I know it is a matter of opinion but why do we not get the credit we deserve for being a contender? We have beaten chelsea and liverpool, proved our quality for 80% of last season and 50% of the previous one too, winning at arsenal, beating chelsea, drawing with liverpool, not to mention a more than deserved 5-1 win against bolton (which didnt get 1/10th of the column spurs' admitedly freak win got...)

    We have finnished in the top 6 for 2 years we very nearly broke into the top 4 - certainly as much as spurs are looking to at this stage of the season, but we didnt get half the column inches last season and still, this season all the headlines are about spurs or Man City. It must make Villa and Everton Fan's sick. Infact, it does, i know from talking to them - boring lazy populist london centric media.

    You Don't get people writing Man Utd or Chelsea off after a couple of close faught clashes with rivals? why us, why not judge us on our record over the past few seasons which is mightily more impressive than spur's 1/4 of this season and one game where spurs had to come from behind, just as we did against chelsea? We won that game, but of course that is inconsiquencial when you don't look at the bigger picture.

    In fact judging by the hype and opinion surrounding Man City and Spurs and the angle you take on spurs, you would have thought Villa did fantastic to hang on to their coat tales, but non of that of course.








  • Comment number 32.

    I'm sorry, Defoe is not World Class, he is very good, very very good when on form, but very good and not world class. Modric shows flashes of brilliance, and at times can be absolutely stunning, but he hasn't put it together for long enough yet to be considered world class (and it's a shame he got injured when he did, because he could have by now - then again, still premature to call him world class when he hasn't actually done it yet), and King, well, what's the point of having a world class player if he's never fit? You may as well have Pele in the squad.

    Shorey was signed when when Bouma got a career-threatening injury. Warnock is as good a left-back in this league, Cuellar kept Spurs out single-handedly for parts of yesterday by himself, Collins and Dunne have formed much better centre-back partnership than the £40m Man City partnership (money don't count for everything, you see), Heskey is, well, an anomaly (great for England, in the wrong set-up at Villa), Downing has set the League alight in the past (totally on his own at Boro, I might add) and you can bet the Delph will in years to come. Nolan is a really, really average footballer who's found his level in the Championship and Danny Murphy doesn't have the legs for the top level anymore. How do they fit that list?

    You sound like Garry Cook for a moment there (he of the "Milan bottled it" fame) when he said that "lets face it, Richard Dunne isn't a name to sell shirts in Beijing, is it?". He's got us points on the board, that's what.

    This time last year Ashley Young was in top form and Aaron Lennon was nowhere. This year it's the other way round. How can we tell who's better? We can't, we can only tell who's on better form. Tell me, would you rather have spent £9m on Young or £17m on David Bentley?

    My points are these: firstly, 'world class' is a phrase that's bandied about way, way too much (Torres yes, Villa yes, Defoe? No) and secondly that you really cannot assume quality on money spent: how much better is our defence than Man City's, and who spent the most money on the 'bigger' names? I can't believe you'd be so patronising as to tell me that Nolan is our level, which is what you're doing at the same time as telling us we don't have a world class player! Well guess what, to get a world class player we have to - what's that - GET ONE, and that means buying slightly above our level, and also in that position that helps the players you've called 'really good' get closer to this mythical 'world class' bracket.

  • Comment number 33.

    Desolation_row

    In response to your interesting message, it certainly does shown that Mark Hughes is living on borrowed time. 7 draws in a row and look at what they have spent! During that run they have conceded 4 goals and picked up 2 points at home against Burnley and Hull......that is a joke and if i was a City fan I would be extremely frustrated.

    It also says a lot about a club when you see how much money Spurs have spent yet they just turned in a healthy annual profit. Spurs have the potential to be up there with Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool if they ever get up to 4th again if they can just break into the top for this season. If Spurs domanage this then I think they will spend to ensure they stay there for many seasons to come,

  • Comment number 34.

    £4m on Harewood, I seem to remember at the same time you lot spent £6m on Ricardo Rocha. Please don't be rude and especially about Lerner, a truly fine individual who deserves nothing but praise.

  • Comment number 35.

    villasronaldo

    Cry me a river mate! If you dont like the blog, dont read it.

    As you love tennis so much, you might want to concentrate on that.

    QUOTE: "Unfortunatly i couldnt be there or watch on TV yesterday due to being at the ATP finals"..................Great name drop....lmao!

  • Comment number 36.

    As a Villa fan, I feel a little hard done by time after time reading these articles. Spurs and Man City are obviously far more fashionable than Villa, and the very fact that they've got such better squads, player for player, shows what a great job Martin O'Neill must be doing to keep us in the top six and at least looking at top 4. Any acknowledgment of Villa's success seems almost begrudging, whilst praise seems to be thrown upon Spurs in particular, even after particularly average results.
    A clear example to me, is how so many journalist's have praised Spurs for dealing with the wind and rain. I'm pretty sure the weather was the same for both teams? Not only that, but when was the last time that one half of a game in late Novemeber, decided the league as so many people think yesterdays did, even if Spurs battered Villa in the second half (which I admit they did) the fact that they failed to score more than one (and a questionable one at best considering the handball) shows that they are really no better than Villa. If yesterday shows Spurs credentials as a top four side, does that mean that Villa, or even Wigan, are title contenders after beating Chelsea?
    Admittedly Villa and Spurs are neck and neck in the race (I personally believe that unless Man City buy the world and his dog in January, they'll finish mid-table) but making assumptions this early on based on 45 minutes of Spurs playing well against Villa, is not really a basis for an informed argument.
    As a Villa fan, I obviously want us to be as successful as possible, however, as many people have pointed out, 2005-06 we finished just above the relegation zone, at least now, the football is exciting, top 6 is pretty much a certain and top 4 is an ambition. There's still a long way to go, and I'm sure Villa and Spurs will be neck and neck until the end.

  • Comment number 37.

    This ia a blog about airing opinions and views....Dont get so upset!

    We disagree...wow, no problem with that.

    Downing setting the league alight.....give me a break!

    Please dont be rude to Mr Lerner........Is he your husband?

    There is nothing wrong with a bit of healthy banter, with individual football views.
    If you dont like it then dont reply to my messags.

    If you want to take it in the spirit that it was meant then I would like to talk about Stuart Downing setting the league alight!

  • Comment number 38.

    Firstly I don't think it was 'healthy banter' because you were really being quite patronising. I don't know why you've got aggressive in what should ideally be a calm exchange, that's what I want at any rate.

    I said please don't be rude ABOUT Randy Lerner, not 'to', I doubt he read this blog and these comments (no offence Phil, he's a busy man). "Is he your husband", good God, are you P.G. Wodehouse? And I said 'please' because it's called, you know, being polite.

    I'd be only to happy to debate the issues if you weren't so assertive and assumptive about my team, something I know more about, and I'd like not to be accused of having 'claret and blue glasses' on just because I think Villa have good players (shock horror).

    Assuming you're going to be more open-minded to debate, can you remember when Downing started out, and through those few years when 'Boro had a decent team? He was the star of that success, the brightest spark and the subject, I believe, of a failed series of offers from Tottenham. As 'Boro went into decline he found himself more and more isolated in that team as the one player who could do something for them, so inevitably teams tended to have one player to deal with when they played 'Boro - him. Any player can get marked out of a game, and certainly it affected Downing's confidence. He could still pull out the odd blinder (check his inspiring the 3-0 win over Liverpool last season), and I think he could flourish in our team once fully fit.

  • Comment number 39.

    I didnt say you had claret and blue glasses, I said you had claret and sky blue tinted glasses, the frames can be any colour you like.

    I must say, Harry is a fan of Downings, although i'm not (dont know whether you worked that out or not!?) and I think we would have got him if he wasnt crocked.

    Why cant Villa gel in a 4-4-2?

    Also, its 'Sir' P G Wodehouse......RIP.

  • Comment number 40.

    34. At 11:37am on 29 Nov 2009, MontytheVillain wrote:

    £4m on Harewood, I seem to remember at the same time you lot spent £6m on Ricardo Rocha.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    Rocha actually cost £3m, but the point still stands, he was a waste of money.

  • Comment number 41.

    Aside from a couple of seasons under Martin Jol, Spurs have been inconsistent both on and off the field for 10 years or more. Changing managers every season, dismantling and trying to build a new team each time costs a lot of money. It's a misnomer to suggest this should equate to success though. #29 points out that you can win the league spending lots or little and this underlines what we already know, it takes time and consistency to be successful, money is no guarantee.

    With the end of the dreaded 'Director of Football' we can finally see some trust in the manager and his vision at WHL. Yes Harry spent a lot of money, funnily enough buying back most of squad that disbanded under Ramos but he has bought well and crucially, we can afford it. In January we may see some squad players being replaced but in general I think the major work has been done, now we have to settle in for the long haul.

    The wage bill is half Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea's (at least) whilst our spending can be greater than theirs and I think it's time to reassess this, spending a bit more on wages, less on transfer fees. Hopefully that'll help to stop Utd cherry picking our better players and we can build a challenge for the Champions League places.

    We're headed in the right direction and I'm encouraged that we have the finances to compete at the top but money isn't the key to success.

  • Comment number 42.

    When it comes to world class players you see more at Spurs than you do at Villa. Also, if there was one player that both teams were going for then Spurs would be their prefered team as they are more consistant and stand a much better chance of getting that 4th spot than Villa do.

    On the game yesterday, Spurs deserved to win from the way they played in the 2nd half, but from the first half performance it was a closer encounter. Villa will always be a top 7 team, as will Spurs, but when it comes down to the final week of Premier League football, you can only see Spurs being in the top 4 out of all the other contenders. The final table will be like this:

    1.Chelsea
    2.United
    3.Arsenal
    4.Spurs
    5.Liverpool
    6.Villa
    7.City(as they drawing way too much)

  • Comment number 43.

    Firstly, Mr. Strummer, apologies, I must be confusing him with some other Spurs waste of money. You're right, I think the point still stands with both Rocha and Harewood - not the best pennies ever spent.

    NDG, I only wear the glasses for reading, so I don't see the point in spending that extra money on the customised frames or lenses!

    Firstly I would say that a player being injured with a very definite recovery timetable is no reason not to sign him - potentially excellent service for the best part of a decade passed up because of a couple of months of inactivity is short term in the extreme. I doubt that's why he didn't go to Spurs, maybe we outbid you? That could be possible, given the money you spent in January and your centre-back problems rather forcing Redknapp's hand in the market.

    The reason we don't gel in a 4-4-2 - and God knows why MON, so sharp on other matters, can't see this - is because on the wider pitches of which Villa Park is one, if you play two central midfielders, two fully-fledged wingers and two out-and-out strikers you're going to leave an awful lot of gaps, and it's just two easy to block off our passing options. No better example than Petrov - he's a really class act on his day, the way he keeps the ball in incredibly tight situations is occasionally sublime and he reads the game very well (making him a good holding player), but whenever he wriggles this half-yard of space he will always look up and see very little but opposition shirts because Villa are so ludicrously spread out.

    We must play a 4-3-3, play Milner in the centre (he's so wasted on the wing, especially being asked to hug the touchline, that it's untrue) alongside Petrov and A.N. Other, possibly Delph (though I see him as the long-term Petrov replacement in many ways), but more hopefully an attacking midfielder with the nous and quality to play that killer ball. In a way, the only things I objected to in your earlier assessment were that these players must be expensive (Arteta was around the £5m mark, for example) and that we needed to buy more than one. Really all we need is this one player and the other players should have more space to express themselves, but there should also be more support for the player on the ball.

    Given this, how does Spurs 4-4-2 work? I think, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, that it's because it's actually a 4-2-3-1. Palacios and Huddlestone, despite occasional breaks forward, are essentially players who like to dominate the centre circle and play from there. Also, Kranjcar (and Modric, when fit) comes in from the left to create an extra presence in the middle, create more options and more movement, while either Crouch or Keane, whoever's playing, will tend to drop deep to link up as well, with Defoe playing of the last defender.

  • Comment number 44.

    Dear Mr McNulty,

    As you are probably aware the Premier League's glass ceiling has already been shattered in the recent past by the mighty Everton FC.

    Unfortunately Mr B. Kenwright couldn't afford the bill for the double-glazing (despite buying one and getting one, I said getting one, free) and so the status quo was soon restored.

    yours sincerely,

    Mr Bored-AndWrites-Drivel esq.

  • Comment number 45.

    I agree with the comment 43. made about Spurs line up. it is not the 4-4-2 but in effect a 4-2-3-1, with Lennon and whoever else, be it Modric or Kranjcar, both comming in from the wing to help out just behind the striker.

    Also, Petrov is a good player on his day but Villa do need that extra midfielder or at least another creative player to take some of the strain off of him. He does not get enough time to work his magic, which as a Spurs fan, I am greatful for, as if he does then he can be a deadly player. However, I find it difficult to rate Downing, who shined at middlesbourgh because he was their only good player, therefore he outshone more than he should have, like Berbatov for Spurs (when he first joined.)

    I think Villa need to buy another striker and one more midfielder, such as Nolan, to help their creativity. Whilst Spurs need centre backs, as with King and Woodgate injured too much, Dawson and Basong just wont do.

  • Comment number 46.

    Dominic, I agree that we need another creative midfielder, but what's with all this Kevin Nolan stuff? Even Hull and Wolves would be looking at better players than Kevin Nolan. No, Villa need a player who can unlock defences with that killer pass, and that ain't Kevin Nolan.

    My candidates? A gamble would be Landon Donovan, no doubting his talent but he's never played at the real top level so who knows if he could make the jump. Perhaps someone like Joao Moutinho (though that would cost us a few bob, which we have, but still), who we could get, I'm sure - if he was willing to go to Everton a year ago, he'd be willing to come to us now. A cheeky bid for VDV? We could offer him first team football in the run up to the World Cup, even on a loan basis maybe...ok, maybe a wee bit optimistic, but not totally out of the realms of possibility.

    My point is that this is the bracket of player we should be, and I believe that we are, aiming for. As for Downing, he shone in a pretty decent 'Boro team and got quadrupled-up on during 'Boro's decline, being their only player. I think he could really flourish when he gets match fit.

  • Comment number 47.

    I personally don't see mental strength in running the score up. Chelsea beat Wolves 4-0 and could have gone for more but why? Being ruthless is not kicking people when they are unconscious. I've remarked to Arsenal fans that their penchant for 6 and 7s is a sign of insecurity. United ran up 5 in 34 minutes v Wigan. It proves nothing and arguably Wigan at least don't waste energy when the game is dead. At 6-1 after 86 minutes ruthless is to take the ball and play it around saving yourself for the season ahead.

    Also Spurs have shown a marked tendency over recent years to prefer under dog status. They beat Liverpool and everyone noted their bench strength compared to even United and Liverpool and yet after going 1 up against United they conceded 9 and 9 points to the rest of the 4.

    Last year reflected Spurs lower expectations and then push on. Take Defoe suddenly he's all but on the plane to the world cup and what do we get? Silly sendings off and injuries just as I was about to order the Kool Aid that he was no longer the lightweight striker he had been.

    Are they still the team that may have spuriously claimed food poisoning (no one was prosecuted and no evidence emerged) when faced with 1 game to be 4th? Personally the case in unproven. Is Defoe the front runner who prefers no expectation because he scores a lot of cream on top goals? unproven.

  • Comment number 48.

    Interesting reaction from Villa fans. I agree that Randy Lerner is undeserving of criticism. He has provided the funds and Martin O'Neill decides how to spend them. There has certainly been no shortage of cash - and I would hazard a guess that Mr. Lerner did not recommend the signing of Marlon Harewood.

    I've not seen too much of Ashley Young this season, but has he been as subdued as some Villa supporters suggest? And is Kevin Nolan really the answer to Villa's midfield conundrum? I would respectfully suggest not. Not a bad player but hardly an upgrade on what they already have.

    As for Spurs, maybe they are now reaping the benefits of managerial stability and having a manager who makes all the footballing decisions. No director of football muddying the waters. I am not a fan of the director of football unless he is someone appointed by the manager, not foisted upon him.

    Where would Spurs fans like to see Harry Redknapp strengthen in January?

  • Comment number 49.

    In my opinion Spurs need more stability in defence, with King and Woodgate being so injury prone, we need better back ups than Dawson and Basong as i mentioned earlier. We have more than enough cover in the midfield, I mean when you have player like Jenas and Bentley on the bench you cant complain. another striker may be needed if one of the top 3 get injured, but it has to be one who is good but knows they wont get constant first team football, which can be hard to find.

    Another keeper would be nice, seein how Gomes is varying in form and cudicini out, we need a good replacement. But mainly focusing on the defence as without King, we need another brilliant defender who can slot in perfectly.

  • Comment number 50.

    Phil, 100% about Lerner and Nolan, a most bizarre suggestion from Spurs fans (though no doubt they mean well). Also, Young really has been off form, indeed ever since he got sent off against Sunderland last season. He just hasn't reacted well to being a marked man in my view, lots of players go through this. With more threats coming from other areas should take the pressure off Young.

  • Comment number 51.

    #43 - Spurs set up 4-4-2 and defend in this formation but are more fluid moving forward, as you say Modric drifting in and Lennon a genuine winger. The defensive balance has been the key to our improvement in the last 12 months.

    I like what MoN is doing at Villa with faith in buying young, building players and I don't see a gulf between the squads, both of us lack something in the middle of the park, Spurs are fragile defensively and Villa need a goalscorer.

    On the 4-3-3, it worked at the start of last season but after Christmas teams planned for the quick counter attack and you were dissapointing from then on. With the attacking quality (Young, Carew, Milner, Downing) I don't see why 4-4-2 won't work even if the pitch is wide.

    I still think Liverpool will get 4th as neither of us have proven we're capable of winning 7 games on the spin but in the topsy turvy league we've seen so far I'd be chuffed to be 5th.

    oh and don't you think it's time to do the decent thing, put Ashley out of his misery and let him come back to London!? :)


  • Comment number 52.

    As an interested observer (Liverpool fan watching likely our two biggest rivals for the final CL place), I have been far more impressed by Spurs than Villa this season. Spurs have added quality and organisation to their make-up, and Redknapp seems to have them very fired up. They have multiple attacking options, and in Defoe, Keane and Crouch, strikers who have scored everywhere they have played, proving form is temporary but class is permanent- and thats without seeing anything of Pavlyuchenko this season.
    Villa seem to have regressed from last year, and perhaps, as seems to have been the norm for O'Neill, they have plateaued and lack the vision to press on. O'Neill has failed to add real quality to his squad, and seems content to buy experienced pros, like Heskey and Harewood, rather than aiming a little higher.
    All in all it is great to see some really strong, and exciting to watch, teams outside of the traditional top four. Its a long season, however, so it remains to be seen whether they can continue in this fashion.

  • Comment number 53.

    ok i will give you that Nolan is not the player to take on the role Villa need, too many people are arguing against ha. and yes, i agree with MontytheVillain about the players that you think you should buy, they would deffinatly inject some much needed creativity into your middfield.

    Young, in my opinion, is an excellent footballer when his mind is in the right place. Last year, he was definatly up there, pushing for England left midfield spot, and if he re-captures that form then he could be on the plane to SA. Maybe with more people attacking other players he can get his head down and play some football, i just hope it happens soon and he dulls out again when Villa come to Spurs.

    As you can tell i do rate Villa and there is nothing more than i would love to see both Spurs and Villa knock Liverpool, Arsenal and City all back behind us, but Arsenal are hitting form, although without RVP they may faulter now. i predicted 6th earlier for Villa but i will see how liverpool fair against everton and then i may change my mind, but i still see Spurs breaking the top 4 if they keep this form up. the next couple of weeks will be testing with everton and city to play, but if we beat them then 4th is a deffinate chance, and with the transfer window almost here, it will be interesting to see if both Levy and Lerner read this blog (doubtful but no harm in hoping to see who the fans, the people who know the most about the club, want them to buy and do it!!!!

  • Comment number 54.

    am i right in saying that after city drew at villa park you said on this blog that this proved their top 4 credentials?

  • Comment number 55.

    Great comments I think from Daddywoodland, Torontored and Dominic, I agree with much of what you guys say. Firstly though, Daddywoodland, I have to say that Ashley is from Stevenage, not London, and the closest connection he has to London is that he was a boyhood Arsenal fan!

    Torontored, I don't think that MON is 'content' to buy solid, uninspiring pros, but it is very difficult to buy the player we need to help us push on. I have no doubt he is trying to do it. You're right though, it is a crazy league this year!

    Dominic, agree with every word you say there. I would say, however, that Lerner has no say over who we sign, he only signs the cheques. Not that we have blank cheques like Man City, just that Lerner will almost always back MON (the exceptions being if he wants to pay £50m for Richard Cresswell or something).

  • Comment number 56.

    Ah well, it was worth a try!

  • Comment number 57.

    fair enough i did not know that. i beieve that Levy only signs the checks too, and has full faith, like all Spurs fans, in Harry, just as long as he does not buy more strikers or players from Pompey, minus maybe James, what ever he does this window will only help to increase Spurs team, the same with MON. however, MON needs to get rid of those players who he does not like, like NRC, and with the sale of them, bring in the creative players that you need.

  • Comment number 58.

    Dominic, Levy is heavily involved in our transfer activity and has shown he'll only buy players with a decent sell on value, that's why he refused to sanction the purchase of James earlier in the season. Having said that he is willing to spend big if he thinks it's justified. It's all a bit businessman-like but our balance sheet shows it's working for us.

    At Villa I get the impression MoN doesn't want to spend lots on one player and would rather invest for the long term. He's been successful picking up decent prospects like Delph and has shown he can help them to realise their potential like Milner & Young.

    Harry said in pre-season he wasn't in a position to wait and needed established professionals and I think it's paying dividends. Perhaps Downing is the first example of MoN making a similar move but he doesn't like January so I reckon we'll have to wait until next season before Villa's next steps are clear.

    Spurs may go for a defender to cover Woody, King and Bassong (African Cup o Nations) but I don't think we'll see a lot of changes for either squad in the New Year.

  • Comment number 59.

    "54. At 1:35pm on 29 Nov 2009, the_boys_a_genius™ wrote:

    am i right in saying that after city drew at villa park you said on this blog that this proved their top 4 credentials?"

    Spot on, it seems that a point at Villa Park means you're definately going to finish in the top 4, unless of course you're Villa, in which case it means, of course, you're going to finish about 7th and be glad of it. At least that's what most of the ill informed poster's here would have you believe.

  • Comment number 60.

    Daddywoodlands, you're right to an extent about MON's transfer policy, but I think the reasons for it have been different. When he came to Villa he really had to build a team from scratch, and thus he decided to buy some young players at the heart of the team in the belief that they will grow and mature together. However, he also bought players like Petrov and Carew, hardly rookies, not to mention Cuellar, Luke Young, Friedel and the more recent signings of Dunne, Collins, Warnock and Downing. I agree, though, that Downing may be the first example of him really spending money on an individual to make a difference.

  • Comment number 61.

    bilsim if we're talking about which '4th place' contender has the momentum then you have to agree that Spurs look the most likely out of them, City and Villa. At the moment.

    City had a strong start to the season and they looked most likely 6 or 7 games ago.

    Perhaps if Villa had won those home games they'd be top of this list but it hasn't really happened for them yet this year.

    As I said previously I'd still tip Liverpool for 4th but it's wide open and the league hasn't been this competitive for years so there's bound to be speculation. I think Spurs are best placed to break in right now and playing so well away to a fellow contender reinforces that.

  • Comment number 62.

    Bit selective about the facts in this article weren't you? Villa got a draw against spurs which surely means they showed as much top 4 credentials as spurs did. Also the fact that spurs couldn't win against a villa side missing two of its most important players at the back in warnock and collins meaning luke young a right back had to play left back as bouma is also stil out injured. Also villa are still yet to get a fully fit downing in there side and when this happens the gap between spurs and villa will be two big for spurs to even dream about 4th place

  • Comment number 63.

    I went to the game yesterday as a Spurs fan sat in the Villa end, albeit I couldnt have been closer to the Spurs fans had i tried sat next to them in the top of the Doug Ellis.

    After 25 minutes i would have said Villa were good value for their lead. They pressured Spurs allover the pitch and forced us into playing a more direct game which i don't feel suits us as was illustrated at the Emirates stadium. From around the 25th minute Villa appeared to drop off Spurs which allowed Huddlestone and Palacios far more time in midfield to work the ball around. In my opinion i think this came from Villa's doubling up on Lennon, who until the latter stages of the second half was relatively quiet, which allowed space to other players in the Spurs team particularly Kranjcar who came in from the left very impressively testing Friedel on several occasions.

    At half time the general feeling from the Villa fans was that Spurs were going to score. The second half was played out almost completely in the Villa half with both Reo-Coker and Petrov sitting deep and not supporting balls that were being played upto Carew and Agbonlahor. Throughout the half spurs tried to win the game and continued to press forward until the end, but Villa defended well putting in block after block and winning headers to keep the score level.

    At the end yes Spurs did deserve to win the game, but prior to the match i think the majority of Tottenham fans would have settled for a draw against a team with a very good home record. Could this be a year that ends in success for us, possibly the year nearly ends in 1!

  • Comment number 64.

    Fair point Monty and fair play to O Neil as he's transformed the club's fortunes fairly quickly but I do see similarities in the journey your taking with that taken by us a few years ago.

    We invested in young, Premiership proven players with potential (Defoe, Carrick, Jenas, Robbo, Lennon)
    We added some quality individuals (Berbatov, Modric)
    We added decent squad players (Bentley, Crouch, Niko)

    Admittedly it's taken 5 years, 4 managers and several hundred million pounds but we're getting there.

    I think you guys need to add some top quality to the team and one or two more squad players, though the squad is pretty strong now, but MoN is patient and confident when he buys. He also has, what looks like the pick of the foreign owners backing him, which is why we're in a similar place but you've got there in half the time (at least!)

    It won't be easy getting quality with the rise of Citeh and apparent fall in popularity of the Prem but this affects everyone and there's a few teams in a good place to capitalise, if it isn't us, I hope it's Villa... But I really hope it's Spurs!

  • Comment number 65.

    As a realistic Spurs fan i agree that at the moment we are the most likely to break into top four at the end of the season but althugh we are third and have played most of the season without Modric who is a class player im not getting carried away. Only 14 games gone not even half way! yesterday although a good point, i was gutted we didnt get the three we deserved. We have some tough games coming up and it will only take Man City to go on a 7 match winning streak which with players they have there more than capable of doing and Liverpool to start winning a few games and were out of the top 4 and people will say were the same old Tottenham. With Everton and Man City in the next 3 games plus the hectic chrismas period this is where were gonna see what were made of. But with Harry Redknapp anything will be possible

  • Comment number 66.

    It's taken five years for you guys? Well, we're in the fourth season of MON's reign. I'm looking forward to definite Champions' League football 2011-2012!

  • Comment number 67.

    It's funny how all of the people are jumping on the Spurs bandwagon. They are being given far too much praise at the moment, just because they beat Wigan 9-1.

    Yesterday, they played alright. However, they were allowed to do this as we (Villa) sat back and didn't even challenge them. Spurs supporters and the media can hype Spurs up all they want. Yet they rarely threatened yesterday, despite the fact that we had an awful game. We just sat back and invited them on for some reason and to be honest I was disgusted. We gave Spurs far too much respect.

    I'm still confident that we will finish above Spurs this season, being that we haven't even hit second gear yet.

  • Comment number 68.

    Just a quick point on this one Phil.

    A few weeks ago one of your co-workers wrote an article on what the "pretenders" neede to do to get into the top 4 by the end of the season. Almost everyone believes that Spurs,City and Villa are fighting Liverpool for that final CL spot. The article (in brief) said they needed to take advantage of Liverpools poor run of form and results now and start building up a lead because sooner or later liverpool will start firing.

    So ignoring the performance this weekend was actually bad for both Villa and Spurs, and with Liverpool winning today better for Liverpool. Liverpool are now only 3 behind Spurs, that could have been 5, and while the point was better for Spurs than Villa I have a feeling they may end up regretting that they didn't get another later in the season. Not only that but they also recently lost to Arsenal and, more importantly, Stoke.

    Personally I feel that City could have blown their chance with their run of draws, Villa I don't feel have the legs now, nevermind for the full season, Spurs are, IMO, the favourites to break in, but I don't personally think they've done enough. Had they beaten stoke they'd be 6 points in front, had they won yesterday they'd be 8, that would be worrying for Liverpool, 3 isn't a worry at all.

    And while there is a long way to go in the season yet, if liverpool do turn it around I can see them overhauling Spurs unless they start picking up the points in games where they play well enough to win, but ultimatly don't.

    In short in the last month Spurs could have built a pretty decent cusion, they haven't, and for that reason I can't really see them nailing down 4th unless somthing changes. Over to you Harry!

  • Comment number 69.

    #46 = MontytheVillain
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    VDV has been overlooked recently for good reason. Unfortunately, his wife was diagnosed with cancer and her treatment was in Germany. I think an eventual return to one of the German clubs is what he is looking for rather than moving overseas to another foreign country as you would probably understand.

    Landon Donovan did have a loan spell with Bayern Munich and he did struggle and duly returned to the MLS.

    Steven Defour at Standard Liege is a fantastic prospect and at only 21 is already the captain of his club. He has a fantastic engine on him as well as passing ability and creativity. Sir Alex is an admirer and other clubs are tracking him.........quick, get there before someone else does!

    We will have to agree to disagree on Downing! I just think he is way too inconsistent,

  • Comment number 70.

    Maybe Downing will be able to find consistency not being the sole outlet for his team, who knows? We'll both just have to wait and see.

    I know all about poor Sylvie's cancer, but I was under the impression of two things: one, that he doesn't want to go back to Germany, and two, that he now doesn't want to leave Real. Whether or not the last one is face-saving we won't know 'til 1st February, but it is strange of him to rule out returning to Germany, or Holland and Ajax for that matter.

    Donovan struggled for many reasons, but he has learned from that in terms of preparation, that's for sure. It would be a bit of a gamble, true, but it depends on our other options.

    Defour has played in a more defensive position for Standard this season before his injury. I think it's pretty clear he's United-bound, did you see Fergie's "get well" card? If that's not tapping up then it certainly seems inappropriate.

    I'd love to see Joao Moutinho, creativity, engine, technical ability of the first-rate, and a real maturity beyond his years, both in his nervelessness on, say, penalties (and my goodness we've needed a penalty taker since Barry left!) and also, most importantly, in his tactical intelligence. He is definitely gettable, and I think he really could be that fabled missing link.

  • Comment number 71.

    Joao Moutinho is a very talented palyer, another accessable player from that neck of the woods is Miguel Veloso. A similar mould (he does have a horrendous haircut though!)

    It does make you think actually about the lack of available Central Midfield talent available at the moment unless you have a £25m+ budget for a single player. I know Villa and Spurs do have quite a bit of cash but that is the amount that can only be spent surely only if you can offer Champions League football as the players of that value are mostly playing for teams already regularly competing in it.

    It shows the importance and the difference it can make to any of the teams that make the top 4.

    On what Ive just seen, Aresnal should not be considered 'shoe-in's' for the 3rd spot. I see a 2 team race for the title. Personally, I picked Chelsea at the start od the season and I still consider them firm favorites. As much as I hate Drogba, he is massively influential as a player and he was tremendous today.

    How I think it will end;

    1 Chelsea
    2 Man Utd
    3 Arsenal - (just)
    4 Spurs
    5 Liverpool
    6 Villa
    7 Man City

  • Comment number 72.

    Phil: From a neutral's point of view, I agree about Villa's problems in central midfield with nobody to match Petrov in quality. With all the suggestions that Downing might be the man to fill the gap, what about James Milner? He's got the versatility, and could be almost a Gerrard-type player for Villa. That way Ashley Young can move back to his preferred right side of midfield, and Downing can stay on his usual left.

    Or not?

  • Comment number 73.

    I watched the game at Villa park last night and thought we dominated throughout. Kranjcar was a thorn in villa's backside all night while Defoe and Crouch made Cuellar and Dunne stay alert and on their toes. Its a comfort to know that we went away from home, to a team with similar aspirations to our own and matched them man for man. If we had been in a similar postion before Redknapp's arrival, we would've most probably gone on to lost the game 2-0, but we didn't panic and patiently played our own game to grab the equaliser. After Dawson scored their was only one team who was surely going to get the winner, and you could see we were pushing for it, through the introducation of Robbie Keane.
    As a Spurs fan, we've been crying out for Champion's League Football every year and now its now or never, we have the best squad we've had in a long, long time and we need to convert it into a top four finish, before the clubs around us come knocking for players such as Modric, Lennon and Palacious. If we can keep our consistency throughout the games remaining, whilst keeping WHL a fortress and beating the teams below us, we may be in for a very promising season.

  • Comment number 74.

    A well thought-out and written article, Phil.

    To those who infer that football is an exact science, obeying the laws of logic, why are you still watching, given that Burnley has beaten Manchester United ?

    But back to the point…one swallow does not make a summer and key clause of this article is “given the circumstances of those around them”. The trick to cracking the top 4 is to not crack the bottom 16. And it is not a stretch of the imagination to find 16 teams with poorer circumstances to those at Spurs. Logical, yeah ?!

  • Comment number 75.

    All this talk about a top 4 finish is a waste of time. Liverpool have been going through their worst run of form for 50 years and how much of a cushion have Spurs built up? A measly 3 points. Arsenal are only 2 ahead and Villa and City are now behind them. Liverpool might still not be playing well but are more than capable of putting together a run of 5 or 6 wins on the trot, which would effectively end your debate Phil.
    On the other hand Arsenal are entering a point in their season where a wobble could become something more serious. They are too soft when teams roll their sleeves up to battle them. Great entertainment but not winners. Perhaps Spurs can pip them to Fourth?

  • Comment number 76.

    Ndg, I thought that Veloso was more of a holding player, whereas Moutinho prefers to play in the hole, which is why I've suggested him (despite the fact that he's played right wing for a year or so - indeed, that just proves his versatility). We're supposed to have looked at Veloso but instead went for Delph, which adds to my theory that he, Delph, is more of a long-term replacement for Petrov, though he's versatile enough to play anywhere in the middle.

    A player even more versatile is Milner, which brings me to Elpenor's very perceptive point. In fact, if you see what MON's been saying he's been very much pushing the idea of Milner as a central player. One issue, Elpenor - I don't think that either Downing or Young have a preferred side, rather that they approach being on each wing in a different way: one to cut in mainly, one to go outside mainly. Personally, I'd like to see a greater deal of fluidity with that sort of team, With Petrov, Milner and (for the sake of dreams) Moutinho, with a front three of Downing, Young and Agbonlahor.

  • Comment number 77.

    To Elpenor...Milner could be an option in central midfield. He's strong, can pass and can get a goal. Not a bad idea, but I'd like a natural in there. Who would you have? Someone mentioned the name of Scott Parker last night, not as someone Martin O'Neill had declared an interest in, but as someone he should declare an interest in.

    Other names mentioned are interesting. Moutinho and Veloso. I prefer Moutinho but Sporting Lisbon kept quoting Everton at least £18m so I'm not sure we'll see that one. Defour is excellent, but don't forget he has had a letter from Sir Alex Ferguson checking on his recovery from injury.

    And to Spurs fans, how big a lift will it be when Modric eventually returns?

  • Comment number 78.

    I think Milner is a natural in there, he's a natural anywhere. His weakest attribute is actually his crossing (would you believe), and I thoroughly believe he is wasted on the wing. He should play where he would have most influence.

    Sporting have a very odd arrangement with Moutinho, namely that they have a £19.7m release clause for Moutinho before July each summer, and after July if certain (unspecified) criteria are met. That's not to say that the only scenario in which they'd let him go, a sufficiently high offer, no doubt with various add-ons, could possibly get him. Totally different player to Veloso.

  • Comment number 79.

    75# All this talk about a top 4 finish is a waste of time. Liverpool have been going through their worst run of form for 50 years and how much of a cushion have Spurs built up? A measly 3 points. Arsenal are only 2 ahead and Villa and City are now behind them. Liverpool might still not be playing well but are more than capable of putting together a run of 5 or 6 wins on the trot, which would effectively end your debate Phil.

    On the other hand Arsenal are entering a point in their season where a wobble could become something more serious. They are too soft when teams roll their sleeves up to battle them. Great entertainment but not winners. Perhaps Spurs can pip them to Fourth?
    -----------------------------------------
    Way to totally rip your first paragraph apart by typing a second one. On the one hand you think its silly to suggest a team might finish 4th. and then you say that theres a reason why they might?

    From a spurs point of view, it would be nice to sign another centre back that will actually stay fit all year. Woodgate and King would be the best pairing in the league, if we actually thought they would be able to complete 38 games between them.

    Also, I'm not totally sure what happens at left back when Assou-Ekotto goes off to the ACoN next year. Its damned impressive to finally discover he can defend, but we could do with having him available given the famed Gareth Bale appearance record.

  • Comment number 80.

    The next few weeks will give a clearer picture of how "the contenders" are shaping up this season. Spurs have city in 2 weeks time, Liverpool play Arse and Villa have United. City also have the small matter of Chelski next week.
    When we (spurs) had Modric fit we won 4 out of 4. We played and lost to United, Chelski and Arse without him, although we played poorly in all those games we did this without our best player and in the case of the game against arsenal we missed Defoe and Lennon, our 2 best performers this year.
    With regards to the with of the pitch at Villa, I would of thought a the wider the pitch the better when you have rapid players such as Young and Downing to come. The more space the have the better they will be. Both I feel are/(were in downings case) going through the same phase as Lennon did the past 2 seasons in being figured out but not adapting. Lennon is getting there but not the finished artical yet!
    I also feel there will be a few big buys in Jan, mostly by Chelsea with waves of stupid attempts by city to bring to the best players around the world. Followed by the usual post WC craze in the summer.

    Season to end:
    Chelsea
    United
    Spurs/Arsenal
    City
    Liverpool
    Villa

  • Comment number 81.

    Interesting Blog,
    As a Spurs fan I would like to agree with your analogy but since touting Liverpool to win the league this season I feel a kiss of death for my team!;-)
    I think now that Van Persie is injured, Aresenal, not Liverpool, will be the most vulnerable, but in the interest killing football stagnation, any other team to break the so-called big 4 would be a relief...
    My gripe on this blog concerns more John Carew...I remember this hercules of a man destroying Real Madrid in the champion's league while playing for Lyon...and all i've seen so far is a pale imitation of yjat brilliance ever since he's moved to Villa...

  • Comment number 82.

    Interesting article. The most satisfaction I got out of it was your awareness of the football we still managed to play when we went a goal down, very organized, very efficient. We were patient and were unlucky. Watching the game, it's true, Spurs were the better team, but with all our dominance and failure to win, I feel with Liverpool's and City's poor run of form, our cushion is not great enough. One point, whoever the team is, seems to me, 2 points lost.
    Liverpool, albeit this season, are still a monster of a team... Torres, Gerrard, Reina, Mascherano, this side is capable of racking up 4-8 wins in a row and Arsenal against the smaller teams always seem that nothing can stop them! City's squad could start winning when they stop playing like individuals.

    As a Spurs fan, I feel all this talk will end in disappointment, although I hope it won't! Modric will be a massive boost for us, although with Kranjar and Lennon doing so well on the wings recently, I'm unsure to where he will fit in? With Palacios off the boil recently and Huddlestone not being so potent away from home, maybe Modric can stake a place for central midfield space with taking one of the two midfielders out. Oh and I feel the problem Spurs will need to address is our full-backs - most times I watch and I feel Ekotto will give the ball away and be out of position far too easily and Corluka is not exactly a modern day right back. These two proved our downfall against the big teams.

  • Comment number 83.

    Spurs have improved under Redknapp and a top 4 place is a possibility. However, much like Arsenal,I think they need to strengthen their defence and goalkeeper to be considered serious candidates. Pundits love to talk about where the goals are going to come from but stopping them is of even more importance as Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal have, so far, failed to do. Conceding in excess of a goal a game is not a recipe for success.Premiership success is built on a solid back 5, not a myriad of attacking options. For this reason, Chelsea will be champions and United runners up, Liverpool will be third and the other place is up for grabs with Arsenal the favourites.

  • Comment number 84.

    No mention of the fact that Dawson's goal was a handball?!

  • Comment number 85.

    Modric's return will be vital to us, but Kranjcar has produced some breath-taking performances to prove he is good enough to challenge Modric for that left midfield spot.
    Handball for Dawson? No chance deero83, it hit him on the shoulder, and i'm assuming you've forgtten Luke Young's blatent handball that was missed by Mr.Dowd moments earlier?

  • Comment number 86.

    Interesting blog

    Villa fans, I think the reason the article is in praising Spurs so much is that a. they played very well and were the better team, particuarly in the second half
    b. villa are a very good team, and despite spurs being away against them and going a goal behind actually showed some fight to take a point - something that was missing in previous seasons.

    A lot has been made over Liverpool's injuries to star players - well Spurs have now not had their own star player for the last 10 league games. When Modric does come back, I expect him to return to the team with Huddlestone being the one replaced. Huddlestone is a good player against weaker teams, and at home, but if he's up against a midfielder that presses him and puts him under pressure he's a passenger.

    As for potential new signings in January, well a combatitive dominating central midfielder alongside Palacios is most likely, seems the Brazilian Sandro has been heavily linked, but I've no idea about him. Scott Parker is one I'd be quite keen on. I think if we can keep everyone fit and the players can concentrate for the whole 95 minutes we should be in the mix - those are the big IFs

 

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