Saturday, May 16, 2009

This article was written on 1 May 2009 and will be published in the next issue of The Cockerel
Thank you Harry. You did not just save Tottenham from the abyss of relegation, but you also gave us our Tottenham back. We may or we may not qualify for Europe this season but that is beside the point. The most important thing is that we now have a group of players who want to play for the team and for each other. Our players believe in the cause and want to play for their manager. The indifference, apathy and lack of direction we witnessed at the start of the season is now a distant memory.

Dear gaffer, I do not know whether to laugh or cry when I hear so called experts and (pseudo) football connoisseurs branding you tactically inept, plain lucky and nothing more than a motivator.

Like every other man in the business you will always have your critics. And like every other manager you will also commit mistakes. But those who say you are no tactician are missing the point. I do not have the space to delve deep into this argument but if people took time to analyse the interchanging of positions between Robbie Keane and Luka Modric, just to mention one example, they might change their mind.

The seemingly natural understanding between these two players and their continuous movement between the wing, central midfield and upfront gives us options. The way these two players move and play has given us a large degree of fluency that we did not have before. What we are seeing now is one of the most slick-moving, flexible and non-rigid teams we have seen in years.

Allow me to highlight Modric's intelligence and movement by making an audacious comparison. How many times have we heard that Steven Gerrard's natural position is just behind the striker and how he is “wasted” when played on the wing? This is certainly true. But one thing everyone seems to take for granted is that Gerrard cannot play both roles at the same time. The typically conservative English media does not even consider the concept and never poses the question. The possibility is not even contemplated. Well dear hacks, believe me, it is possible. How? Harry and Luka have the answer.

And what about Robbie Keane? According to Benitez he did not cut it at Liverpool. According to some critics he is now failing at Spurs because he is not producing the goals. Some are even stating that he gives nothing to Spurs and he should not be in the team.

Everyone is entitled to his opinion and here is mine. Benitez and Keane's critics are doing the same mistake. Robbie Keane is not just about goals. Robbie Keane means movement and application. He covers every blade of grass and works tirelessly for 90 minutes. He is there to build play, there to make that final through pass, there to defend and there to mark. No he has no definite position. You know why? Because Harry has asked him to cover every position and, to be honest, I can’t think of a lot of players who can or are willing to do that.

There is one question every Spurs follower should ask himself. Go back to the pre-Keane months and think about how many times we had the ball and the player in possession gave (or had to give) the ball away simply because he had no team mate near him with whom he could exchange and build play. How many times does that happen now? Much less I think. The team is now much better in possession. The reason is simple. Robbie Keane is always there to receive and pass.

Need I say more about Harry? Just a couple of other things. If ever testimony of Harry's impact was needed, just look at Assou Ekotto's improvement and the good link up play between left back and winger on both flanks.

It is of course not mission accomplished. The team needs strengthening and more balance. I am sure Harry has already started planning his summer purchases. In the meantime, thanks again Harry. I am pretty confident that it is now a case of onwards and upwards.

Mark Mizzi
29 April 2009

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