Redknapp must be blamed for Spurs' slump

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 April, 2012, 12:00am


'Thursday nights, Channel Five' taunted the away fans during Tottenham's most recent home defeat, clearly unimpressed by their ambitions to play in next season's Champions League.

Channel Five in the UK covers the Europa League, the secondary competition for which manager Harry Redknapp (pictured) makes no attempt to hide his distaste. This season Spurs bowed out in the group stages after lame defeats to continental also-rans Rubin Kazan and PAOK Salonika.

As Tottenham and Chelsea face off in tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final, fans of the north London club will be more concerned about their appalling form in the Premier League, where they chase a top four finish. Four defeats, three draws and a single victory in their last eight matches sees the Lilywhites precariously placed in fourth position, only ahead of in-form Newcastle on goal-difference. The revitalised Chelsea are only two points behind in sixth.

Redknapp must take the brunt of the blame for his team's decline. In addition to the distraction of him being linked to the England job, the former West Ham and Portsmouth boss has made some puzzling tactical decisions that have affected the club's momentum.

It is easy to forget that just three months ago Spurs were being talked about as genuine title contenders. On January 14, they had a chance to go equal top of the table as they hosted struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers before being held to a disappointing draw.

There are many key dates in 2012 that can be traced to Spurs' decline, but none more poignant than February 19 when they travelled to third-tier side Stevenage for an FA Cup fifth round tie.

Redknapp tinkered with his tried and tested 4-4-1-1 formation, going with a 3-5-2, which meant star man Gareth Bale had a more central role in midfield.

The result was Bale was largely ineffective and Tottenham spluttered to a 0-0 draw against a side ranked 47 places below them. Stevenage had two more shots on target than their highly fancied opponents.

The last thing the Premier League club wanted was being forced into a replay with a squad that lacks depth outside their best 15 players.

Another key date was February 26 when Spurs held a two-goal lead just before half-time against neighbours Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Their previous league outing had seen them thump Newcastle 5-0, just three days after Redknapp had been cleared in the courts of tax evasion.

Somehow they allowed the Gunners to emerge with a 5-2 victory in the worst north London derby defeat since 1978. Today, their arch enemies are five points above them and on course for third spot.

Just as alarming as Spurs' decline has been Redknapp's fall from grace, which now has observers wondering if he is the best man for the England job after all. Instead of being the inspirational figure who gets his teams playing champagne football, he's being portrayed as a na?ve figure who can't cope with the pressure at the business end of the season.

While he's done well at smaller sides like Bournemouth and Southampton, the jury is out on whether he's well suited to guide one of England's bigger clubs. That does seem harsh though, if you consider Redknapp took over Spurs when they were rock bottom of the league after eight games of the 2008-09 season.

He must have felt that he was on course for one of the best years of his life when Fabio Capello stepped down as England head coach on February 9, less than 24 hours after Redknapp walked free from Southwark Crown Court. Instead, his road in 2012 has been filled with unexpected blind spots and potholes.

Instead of concentrating on beating the likes of Norwich, Stoke and Sunderland, they've gazed too far into the future and as a result have dropped crucial points that could well derail their Champions League hopes.

As a result, Spurs have reverted to type: a side who flatter to deceive in the league where they come up short when the crunch is really on but tend to go on good cup runs.

If they manage to overcome Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final, Tottenham will earn their fifth cup final appearance in just 13 years. They've won the FA Cup eight times and the League Cup four times.

You can be sure that Redknapp, his players and all the fans would gladly swap a victory over Chelsea for a top-four finish in the league. Chelsea, too, already have a lot on their plate with the upcoming Champions League semi-final over two legs against Barcelona on top of their fight for a place in Europe's elite for next season.

If Spurs finish fifth or sixth and don't win the FA Cup, will Redknapp still be the best candidate for the England job?