It was Tottenham’s first season in the competition and they can be satisfied with making it to the last eight. I accept that, but is it fair for everyone to be so full of praise for them at the same time as writing about the disaster for Chelsea going out at the same stage and critical of Arsenal for going out one round earlier? Is there a train of thought that says with the money and players at the disposal of English clubs, whoever qualifies should be getting to the last sixteen at least?
Tottenham scored and conceded lots of goals in the qualifying round and group stage of the competition earning themselves a rightful reputation as an entertaining and attack minded team. Those adjectives are still being used now despite the fact that they managed just one goal in the four knockout games they played. In Wednesday night’s second leg against Real Madrid, apart from a Pavlyuchenko header and a couple of dubious penalty claims, they never really looked like scoring.
There is no doubt that the media have favourites and one of those is Gareth Bale. He is an exceptional player but he produced nothing at all in the Bernabeu and very little on Wednesday. What he did do on Wednesday was take an outrageous dive to try to win a penalty that would have seen many players slaughtered in the press. Can you imagine the reaction if Wayne Rooney had done the same on Tuesday night? With Bale, the praise keeps coming and the dive is hardly mentioned.
This article is not an attack on Tottenham who I enjoy watching. I think Harry Redknapp has done a great job at the club and I would prefer to see them in the Champions League next season ahead of the occasionally mind numbingly negative Manchester City. What I am saying is that the praise they have been given seems to be a little over the top.
Everyone talks about the amazing comeback at the San Siro against Inter. The fact is that they had gone 4-0 down and eventually lost the game 4-3. It was a remarkable second half fightback, but the four goals conceded and the fact they lost were almost totally overlooked.
The win in the San Siro against AC Milan was a great performance. They defended well and scored a fantastic breakaway goal. In many ways that was a perfect European performance. The second leg at White Hart Lane was a white knuckle ride as Milan dominated but Tottenham managed to hold on. In the Bernabeu, Real Madrid took Tottenham apart. I know that the loss of Crouch early on may well have played a significant part, but none the less, Tottenham were outclassed. In truth, they were outclassed again in the second leg.
In some ways, Tottenham were found out. When they came up against teams that could defend properly against them, they didn’t know how to break them down. That is not just true in Europe, they are only the eleventh highest scorers in the Premier League. This is not a criticism of Tottenham, as I say, they are a really good side. Real Madrid are probably amongst the best three teams in Europe so it is no disgrace to be outclassed by them.
My problem is the way the media, and Harry Redknapp to a degree, have painted Tottenham as this little quaint team battling against all the odds with the mighty big guns. They are a big club and had every right to get to where they got. Let’s say ‘well done’ and move on. Bale, Modric, van der Vaart and Lennon all enhanced their reputations in the competition, but they are all top players and should be able to shine in Europe’s premier competition.
The problem for Tottenham now is that they face an uphill battle to qualify for the tournament again next season. For this to be regarded as being as great a season as some in the media would have you believe, they absolutely must get that fourth place. I hope they do, but their run-in looks incredibly tough.
If they do manage to qualify, I just hope that next season’s European campaign is undertaken with a little less hype and a little less exagerration about how much of an underdog they are.
Gomes – £7.5 million
Corluka – £8.5 million
Dawson – £4 million
Gallas – Free
Assou-Ekotta – £3.5 million
Lennon – £1 million
Huddlestone – £2.5 million
Modric – £16.5 million
Bale – £7 million
Van der Vaart – £8 million
Pavlyuchenko – £14 million
Sandro – £8 million
Defoe – £15.5 million
Kranjcar – £2 million
That’s £98 million of talent Tottenham used on Wednesday. You can add another £20 million or so for what Bale is now worth and £10 million for Crouch, £12 million for Palacios, £8 million for Bassong and £3 million for Pienaar, all of whom weren’t playing for one reason or another. That squad is worth over £150 million. I don’t know what Schalke, Shakhtar paid for theirs, but I’ll wager it was considerably less.
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