- Premier League
Spurs must forget wobble and move onKevin Keegan March 9, 2012
ESPN analyst Kevin Keegan is one of English football's most respected figures and he will be writing for ESPNsoccernet throughout the season. As a player, Kevin represented Liverpool with distinction, winning numerous titles in domestic and European football, and twice claiming the Ballon d'Or during his time at Hamburg. Kevin has also managed England, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Fulham.
A pair of painful Premier League defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United have effectively ended Tottenham's dream of winning the title this season and they face another tricky test at Everton this Saturday. They will be desperate not to lose three on the trot and determined to show that their season won't just peter out; Spurs' job now is to try to hold onto third and Harry Redknapp's got a big task on his hands to keep the players focused and keep Arsenal at bay.
Spurs have been outstanding this season and excited everyone - up until a couple of weeks ago I even thought there was still an outside chance they could sneak up on the blindside of the two Manchester sides and win the title. But they're just not firing on all cylinders and the little things that can go wrong in a season have gone wrong at a really bad time for them. Losing Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart for the United match obviously wasn't ideal, and Michael Dawson has now been ruled out for the season.
Some people may point to Harry's court case and the rumours circulating about the England job as having an adverse effect on the team - if you want excuses like that they are there but personally I think it's just a case of Spurs meeting two teams at the wrong time for them and the right time for their opponents. It's important to remember that Tottenham were bottom of the table after two games this season and now look where they are. They're still in the FA Cup after beating Stevenage midweek and with City and United out, they should be the favourites. Staying ahead of Arsenal is the major priority now, and though they don't have the cushion they once did, there is still a great chance that this will be the club's best season in a long, long time.
One Spurs player who is certainly enjoying his best campaign for a while is Emmanuel Adebayor. He had a tough time at City and was of course involved in the shooting incident with Togo - he had a difficult couple of years but he's started to play how everyone knew he could, on a consistent basis. His head seems to be clear now and Harry can definitely take some credit for getting Adebayor's confidence up, though the person who deserves the most credit is Adebayor himself. I'm sure it will have helped going to Harry, who likely talks to him and man-manages him well. When he's at his best, Adebayor's a real handful; I remember taking a Newcastle side to play against him when he was on fire at Arsenal - he's got pace, good feet and is a threat in the air.
When players move, especially established stars, it's usually because things aren't quite right where they are, whether it's the way they've been handled or the way they handle themselves. Management is a lot about tactics, but the biggest part is about what gets your players motivated. That is certainly a quality Harry has, at every club he's been at he's shown an ability to get the best out of players or perhaps more accurately help them get the best out of themselves.
Everton know they have to keep Adebayor under wraps, and they also know all about the man who has partnered him up front in the last couple of games. Louis Saha goes back to Goodison Park for the first time since moving south in January but I will actually be surprised if he is picked to play up front alongside Adebayor again on Saturday, especially with Van der Vaart back. Saha and Adebayor have proved they're very good at leading the line as individuals and are both excellent players in their own right, but I just don't see them as a good combination and I think the jury's still out as to whether they will be a potent force together.
Scoring will not be easy for Spurs as Goodison Park is a tough place to go when you need a result and Everton have kept three clean sheets in their last five games. They have always been a better proposition after Christmas in recent years, and continue to be a durable, resilient and terrier-like side, as Manchester City found out in January. They've picked up momentum as the season's gone on and they're looking much better now.
The Spurs game marks an impressive milestone for David Moyes, who will be celebrating ten years in charge of Everton. I have maximum respect for David, but at some stage in the near future Everton really need to offer the same sort of financial support that other managers around him in the league are receiving. If you look across Stanley Park, Kenny Dalglish has had £100-odd million to spend and I think Everton are in danger of losing Moyes to a club that recognises how well he has done with pretty limited resources for ten years and are willing to let him show what he can do with a bit of money at his disposal.
It may be that Moyes will prove to be a better manager if he has some financial backing, but it may also be that he's better suited to getting the best out of more reasonably priced players with good attitudes. That's all to be found out, we won't known that until he either gets money at Everton or moves on to a different club. My guess is that he would be shrewd with the money, much like Arsene Wenger. He's risen to the challenge every season with little financial backing and though Everton fans would love to be challenging for the top four again, without any money it's virtually impossible.
On the pitch, David has assembled a hardworking team and I'm looking forward to Saturday's game as I'm interested to see whether Spurs can be a rare example of a side that goes to Everton and manages to produce their best football. It'll be a tight one, but I fancy the visitors - particularly as they've got Gareth Bale back - to edge it.
Kevin Keegan is ESPN's Lead Football Analyst