Soccer

2010 English Premier League Preview: Tottenham

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What's that old line by Ringo Starr? I get by with a little help from my friends? This 20 team-by-team EPL countdown wouldn't be possible without them. For Tottenham, I turn to my old buddy Suppe who you can follow on Twitter.

White Knuckle Lane

By Mike Suppe

While taking in Sunday morning’s Community Shield with this Web site's humble architect, it struck me how much I dislike Dimitar Berbatov.

As a Spurs’ fan (not as long as Steve Nash, but definitely longer than Bill Simmons), I’m still sour over his strange and bitter departure in September of 2008 that decimated Tottenham’s chances of locking down a Champions League spot and nearly cost it its standing in the top flight of English football.

Left with a strike force of Darren Bent and Roman Pavlyuchenko, Tottenham took the express elevator to the foot of the table, culminating in the dismissal of disinterested Spanish gaffer Juande Ramos with Spurs on the drop.

So why am I rehashing something that happened two years ago?

Because when Spurs kick off against Manchester City on Sunday and then lock horns with Young Boys in the Champions League playoff on Aug. 17, the foundation of current Spurs’ squad was built on the sales of Berba and Michael Carrick to Manchester United, not to mention the sale of Robbie Keane to Liverpool.

Flush with cash, Tottenham brought in current stalwarts Luka Modric, Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjcar, Wilson Palacios and took a risk on a player like Gio Dos Santos.

And let us not forget about the brilliant work of Ramos’ predecessor Martin Jol, who brought in Spurs’ current backbone of Gareth Bale, Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon and Michael Dawson.

Throw all of this into a pot, hand the reigns to Harry Redknapp, stir it up and all of a sudden Tottenham finally punches its ticket to the Champions League following a 1-0 poleaxing of City back in May.

Pretty simple formula right?

After years of upheaval and organized roster chaos, Tottenham heads into the 2010-11 campaign with very little turnover.

A famous wheeler-and-dealer, Redknapp hasn’t dove into the transfer market with his usual aplomb.

Despite chasing Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards with fervor, Redknapp’s only official signing has been Internacional’s Brazilian youngster Sandro.

Redknapp wants to add more firepower for a deep Champions League run, but bringing players like Dos Santos and Danny Rose deeper into the fold might be enough. Or it might not.

A traditional 4-4-2 English coach, Redknapp even tinkered with some 4-5-1 throughout the preseason.

Player turnover might still occur, with Keane and Pavlyuchenko rumored to be on the way out. It’s possible the Tottenham brass might even shanghai Pavs in Switzerland by stealing his passport when they face Young Boys next week.

Either way, the first month of the season will be key for Spurs.

Tottenham was more consistent last season, holding its own against the Big Four -- including its first win over Arsenal in more than a decade and a season-opening 2-0 thrashing of Liverpool.

Then again, Spurs did suffer a season sweep at the hands of Wolves and struggled to consistently net goals, getting shut out nine times contrasted by six times striking for more than three goals, including a 9-1 romp over Wigan on Nov. 22.

Finding a balance will be crucial.

Tottenham is in for a savage fight to retain its spot in the top four, after finishing higher than Liverpool for the first time since 1971.

Spurs don’t have the “blue-chip” players that Manchester United have in Wayne Rooney and (sigh) Berbatov, Chelsea have in Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, Liverpool have in Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, Arsenal have in Cesc Fabregas and RVP (if he’s healthy) or even City have in Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor.

But they might have more “red-chippers” and a deeper squad from top to bottom.

Overall, it will be an undoubtedly interesting season for Tottenham.

Barring an upset at the hands of Young Boys (?), who did shock Fenerbache, Spurs will be in the Champions League final round. Can they handle the extra pressure and the extra games?

Can they achieve the “big-club” status they desperately seek but don’t receive?

Will ‘Arry resist the urge to bring a player like Bellamy that might submarine the squad’s chemistry.

In a week’s time, the questions will start be answered.

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* Birmingham City
* Sunderland
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* Stoke City
* Bolton
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* Blackburn Rovers
* Wolves
* Wigan Athletic
* West Brom