I don’t blog as often as I would like or indeed should, which is mainly due to pressures of work and also the fact that most topics get blogged to death during the season. But I just HAD to write this one and I had to do it whilst it’s all still topical to do so.

Let’s get one thing straight from the off and that is that AVB in no way failed this season. Of course Champions League qualification would have been on the radar as a desirable objective and which for a while seemed more than a tangible goal or even a pipedream. But think about it. Last season who finished in 6th place? Chelsea. Were they ever going to finish 6th again this season? Probably not. Regardless of the managerial carousel that is the norm at that club, they have the money and the playing resources to constantly challenge at the helm of the EPL. When you can have players like Lukaku and Courtois on loan at other clubs, it says something about your playing calibre.

So, with Chelsea always likely to make up the errors of the previous season (despite the fact that they tried to implode once more); the other beneficiaries of oil money, Man City were unlikely to fall away significantly. In fact they were expected to challenge strongly for the title once more; and the brand that is Man Utd were a cast iron certainty for at least one of the top two spots in the premier league. That only really leaves Arsenal and Spurs to challenge for the last remaining top four spot and at the start of the season, Spurs with a new manager and the loss of Modric, Van Der Vaart and King would not have been the favourites, despite RVP’s move to Manchester.

For a while Spurs held the upper hand as Arsenal have in recent seasons, become slow starters and strong finishers and so it proved once again. But if the Arsenal wage bill that exceeds that of Spurs by £1m per WEEK only makes them a team that is 1 point better than Spurs over the last two seasons, then I’d have to question the value that Arsenal fans are getting. That said with a little bit more luck Spurs would and probably should have finished fourth. A whole season without a single penalty awarded in their favour, something which was highlighted in the final game versus Sunderland, only heightens the sense of poor fortune.

So back to AVB. The media are constantly telling us about the great squad that he inherited from “Harry” (note he is never referred to by his surname as most managers are). This is a myth purported by media folk that were originally looking to undermine his successor and is still being perpetrated in some quarters. I have already stated something similar in my last blog in December but will emphasise the point again. I have already mentioned three players spurs lost in the summer of 2012. Add to that list Kaboul (out for a whole season), Sandro (out for half a season) and that is a loss of a significant and talented team spine. Adebayor has not been the same player he was last year and Spurs also lost talented individuals that the previous manager had marginalised in Krancjar, Corluka, Pienaar, and Bassong as well as a back up striker in Saha. Oh for a Pavlyuchenko on the bench! Six new players arrived in Lloris, Dembele, Dempsey, Sigurdsson, Vertonghen and in January, Holtby. So are we left with Harry’s squad? Hardly. This was a new team with a new manager, and a clean slate. What had happened before was wiped out. New longer term plans with longer term vision in place.

Did Spurs spend £50m in 2012/13 as some claim? No they spent £61.5m but they also recouped £62.8m in outgoing transfer fees. Were the new players like for like replacements in terms of quality? Defensively to a degree perhaps with the addition of Vertonghen and Lloris (the latter not becoming a regular starter until the media got over the “poor old Brad, look how AVB is treating him” stories). But from an attacking sense there was an evident downgrade. No Modric to link defence and attack. No VDV to fire up our forward play. Spurs were left with two strikers and Dempsey, who good player though he is, doesn’t appear to have a definitive role in the side. Thank goodness for Bale, who stood up when it mattered.

And this is what AVB did. He developed Bale’s role. He used the one power weapon that remained from the “Harry” era and used it to its full effect. AVB had spurs fighting for fourth despite an absence of quality in his squad compared to the previous season; he believed in what the club were trying to achieve despite his own disappointment in not landing his two preferred major signings last summer (Moutinho and Willian). He stayed focus and he believed. He embraced the role of the fans and their expectations (unlike some) and he referred to his club as “we”. He acknowledged his mistakes and he learned from them. He didn’t blame others. He saw that Spurs were conceding late goals that cost crucial points at home to Norwich and WBA and away at Everton and he addressed it.

AVB utilised/rotated his squad which was good to see but if there was anything to fault him on then perhaps this was one area (as no managers are perfect of course) and that is that he perhaps overvalued the potential contribution of young players such as Naughton, Livermore and Caulker and elder players such as Gallas and Friedel. (Although I will say here that Tom Carroll will become an excellent player in my opinion). But still there was a unity, a fight, a common purpose that was all embracing and all about one thing. Tottenham Hotspur FC. Nothing else mattered. There were no referees blamed even though he could have criticised one quite legitimately on the last day of the season. The early doubting spurs fans were put to bed. The boo’s in the crowd silenced. The dissenting voices in the media similarly silenced. The tactical errors rectified and visible signs of progress is being made.

So did AVB fail? No not really. Of course top four was desirable but his success at Spurs over reaches league positions. He has enhanced our credibility as a top side in England and he has succeeded personally too from the savagery following the debacle at Chelsea when he was hung out to dry by the paymaster there. Do spurs fans believe in him? Yes the vast majority certainly do. Does Daniel Levy believe in him? Probably; and if he does then now is the time to back him. Give him the tools he needs to continue the good work that has started, because you can guarantee that Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea and even Arsenal will spend money in the summer, as will Liverpool, and no club can afford to ease off the pace, and I am sure that AVB wouldn’t want to either.

Fifth place has felt like a kick in the teeth to many Spurs fans, particulalry as once again they have been pipped on the line by rivals Arsenal, but only once previously has 72 points not been enough to secure a top four spot. Spurs have always had a habit to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory which has made their fans a pragmatic and self-effacing bunch (I think that they all expected Chelsea to somehow win the Champions League last season to deprive Spurs of entry into that same competiton once more), but who knows? If AVB is with Spurs long enough he may just change the mentality of the fans as he has started to do with the mentality of the players. There is something happening for the better at White Hart Lane. 2012/13 was just the opening chapter.

AVB’s blue and white army!!

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