Tottenham's miserable start to the season saw them become the butt of many jokes.
What has more points than Tottenham? A toothpick was the first punchline, then one more draw (and consequential point) resulted in a triangle as the substituted answer.
The sacking of Juande Ramos though and the swift recruitment of Harry Redknapp brought around a change in Spurs' fortunes.
Differences In Management
Ramos and Redknapp's arrival at the same club was poles apart. The Spaniard was shocked at the amount of tomato ketchup so readily available, and replaced a diet strong on sugar and salt, with quirky alley cafe-shop style vegetable smoothies. Redknapp on the other hand possesses strong paternal instincts.
Ramos may have appeared cold to his players as he struggled to grasp fluent English, but Redknapp will always be the one to put his arm round your shoulder, playfully chin you with a slow clenched fist, but would be equally quick to play the tough-love line if you failed to follow instruction.
Juande Ramos' Tottenham side was one that did not know it's first choice formation, or so it seemed. A continental 4-2-3-1 was adopted during his last game in charge, against Stoke City, and the bizarre move of employing a defensive midfielder in the left back role, when Gareth Bale was starting further up the field as a supporting player in the front four, makes Ramos' team selection, and decision making, both questionable.
Differences In Tactic
It did not take long for Redknapp to figure out a winning tactic, and aside from a midweek Uefa Cup loss, the lilywhite north London side followed up the Stoke win with a further three points against Bolton and then, of course, the memorable 4-4 draw against hated rivals Arsenal that prompted DVDs of the full game to be manufactured, distributed, and sold on their website.
Under lovable cockney geeza 'Arry, Spurs look a lot more solid, and balanced. Players have been moved back into their favoured, or more familiar, positions on the park, and Redknapp reverted to a very English style 4-4-2. However, well known problem areas still exist on the field.
The goalkeeper has been a bemoaned position with bumbling Brazilian stopper Heurelho Gomes replacing former gaffe-prone and out of luck Englishman Paul Robinson. Gomes though is capable of world class saves when he is on form. If he is not clattering into Vedran Corluka or throwing the ball into his own net, he can be found making superman saves and out-of-this-world blocks in order to keep the scoreline to a minimum.
If there is any manager who can get the best out of Gomes, eradicate the silly errors, and string together consistently excellent eye-brow raising performances, then it is Redknapp. He has experience with this very matter with his number one at Portsmouth; David James.
In the space of six months Tottenham allowed three strikers, and potentially fifty goals a season, leave the club: Jermain Defoe (Portsmouth); Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United); and Robbie Keane (Liverpool), while only bringing in Roman Pavlyuchenko - who has been cup tied - and Fraizer Campbell, who appears talented, if a little green. The final third therefore requires reinforcing.
If Bale is to be utilised further up the field then the left back role needs strengthening too. Together with sturdy, and reliable, cover for Ledley King should the top captain be ruled out for any lengthy period of time.
If there is one thing that is guaranteed with a boss like Redknapp; it's a turnaround of personnel come transfer time. What the former Hammer needs to acquire though is talent capable of fitting into teams like Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United. After all, the only way a club can achieve their top four ambitions, is by recruiting, and/or grooming, players who are worthy of being labelled: Champions League quality.
In: Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough), Glen Johnson (Portsmouth), Matthew Upson (West Ham United), Fernando Cavenaghi (Bordeaux).
Out: Dag Alexander Olsen.
The Daily Mirror are not alone in their belief that Tottenham are after Stewart Downing. It is recycled speculation that English football fans have seen every window for what seems like four score and a further four years. But he has been in good form for Middlesbrough, has improved on the international scene - particularly against Germany - and so it is no shock that he is being linked with a move away from Teeside. Glen Johnson will be linked due to the Portsmouth link he shares with his former governor, Harry. Upson would shore up the defence, provide good cover, while Cavenaghi has been in good form for Girondins in France.
In: Michael Owen (Newcastle United), Yuri Zhirkov (CSKA), Anatoliy Tymoschuk (Zenit), Glen Johnson (Portsmouth), Matthew Upson (West Ham United).
Out: Ricardo Rocha, Hossam Ghaly.
Why not Michael Owen? He has six months left on his contract, he would be cheap, and you are guaranteed a goals to game ratio that betters 1:2. He has always scored wherever he has played, and looks increasingly likely to leave the north east. Zhirkov and Johnson would improve the rearguard considerably, and provide added potence to the attack. Anatoliy Tymoschuk would also be a great addition, and would offer the back four great protection - more so than they currently get from Huddlestone and/or Jenas.
Alan Dawson, Goal.com