By Greg Stobart
If Tottenham fail to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season, the blame will not lie with misfortune or dodgy lasagne.
After three months in the top three, Spurs slipped down to fourth on Wednesday night with a draw at Stoke that continued an alarming slide that has brought just one point from their last four league matches.
The team that once looked almost certain to finish in the Champions League places are now facing a battle against their two bitter London rivals, Arsenal and Chelsea, to prevent an embarrassing end to a season that offered so much hope.
On Saturday, Spurs will continue a tough run of fixtures with a trip to Stamford Bridge, a ground where they have not won since 1990. If Chelsea win, the gap to fifth will be just two points and Harry Redknapp will really start feeling the heat.
|TOUGH AT THE TOP
Spurs' recent PL struggles
||Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham
||Tottenham 1-3 Man Utd
||Everton 1-0 Tottenham
||Tottenham 1-1 Stoke City|
Since Fabio Capello resigned as England coach, Spurs have picked up only 0.8 points per game. Before the Italian left these shores - and the Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp became a shoo-in to replace him - they had been averaging 2.1 points per game up to this point.
The north Londoners have won just once since in Capello's departure - a thumping 5-0 victory against Newcastle - confirming a dramatic slide from a side considered title contenders less than two months ago.
As Goal.com revealed last week, it is no secret within Tottenham’s training base in Chigwell that Redknapp has decided he would like to take over England in the summer, with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy losing hope of convincing the 65-year-old to stay at White Hart Lane.
While Spurs are yet to receive an approach from the Football Association, the uncertainty around the club seems to have distracted the players, while Redknapp has himself appeared increasingly preoccupied and temperamental.
Redknapp is the nation’s choice to lead England at Euro 2012 but he risks undoing much of the good work he has performed since taking over Spurs in October 2008 when the club sat bottom of the league.
Whether it is the England job or not, Redknapp must accept a large portion of the blame for what has quickly gone from a blip to a full-blown implosion.
Admittedly, Spurs have missed the influence of key players absent through injury, most notably Aaron Lennon and Emmanuel Adebayor, but Redknapp has made a series of curious decisions in recent weeks.
The team have lacked balance, shape and tactics. Gareth Bale has often been allowed to roam wherever he wants on the pitch, Luka Modric has been shunted into wide positions, and Redknapp has ceded the midfield battle by playing two strikers against strong teams like Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton.
|"Spurs have missed the influence of key players absent through injury, but Redknapp has made a series of curious decisions in recent weeks. The team have lacked balance, shape and tactics."|
The passing lacks rhythm, the defence looks disorganised and the set-pieces are woeful, a direct product of a lack of practice in training that even the players are complaining about privately.
Redknapp is a superb man-manager when the team is playing well, but there have constantly been questions over his ability to respond when things start going wrong. They did, after all, win just two of their final 12 games last season, a run of results that cost them a place in the top four.
While Sir Alex Ferguson trains and plans all year for his Manchester United side to peak in the final sprint, it seems to be quite the opposite for Redknapp. The Spurs manager insists on playing his first XI every week, meaning players like Modric and Scott Parker are exhausted as we enter the final quarter of the campaign.
His lack of rotation has also marginalised and forced out squad players who could be useful for a team that needs a boost.
How Redknapp must be ruing, for example, his decision to let Steven Pienaar leave on loan to Everton in January. The South African midfielder could have provided balance and width to the side but forced his way out in the winter transfer window because he was so frustrated with a lack of opportunities.
The end result is tired, leggy performances - and dropped points.
Redknapp has swiftly gone on the defensive, declaring that Tottenham are 'punching above their weight’ when only recently he was talking up a title challenge.
He will probably be in charge of England for Euro 2012 - but for now Redknapp needs to get his eye back on the ball.