By Greg Stobart at White Hart Lane
Harry Redknapp always says it’s a simple game. Get players in their right positions, build a style and give them the confidence to express themselves.
That recipe for success had been missing from Tottenham in recent times before they recorded their first win in six Premier League matches on Sunday with a 3-1 home victory over Swansea City.
Now, the north London club are back on track. Level on points with neighbours Arsenal and with relatively easy fixtures in their remaining seven games, Spurs will feel they have overcome their most difficult period of the season.
Swansea were challenging opponents but from the first whistle Tottenham played with the energy and attitude of a team that fancied their chances of winning a league match for the first time since February.
Much of that was to do with the way Redknapp set the team out. He will never admit it, but the 65-year-old was as much to blame as anyone during his side’s poor run, which included three defeats in a row against Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton.
In those matches Spurs lost the midfield battle as they played with two strikers while the team lacked shape and organisation in a narrow formation that saw Gareth Bale struggle on the right and Luka Modric shunted out wide.
Here, those two key players were back in their best positions and it made a difference as they combined to create the first goal, which was expertly swept into the top corner by Rafael Van der Vaart in the 20th minute.
Swansea put up a brave fight, passing the ball neatly and edging the possession statistics, something away sides rarely manage at White Hart Lane, let alone those in their first season in the division.
Gylfi Sigurdsson struck an equaliser for the visitors after the break but Emmanual Adebayor sealed the points for Spurs with two classic headers, leaping above his marker and meeting the ball truly.
It was a victory Tottenham deserved for a performance that harked back to their scintillating form in the early part of the season when they were sweeping away all comers and considered title contenders.
Balance, width and pace are the three ingredients that make this Spurs team so formidable when their most important players are fit and in form. Most top-flight sides play with one out-and-out striker and Redknapp made all the right decisions in his selection, playing a 4-2-3-1 formation both to stifle Swansea and to get the best out of his players.
Back on the left and hugging the touchline, Bale tormented Angel Rangel, the Swansea right-back. The Welshman’s tendency to drift around the pitch has cost Spurs at times this season and this is where he is at his best: driving at defenders, delivering crosses and drifting infield at the right moments.
Adebayor occupied defenders and took his chances; Scott Parker was at his most tenacious, snapping into tackles. At the back, 41-year-old Brad Friedel made his best save since joining the club last summer as he denied Sigurdsson, while Younes Kaboul was outstanding at the heart of the defence.
When Aaron Lennon came on for the final 20 minutes, everything seemed perfectly balanced and in tune. The winger was glued to the right touchline and dug out a superb cross for Adebayor’s second goal five minutes from time. With Bale and Lennon occupying the flanks, Spurs are capable of ripping teams to shreds.
Redknapp insisted after the game he was “never worried” by his side’s alarming run of results but, privately, he must have feared a full-blown collapse.
Now, he believes Spurs are five wins away from Champions League football next season, an achievement which would bring a fine end to his time in charge should he take the England job in the summer.
There was a real sense at the final whistle that Tottenham are now ready to kick on and challenge Arsenal for third spot, something that is eminently achievable with the Gunners still to face Manchester City and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium.
Redknapp should get them there if he continues to stick to his own formula.
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