(Article published on Spurs Community)
Let me start by paying my respects to Harry for all he has done for us and to Robbie Keane for the fine player that he is and his contribution to the club over seven years, off and on. Secondly I am happy with the position we are in and certainly prefer it to last season.
However I belong to the, 'If its not perfect it can be improved' tendency rather than the, 'If its not broken why fix it?' school of thought. Nor do I regard Robbie Keane as some sort of talisman who must play every game for fear the football gods might punish us.
I don't believe in conspiracy theories: 'must play' clauses in contracts; secret love children; incriminating photos of Harry and the like. They are the result of frustration and overheated imagination. I don't believe that Harry has favourites but chooses players for their perceived effectiveness.
We are in the Top Four but are clinging on by our fingertips. Games in hand might see us slip out out the Champions' League places. Clubs that might have been above us have made poor starts, Everton and Liverpool, or slipped up recently, Man.City and Aston Villa. We were lucky to beat Sunderland who would otherwise have gone above us. Its never a good sign when your goalkeeper is man of the match too often.
More important to me though is that we are not playing consistently well, either as a team or individually. And you cannot succeed over 38 games by riding you luck as we have lately. (Portsmouth and Sunderland spring to mind) Firstly there is the Robbie Keane situation. He is visibly off form but as captain starts every game and is then subbed regularly on the hour. Effective team formation is being sacrificed to the requirements of fitting him in.
Secondly there is the Crouch problem and though much debate on here centred around the usefulness of having a tall striker as a tactical option when required it has begun to affect the way that we play, particularly when he starts. He is like Darren Bent in that the style of football that we play is altered for the worse in order to fit him in.
Thirdly individual players are off form. Now whatever reservations you may have about Huddlestone and Jenas they have both, in general, stepped up and at the moment Wilson 'best thing since sliced bread' Palacios has not. He certainly adds an element that has been missing from the Spurs midfield but of late has appeared distracted.
His tackling is suspect, he gives away too many free kicks in dangerous positions and his passing has been poor. In a 442 formation he should play in the centre of the midfield, with Huddlestone to the left and Jenas to the right. At the moment the backup widely deemed vital to be purchased in January could well be his replacement.
Without Lennon and Modric who give us width and creativity we need Kranjcar to operate on the left, with Bale as a possible substitute if we need more pace. We seem more effective when we play 442 with Keane, if he has to start, up front with Defoe. Crouch should be an impact sub alternated with Pavlyuchenko while he is still here. Defoe and Pavlyuchenko could also be tried in order to establish the most effective partnership.
Dawson and Woodgate should be the first choice centre backs while Bassong is injured and King should be backup until his recent spate of injuries on top of, or because of his ongoing condition, is sorted out.
What am I trying to achieve? A more effective team, playing more fluent football securing even greater success. The table doesn't lie, we are doing very well but in my view with the team, the players and manager that we have we could be doing better and be more secure in our challenge at the top. With Modric and Lennon to return and a better balance to the squad this should certainly be possible.
What we need are minor adjustments, a little fine tuning, far less than the wholesale import of new players demanded by some in January who may or may not integrate into the team and the Premiership. We cannot just hope for the best or rest on our laurels.