Can Juande Ramos lead Tottenham to an assault on the big four?

There was a mixture of immense disappointment and great celebration and pride at White Hart Lane last season.

Before a ball was kicked Tottenham were looking good. Martin Jol was a popular and reasonably successful manager and the team were hotly tipped to be about to launch a serious bid to infiltrate the ‘big four’ at the top of the Premier League.

With two fifth placed finishes behind them, the time had come to take the next step. A surprisingly disastrous start to the season saw them looking at the bottom four rather than the top four and Martin Jol was dismissed.

In came Juande Ramos and he turned the team’s fortunes around almost immediately. A stunning League Cup semi-final win over old rivals Arsenal saw them through to the final where they out played, out thought and out fought Chelsea, to win the cup.

Whether the celebrations were too great or too premature is open to question and the team’s season fizzled out with a disappointing run of league form after the cup triumph.

Ramos was unable to reproduce his Uefa Cup success and Tottenham were eliminated after a woeful first leg performance at home to PSV.

So I would say that the jury is still out as to whether last season was a success at the Lane or not. Now it is time to look forward. Can Tottenham really challenge Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United?

The ambition is certainly there. The signing of Mexico international Giovani Dos Santos from Barcelona for an initial £4.7m fee that could rise to £8.6m depending on appearances, shows that they are aiming high.

The nineteen year-old broke into the Barcelona first-team under former boss Frank Rijkaard last season and made 16 starts in all competitions and came on as a substitute 22 times in the campaign.

He also scored a hat-trick in the final league game of the season as Barca beat Murcia 5-3.

The winger cum front man who has signed a five-year deal, said: “It’s a dream to come to a big club like Spurs. I came here because of the passion of the fans, the size of the club and I can see us growing in the future.”

That all sounds very positive and Tottenham may well have a gem on their hands. Reports suggest that Giovani is a slight figure but has a terrific burst of acceleration and a superb left foot.

The future of mercurial striker Dimitar Berbatov is not clear with Milan, amongst others, thought to want the Bulgarian front man. Tottenham and Ramos have done what they can to keep him and that again shows that the right ambition exists at the club.

Obviously we will know more about Tottenham’s chances when we see who is coming in and who is going out, but it is worth looking to see if they may have what it takes.

There is no doubt that Ramos is a manager who achieves success. After winning two promotions from the Spanish Segunda league in the 1990’s he went a little quiet. Then, since 2005 he has achieved great success, winning the Uefa Cup twice, the Uefa super cup, the Copa del Ray, the Supercopa de Espana and, of course, the English Carling Cup. That equates to a remarkable six trophies in three seasons.

Can the man from Spain go on now to turn Tottenham from perennial hopefuls and nearlys into a Premier League challenging side and carry on with his recent record of winning things?

Despite still being regarded as a ‘big club’ by many fans and their new signing, Tottenham have not performed at a level commensurate with that term for many years. Their last league triumph was forty-six years ago, FA Cup seventeen years ago and victory in Europe came twenty-three years ago. The Carling Cup victory was their first trophy since they won the same competition nine years previously.

There is little doubt that Juande Ramos has a huge task ahead of him if he believes he can get into that top four or at least win a significant cup. He has some good players and some very good players but the list of greats is not so long. In order to challenge at the top the team has to have at least some players in the ‘great’ category. At United you can count Ronaldo, Scholes, Ferdinand, Vidic and possibly Rooney and Tevez. At Chelsea there is Carvalho, Terry, Ballack and Drogba. At Arsenal Fabregas and Adebayor stand out and at Liverpool they have Gerrard and Torres. Who would you name from White Hart Lane in the same sentence as some of those players?

Some managers have the knack of making average players good and good players great. Unless Ramos spends very big in the transfer market I think he is going to have to show that he possesses that quality more than anyone before him if Tottenham are going to challenge the big boys.

Once again I can see Tottenham battling for fifth place with the likes of Everton and Aston Villa but I don’t think they will be able to take the next step up. Of course it is still possible that Arsenal may lose more of their best players and not replace them sufficiently. If that happens there may well be a gap in the top four for someone to aim at. Will it be Tottenham?

When Will Barcelona Ever Learn?
Transfer Rumors (23 June 08): Robinho to Manchester United, Schweinsteiger to Chelsea, Lennon to Newcastle, and more


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