The appointment of Andre Villas-Boas to replace Harry Redknapp in July brought an element of uncertainty for the start of the new season but also one of anticipation. The new Head Coach conducted himself well in the lead up to the season and spoken with enthusiasm about Tottenham and the season ahead. There were regular references in the media of his difficult experience at Chelsea but Spurs supporters were backing their new manager.
Tottenham have had an eventful season in 2012-13. With Andre Villas-Boas as their new manager they experienced highs and lows right to the final day of the season.
The summer transfer window had seen two early signings, Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, which was encouraging but then we had to wait for the usual scramble in the final weeks of August. Luka Modric made his long awaited departure to Real Madrid before Tottenham’s season kicked-off at Newcastle.
Slow StartVillas-Boas’ first match started in an unfortunate defeat but with only one senior striker, Jermain Defoe, he had limited options. Spurs played quite well and Defoe equalised in the second half only for Spurs to concede a late penalty a few minutes later. With the obvious need for a striker, the protracted negotiations with Emmanuel Adebayor and Manchester City were completed for his return to White Hart Lane on a permanent contract. He made an appearance in the home match against West Brom which ended with Spurs conceding another late goal in a 1 – 1 draw. Vertonghen made his debut in place of the injured Younes Kaboul who was to miss the rest of the season.
Transfers were completed in the following six days with Mousa Dembele arriving while Rafael Van der Vaart returned to Germany on the final day of the month with Hugo Lloris arriving at White Hart Lane before the late signing of Clint Dempsey. Dembele made his debut as a half-time substitute and scored Tottenham’s goal but Norwich battled back and in a similar scenario to seven days earlier, frustrated Spurs with a late equaliser which brought boos from some sections of the stands.
Tottenham returned after the September international break to secure AVB’s first win as Spurs’ manager, easing the media pressure on him. Defoe scored twice and Gareth Bale scored his first goal. To the surprise of many neither Lloris nor Adebayor were in the team. Lloris made his debut in the scoreless draw at home to Lazio but Brad Friedel retained the number 1 shirt for the Premier League games, in the face of criticism from France. Spurs continued with a home win over Queen’s Park Rangers and at Carlisle in the Capital One Cup before achieving one of the results of the season.
Tottenham took Manchester United by surprise at Old Trafford and were ahead after 2 minutes. Bale and Jan Vertonghen combined on the left and the Belgian’s shot was deflected into the net by Evans for an own goal. After half an hour, Bale collected the ball inside his own half and took on the United defence who were struggling for pace and Spurs two up. Three goals in two minutes at the start of the second half saw United score only for Clint Dempsey to put Spurs 3 – 1 ahead. United immediately responded but Spurs held on for their first Old Trafford win since 1989.
An away draw in Greece followed with Michael Dawson scoring and then a home win over Aston Villa where Lloris made his League debut ending Friedel’s run of 310 consecutive Premier League games over nine seasons. Steven Caulker scored his first Tottenham goal taking Spurs into the October international break in good fettle, 5th in the Premier League.
Moments of Uncertainty
Chelsea were next at White Hart Lane as Andre Villas-Boas came up against his former club for the first time but Spurs were without Dembele, injured playing for Belgium and Bale who was on paternity leave. The visitors were ahead at the interval but two goals early in the second half from William Gallas and Defoe improved the outlook for AVB. Two quick goals midway through the half restored Chelsea’s advantage and they added a fourth late on as Spurs were looking for an equaliser.
The Europa League group stage continued with a draw in Maribor, Sigurdsson scoring, and then Bale returned for the game against his former club, scoring with a header as Spurs beat Southampton 2 – 1. He also scored at Norwich in the Capital One Cup but two goals in the last ten minutes ended Spurs’ interest in the Cup for another season, Dempsey having a last minute penalty saved.
One of the disappointments of the season was a home defeat against Wigan and although Defoe scored a hat-trick against Maribor two further away defeats followed against Manchester City and Arsenal. A goal ahead at half-time, two City goals in the final 25 minutes made it two successive League defeats which became three at the Emirates. Lloris replaced Friedel, finally claiming the goalkeeper’s position and Spurs were a goal up and causing the home defence serious problems. Adebayor’s rash challenge turned the game with Spurs reduced to ten men after 17 minutes. Arsenal scored three before half-time but while Spurs rallied after the interval they suffered a 5 – 2 defeat at the Emirates for the second consecutive season.A goal-less draw in Rome against Lazio where Tottenham fans were attacked on the evening before the game, almost ensured Spurs’ progression to the knock-out stages of the Europa League. Lloris showed his value with a number of saves to maintain a clean sheet.
In The Groove
Tottenham then started on a run which saw them lose only once in the League from late November to mid-March. It started with a 3 – 1 home win over West Ham when Defoe scored a lovely goal before half-time to set Spurs on their way. Michael Dawson started his first League game of the season having looked as if he would be leaving White Hart Lane during the summer. Dembele returned as a substitute and started the next match, renewing his strong partnership with Sandro.
Then followed a home win over Liverpool, Spurs were two up inside 16 minutes from a Bale free-kick, the first of a number he scored in the course of the season, and a goal from Aaron Lennon created by Bale. Liverpool battled back into the game to score midway through the second half but Spurs held on. Spurs won 3 – 0 at Craven Cottage but injuries to Dawson and Bale were a concern.
Panathinaikos were beaten in the final group stage match and Spurs ensured qualification for the knock-out rounds where they were drawn against Lyon and possibly Inter Milan.
Two goals in 90 seconds at Goodison Park spoiled the winning sequence and raised issues of Spurs conceding late goals. Clint Dempsey had put Spurs ahead, Sigurdsson had hit the woodwork and as the match entered added time, Spurs were still a goal to the good. Those ninety seconds proved costly as Everton took the points.
Vertonghen scored his first Premier League goal as Spurs beat Swansea but there was no-one to find a goal as Stoke held out for a scoreless draw. The holiday period proved successful for Spurs who scored four at Aston Villa, including a Bale hat-trick, took three points at Sunderland and scored three against Reading on New Year’s Day without Bale who had been booked incorrectly for diving at the Stadium of Light.
Coventry failed to repeat the 1987 FA Cup shock but QPR under Harry Redknapp held out for a scoreless draw at Loftus Road, the only away game Spurs failed to score in. Of greater concern at the time was the injury to Sandro who missed the rest of the season.
A home draw against Champions United came with an injury time equaliser from Dempsey but defeat at Leeds United followed in the FA Cup.
Bale – the Goal Machine
As Spurs unbeaten run in the League continued Gareth Bale started to play an even more prominent part in Tottenham’s play and success. In the next 8 matches he scored 10 goals. An equaliser at Norwich, the only goal of the game at West Brom, two against Newcastle, two free-kick strikes against Lyon in almost identical situations in the final seconds of each half, two against West Ham including a last minute wonder strike to win the game, the opening goal in the defeat of Arsenal and a header against Inter Milan. Spurs were now 3rd in the League and looking good although the fixtures for March and April looked testing.
Tottenham’s unbeaten run ended in Liverpool. Jan Vertonghen scored twice and Spurs were leading 2 – 1 and controlling the game. A poor back pass gifted Liverpool the equaliser and then a late penalty proved costly.
A tough match in Milan saw Spurs lose 3 – 0 in normal time to sacrifice the lead they had gained in the 1st leg. Adebayor scored a rare goal in extra time but although Inter scored again it was Spurs who progressed on the away goals rule. Then followed a disappointing home defeat to Fulham with Dimitar Berbatov scoring the only goal. Injuries were taking their toll in Tottenham’s busy schedule with Lennon missing a number of matches.
The win at Swansea was the Bale/Vertonghen show – Vertonghen scored the first, created by Bale who scored the second with the central defender having turned creator. Both were outstanding goals in a season of amazing goals for Spurs who had regained 3rd place in the League.
A home draw in the Europa League against FC Basel brought further injuries to both Lennon and Bale. It was a concern with only 7 League games to play. A draw was salvaged against Everton with a late equaliser from Sigurdsson but the Europa League exit followed with the inevitable defeat in a penalty shoot-out.
A splendid final fifteen minutes from Spurs ended City’s title hopes but kept Spurs Champions League dreams alive. Three goals in that time rescued the game and Spurs headed for Wigan. Bale scored his worst goal of the season early on but Wigan in their annual end of season battle against relegation were 2 – 1 up in the final minutes until Spurs got a point with an own goal.Bale’s winner against Southampton kept Spurs’ hearts up and facing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, it was a matter of winner takes all in terms of a top-4 finish. A draw with two outstanding goals from Adebayor and Sigurdsson was a credible result but not quite enough for Spurs who would have to rely on Arsenal or Chelsea dropping points in their final two games.
Spurs had to win their matches to have any chance and they did just that to maintain pressure on the others. A win at Stoke and at home against Sunderland to make 72 points, the highest total for Tottenham in the Premier League but they missed out on making next season’s Champions League.
There were many memorable moments throughout the season – at Old Trafford, Defoe’s three against Maribor, Bale’s hat-trick against Aston Villa, the win at Upton Park, against Arsenal at White Hart Lane, Bale’s amazing free-kicks against Basel, the home win over City, the draw at Stamford Bridge and numerous late, late goals.
Gareth Bale had a truly remarkable season with so many outstanding goals – 26 in total for Spurs – and many of the goals and the sensational last gasp recoveries will remain in the memory for many years to come.
It might have ended in disappointment where the Champions League was concerned but it was an exciting season and so much better than the mid-table mediocrity which Spurs have frequented for so much of the Premier League era which has fashioned modern football.