Spurs boss admits his fear that he weakened squad in January
Harry Redknapp has conceded that he may have weakened his squad in January – and is now paying the price with a tired group of players and a defensive injury crisis.
While the Spurs boss replaced Roman Pavlyuchenko by loaning Louis Saha from Everton during the winter window, he also sanctioned the departures of Vedran Corluka, Sebastien Bassong and Steven Pienaar – and only recruited Ryan Nelsen in their place.
Accutely aware that his squad players were becoming increasingly frustrated with their lack of action, Redknapp allowed Corluka, Bassong and Pienaar to leave on loan on transfer deadline day.
That was surprising given that, midway through January, Redknapp had stated that there was little incentive for him to allow his squad players to leave.
“I don’t have any need to weaken the squad,” the manager said at the time. “I would rather have a good squad for last 18 matches of the season than let one or two go who could play a part in the run-in.”
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Three months on, Redknapp admits that he is reassessing his deadline day decisions and that – with the value of hindsight – he could have used his back-up players now to freshen up a weary-looking team and provide cover for his injured defenders.
“I suppose looking back on it… But you don’t know you’re going to lose Michael Dawson,” he said. “You don’t expect that.
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“At the time we had Dawson, Kaboul, King, Gallas and Ryan Nelsen. I had five central defenders and now suddenly we’re left with two.
“We’ve had to chop and change the centre-halves so many times, we’ve never really had a pair. That’s been key.
“It’s been one or the other [between King and Gallas]. William played on Saturday at Sunderland, then he couldn’t play on Monday against Norwich because it was too close to the Sunday game against Chelsea - and Ledley can’t play twice in a week.
“Then Younes, who has been the only steady one, is suddenly out injured now. Suddenly I’m left with Ryan Nelsen and William Gallas, hoping they’re going to be fit – they’re the last two standing.
“I think at the time [in January]… Corluka wanted to go. His head had gone, he was desperate to go and play somewhere - but I didn’t think it was a problem.
“I thought we could always play Younes at right-back if we needed to - and Gallas can play right-back. Really I had five centre-halves for two positions. It was almost two many – and then suddenly you’re down to two.
“We’ve lost Dawson, who was important - and maybe one or two have played an awful lot of games. The young right-back, Kyle Walker, has almost played every game this year. He’s only a kid, he’s come from nowhere.
“We’re not in a position where we’ve been able to pull one or two out enough, perhaps.
“Everybody says what a strong squad we’ve got, but then I’m looking at it today and I’m looking at the substitutes. There’s every chance David Bentley could be back on the bench - he’s in the running.
“David hasn’t even played a game! He’s been injured since he went on loan to West Ham - but I’m struggling to find seven subs.
“In the 25-man squad you’ve got people like Tom Huddlestone and Michael Dawson – players who are out long-term. So we haven’t got loads of numbers now suddenly. We are a little bit thin on the ground.
“I think we’ve just been unlucky with injuries. We lost Michael and one or two others. I still think we’ve got a squad that’s strong enough and capable enough to get Champions League football. I still feel we’ll do it.”
In addition to Walker, Redknapp admits that he has relied on a small group of his best players throughout the season – and that the lack of rotation is now taking its toll.
“It’s that question of ‘do you leave out your Bales and your Modrics?’ They’re so important to you, it’s difficult,” said the manager.
“I’ve kept playing them really because they can make the difference, so I’m sure they’re feeling a bit tired now. But at the end of the day there’s a maximum of seven games to go and every one is a cup final, if you like.
“It’s very important now to give it everything and push to the end of the season to make sure we get what we all want.”
Redknapp’s concerns over his lack of centre-backs has been exacerbated by King’s recent loss of form.
The club captain could be available to face Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday but, after an uncharacteristically poor performance in the 2-1 defeat against Norwich at White Hart Lane on Monday, Redknapp admits that the 31-year-old is no longer guaranteed to start if he declares himself fit.
“I wouldn’t write Ledley off [for this game],” said the Spurs boss. “Last week he wasn’t himself against Norwich, to be fair.
“I think he didn’t feel as good as he could have done, so we’ll have to see how he feels really. Ryan [Nelsen] wouldn’t let you down, he’s a fantastic competitor, but that’s what we’re left with really. We’re not overloaded in that position for sure.
“Only Ledley knows how he feels. He’s been a fantastic player, he’s a great guy and I’ll speak to him and see how he’s feeling as regards the weekend.
“Do I see him being here next year? It’s not my decision but Ledley King is part of this football club. There’s got to be a place for Ledley.
“He’s the type of boy you’d always want at your football club in the future. It’s not my decision but I’d always have him around the place, working with the younger players.
“He’s just a great guy, a great role model for the kids here. He’s come through the youth teams, he’s a one-club man. There’s got to be a place for Ledley here.
“I think, with his knee, Ledley’s always looking at the future because his knee is so bad. No-one else could have done what he’s done, it’s just been a miracle really.”
Scott Parker has also been feeling the strain of a long, hard season, and the 31-year-old England captain was rested for the defeat against Norwich on Monday – but will be available against Chelsea.
“Scotty’s fine, he just said his hamstrings felt tight after the game at Sunderland, and he felt that he might tear a hamstring if he played on Monday,” said Redknapp.
“They were both so tight that he had a feeling they might go, so that was a chance I couldn’t take. If he’d torn a hamstring that would have been the end of him [for this season].
“Adebayor’s okay and Defoe. Saha’s got a little bit of a groin problem, he’s only doing a warm-up today and that’s it, but I think he should be okay.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs