Yesterday (Sunday 12 February), I went to Tottenham Hotspur stadium for the first time to watch my first ever Spurs game of the women’s side rearranged match against Man United.
It was a cracking atmosphere as we witnessed Beth England scoring a terrific goal that should have kicked the team on to go and win it, but United was back in the lead seconds after the kick-off.
It’s been the story of the season for the Spurs, whose last victory came in the 8-0 battering of Brighton at the end of October and have since lost seven on the bounce. Let’s not be mistaken; this team is in a relegation battle and could be playing Championship football next season.
Injuries haven’t helped coach Rehanne Skinner, with first-teamers like Ramona Petzelberger, Ellie Brazil, Jessica Naz, Kit Graham, Ria Percival and Kyah Simon all out long-term. We haven’t seen So-hyun Cho for a while either (is she injured as well?). This is shown in the thin bare squad with five substitutes for the past few weeks.
However, there’s more to this than just injuries, and this is how I feel it could be resolved:
Similar to the men’s side, we are not a back three, pass from the back club and this is nothing against our defenders as we have four decent centre backs. Molly Bartrip has been one of the only bright spots of this season, Shelina Zadorsky has been a great leader, whilst Kerys Harrop and Amy Turner are solid, but having all four has made the defence weak.
Turner has shown having a poor first touch from time to time. On the other hand, Harrop has been done for pace down the left flank repeatedly for the past three weeks.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pitch, our wingers/wide players would be in great positions to cross the ball throughout the United game, but no one was in the box or at the back. This is due to another season standout, Beth England having to go deep, but the frustrating issue is there needs to be someone in the forward position to help.
The simple thing is to change the formation, and a 4-3-1-2 could work in our favour with the players at the North London side, especially since we’ll have to scrap with the teams around us to avoid relegation.
Suggested line-up: Korpela (GK) – Neville (RB) – Zadorsky (CB) – Bartrip (CB) – Harrop (LB) – Bizet Lldhusøy (RM) – Spence (CM) – Ubogagu (LM) – Iwabuchi (CAM) – England (ST) – Karczewska (ST).
When fully fit, I’d have Percival at LB, Naz at RM, Simon at LM and Graham alongside the Lioness.
This run of defeats has to shine a light on Skinner’s position as head coach because this wouldn’t be acceptable in the men’s game, so we should accept it here. It’s a shame because last season, it seemed like a big step forward competing with the big teams compared to the massive drop we’re suffering now.
I believe a change could seriously happen either at the end of the season or now, with the focus being “nine games to save our season.”
If the club decides to do so, we should look towards San Diego to look at two of the NWSL side’s important figures: Jill Ellis or Casey Stoney.
The question regarding Ellis is if she wants to be in such a role after years as the head of the US national team and might be enjoying the less pressure of being the President of the Waves.
If that’s the case, go for the Waves manager Stoney. This would be a great hire following a solid record in the WSL helping Man United claim two successive fourth places.
I believe Spurs will stay in the WSL, but that will be down to the goalscoring of the England striker, the experience of Drew Spence, Mana Iwabuchi’s skill and the likes of Ashleigh Neville, Zadorsky and Bartrip.
Eyes towards the future, several positions are up for grabs to improve the starting 11 and squad.
The first one is getting Aston Villa’s Lioness 22-year-old goalkeeper Hannah Hampton. She’ll be out of contract at the end of the season, and if promised to be our number one and on a long-term deal, the position is filled for now and the future. Additionally, this will help get the keeper back into Sarina Wiegman’s England plans.
Spurs won’t be the only London club interested, and I’m certain Villa will want to keep her at all costs as they’re chasing the top four this season.
Elsewhere, converting Iwabuchi’s loan into a permanent, keeping the Japanese playmaker on the books. Since her January move has brought something different, it feels like she can make anything happen out of nothing.
I’ve highlighted the left-back position above, and Spurs have two players to step up. The first is Gracie Pearse, the 20-year-old is a childhood fan, so she is “one of our own” and can be converted from centre back. The other pick would be Asmita Ale, the 21-year-old is around the first team but barely gets game time, so next season needs to be pushing to get into the team.
When it comes to the two young defenders, there’s a benefit to Neville’s versatility. She can play many positions, including the left side of defence meaning Ale or Pearse could go on the right side.
However, if we want to compete with the big sides, we must show it.
We’ve done that recently by breaking the British transfer record for England and have been rewarded by scoring four times in five games. It would be the same if we broke the bank for French left-back Selma Bacha.
The Lyon defender has played nine times this season, scoring twice, but more exciting is she’s had four assists. So imagine herself and Neville bombing down the wings from full-back, proving our attacks with crosses.
I’ll admit it’s doubtful, as the French international would only leave the four-time Champions League champions for a top club like Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona, Madrid and Man City.
Finally, Jess Park is a player I’d love to see in a Spurs jersey. After seeing her on TV playing for Man City against us last season, she gave the defence a nightmare.
The Lioness can play as a winger or forward and would make a dynamic duo with England. The 21-year-old is having a decent loan with Everton this season, scoring three and two assists in 11 games.
Sadly, I can’t see City wanting to let her go as she’s such a talent. If they did, the Merseysiders would like to keep her, so there might be a bit of a battle for her signature.
List of departures: Becky Spencer, Eleanor Heeps, Esther Morgan (Loan), Kerys Harrop, Ramona Petzelberger, Rosella Ayane (Loan), Chioma Ubogagu, Ellie Brazil (Loan).
Line-Up if we made these signings: Hampton (GK) – Neville (RB) – Bartrip (CB) – Zadorsky (CB) Bacha/Pearse (LB) – Naz (RM) – Spence (CM) – Simon (LM) – Iwabuchi (CAM) – Park (ST) – England (ST)