June 19, 2009

Ashley Young?

With the rumours that Ashley Young is a key transfer target for Harry Redknapp, most Spurs fans are delighted that we’re finally chasing a left-sided player.

Personally, I would be underwhelmed with this signing. My reasons:

  • Modric has played his best football for us on the left, and doesn’t get enough goals to play centrally in a 4-2-3-1 (I don’t even want to consider him as one of the midfield two – waste of his attacking talent, and it would mean we are far less solid).
  • We will have three high profile players battling for two positions – it didn’t work with Bentley, so why would it work this time?
  • Like Bentley, Young needs a target man to aim at/play off.
  • I think Young is a good player, but overrated.

For argument’s sake, say we get 12-15 goals from the front man, and Young scores 8 (ESPN have him down as scoring 7 in 2008/9 and 8 in 2007/8 – his biggest PL goal haul to date). Add those to 5 each from Modric and Lennon, and that’s 33. Presuming there are 12 more goals scattered around somewhere (remembering that with those three ahead of him, Jenas would need to play a much more restrictive role), we may just end up scoring the same total as this past year (45), which most would probably agree is too few.

For me, Modric needs to be on the left (or, at a push, on the right), and the man primarily playing off the frontman needs to be scoring 10+ goals. I see Redknapp as wanting to use Keane in this role, and we know from experience that he is certainly capable of 10 or more goals.

There is an argument that with Young wide, we’d see a frontman scoring more goals to compensate for Modric’s “lack of” in the number 10 role. However, Modric has a decent number of assists from the left for this year, so I’m not sure the number of chances created would rocket. It’s also worth noting that a lot of Young’s crosses tend to come at head height, so we’d still be in a similar position to this season – lacking (tall) bodies in the box. We’d have potentially one in Pavlyuchenko, but often none, unless we signed another striker. And if we were to sign a target man, it would be silly to sell Bentley, who could potentially thrive as he did at Blackburn.

I also think we’ll find the same problem with Young as we’ve had with Bentley – three players vying for two positions. This is fine if you’re a Champions League club, but none of the three will be happy being a bit-part player for a side not in Europe, particularly when they are all used to playing week in, week out.

For me, we’ve got the defensive element of our midfield sorted – Jenas and Palacios’ partnership was one of the main reasons why our record improved so much at the back end of the season in my opinion. I’m happy with that and, unless we can bring in some quality competition (i.e. better than Huddlestone/O’Hara), then I am happy to leave that as it is. When Modric has played centrally for us in a two-man midfield it has, so far, been a disaster. I’m not saying he can’t play there in the future, but it hasn’t worked yet.

The areas where I hope for us to improve on next year are getting goals – so an improved spearhead (I’d like to think, given a run in the team – which he still hasn’t had – Pavlyuchenko can score goals and show what he’s about), more assists and goals from Lennon and Modric, and better creativity from Keane/number 10.

Finally, I personally think Young is overrated. He had a very good start to last season, but a poor end, in which he only managed 2 goals after December 13th, and only got 3 assists in that time too – a run of 23 games. Spending £16m on a player like Young who plays in a position that we don’t really need to upgrade, and who can fall away when the going gets tough (like many of our current players, as seen at the start of last season), is not a risk I’d take.

Young’s a good player, but not ideal for us IMO.

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