March 27, 2012

Summer rebuilding?

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In my first ever blog article, around this time three years ago, I wrote about how many players Redknapp had managed to trim from our squad. When he first arrived at the club, he was famously quoted as saying “We have about 40 or 50 players who sit down for dinner at the club every day but only 14 or 15 of them are good enough to play in the Premier League.”

I was pleased with the work that he had done and, in starting afresh, I hoped that he would build a squad for the future. I finished that article by saying “Overhauls clearly don’t work, and I hope we’ve learnt that now.” I stand by that statement and feel that, although Redknapp has overseen a number of young players coming into the first team, he has also somewhat backed us into a corner with his short-term signings, and it now seems that another squad overhaul is imminent – whether it is him presiding over it or not.

Outgoings

We have a number of players likely to leave come the summer:

Emmanuel Adebayor
Jermaine Jenas
Niko Kranjcar
David Bentley
Carlo Cudicini
Heurelho Gomes
Steven Pienaar
Sébastien Bassong
Vedran Corluka
Kyle Naughton
Giovani dos Santos
Ben Alnwick
Bongani Khumalo
Simon Dawkins

I would also assume that some younger players will move on – potentially:

Jonathan Obika
Oscar Jansson
Kudus Oyenuga

We also have another group of players who could all potentially leave the club:

Jermain Defoe
William Gallas
Ryan Nelsen
Louis Saha
Ledley King (retirement?)
Yago Falque
Danny Rose
Ryan Mason
Dean Parrett
John Bostock
Mirko Ranieri
Nathan Byrne
Jake Nicholson

That is ignoring Luka Modric, who was so keen to leave last summer.

Of course, it is unlikely that all of these players will leave in one hit, but I would certainly expect them to all leave over the next two to three years. It’s also worth noting that not all of them will need replacing as some have been used sparingly, and some have never been used. Having said that, our squad will need a lot of strengthening – more on this later.

Redknapp’s Spurs transfer record

Redknapp has had some successes in the transfer market since he joined the club in October 2008. Undoubted positives in Friedel, Parker, Adebayor, Gallas, van der Vaart, Walker, Kaboul, along with lesser triumphs Kranjcar, Crouch, Defoe, Bassong and Palacios have improved the squad (to different extents!). It still seems, though, that there is a short-termist strategy.

Initially Redknapp brought in players to get us out of a sticky situation quickly, and it is striking that a number of these players were gone within a couple of years – Palacios, Chimbonda, Keane, Crouch, Gudjohnsen, Pletikosa. This has continued – listed below with the most recent to join first, it’s interesting to note that the average age of his four most recent signings is 34.

Ryan Nelson
Louis Saha
Brad Friedel
Scott Parker
Yago Falqué
Emmanuel Adebayor
Souleymane Coulibaly
Steven Pienaar
Bongani Khumalo
William Gallas
Rafael van der Vaart
Stipe Pletikosa
Sandro Ranieri
Younes Kaboul
Eidur Gudjohnsen
Niko Kranjcar
Sebastien Bassong
Peter Crouch
Kyle Naughton
Kyle Walker
Robbie Keane
Pascal Chimbonda
Carlo Cudicini
Wilson Palacios
Jermain Defoe

After the initial glut of seemingly interim signings, one may have thought that Redknapp would try to build a squad for the future. Whilst it is true that he has overseen some young players being brought to the club, there have been as many older players – Gudjohnsen and Gallas for example – who added experience to an inexperience squad, but also needed/will need replacing within a short period of time.

It is the short-termist strategy that could cause problems this summer, and that is ignoring Friedel, who may be with us for another year or two at the most, but cannot go on forever. I listed 31 players above (including Modric). Of these, there are 15 that are in our 25-man squad. If we were to sell/release half of these (which is not unlikely), we would need to make a significant number of purchases to get the squad back up to strength for next year.

With question marks over our management going forward, no Director of Football, and no obvious transfer strategy, it is very difficult to foresee this panning out in a sensible, planned, targeted way. Of course, the quality of potential signings depends much on whether we qualify for The Champions League. If we were qualify, we should be able to attract good players to the club – potentially better than what we have currently; but even if we were to make seven or eight solid signings, they could take time to adapt to life at Tottenham (or this country) and so there could be a “settling in” period.

Why has this happened?

Through taking a more measured approach to signings, we could have avoided this “up in the air” feeling that we will have at end of the season, which would obviously be multiplied significantly if the manager and coaching staff were to change as well. So who is to blame for this? Is it Redknapp’s fault? Does the chairman have to take his share of the blame?

Football has changed so much – a transfer strategy for a club of the stature of Spurs has to effectively involve spending big transfer fees and big wages on a relatively small pool of players. Redknapp has, to an extent, used the “moneyball” approach – picking up cheap/free/loan signings who, although on big wages, will not cost much to bring in, and will sign relatively short-term contracts. Whilst it means that we’ll have to keep adjusting the squad year on year, it is relatively low-risk which could be seen as wise when it is difficult to make predictions on where the club will finish in the league.

Levy has presumably accepted this approach realising that if we finish 5th without having spent big, and with high earners nearing the end of their contracts, he is in a stronger position than finishing 5th having made a Liverpool-esque outlay. He can move on a lot of big earners relatively easily, whilst gradually taking chances on younger players who may turn out to be Bale/Walker style “bargains” (and by that I mean that their respective values have rocketed, rather than them costing little in the first place). And on the upside, if we finish in the top four he can use the bigger budget to either tie down players to big contracts or invest heavily in the right players to maintain that position.

I can certainly see the case, but still see the approach as a gamble. The amount of transactions required over the next couple of years means that we will be totally dismantling and rebuilding our squad (although hopefully not the first XI), and that is always a risky thing to attempt. Can we maintain stability? Can we integrate a large number of new players at once?

Three years on, and having said that “overhauls clearly don’t work”, we have an overhaul to look forward to in the summer – let’s just hope that, whoever our manager is, he focuses on having suitable back-ups in every area of the pitch.

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  • You want suitable back-ups? Check up near the top for that list of outgoings – that’s what we already have!

    The short-termism is perfectly understandable given the uncertainty (at the time) surrounding Redknapp’s future as relates to both the England job and the court case.

    I think an overhaul is a bit drastic – we need about three top quality signings for the first team and, as you rightly point out, that will depend on whether or not we are in the Champions League and also who the manager is.

    So far so good from Redknapp and Levy – it’s an important summer but I don’t think we need as much as you make out.

    • Windy says:

      Hello Nikolay – thanks for the comment.
      I agree re: suitable back-ups, but it’s fairly apparent that Redknapp doesn’t, otherwise he’d have played them more and they’d probably be happier to hang around!

      I would be surprised if half of the players I mentioned didn’t leave – they want to play for the good of their careers (and some simply aren’t good enough).

      Perhaps I should have added a paragraph on the various reasons why they may want to leave.

  • Alf says:

    Wow. Worrying analysis, but not entirely surprising given Arry’s MO…look at what he historically leaves a club with: a bloated, costly squad riddled with aged, crocked players on huge salaries who are difficult to move on and make sporadic contributions to the team. Levy has clearly kept Arry’s compulsive shopping under some sort of control & whilst your overview is correct, I think the core is extremely strong & with careful & prudent strengthening to both the first 18 and beyond, we can improve the squad without major surgery. It’s interesting to note that the pattern of purchases during Arry’s tenure has been dramatically different to what went before – I fully expect a return to a small number of major purchases (bubbling under foreign “nearly stars”- Berb, Mod etc)and a return to hoovering up “young promise” (Bale, Walker etc) under a new, more financially confident & less risk averse Manager than the wheeler dealer. I think that’s part of the brief for the incoming chap.

    • Windy says:

      Appreciate the comment, Alf – cheers! Re: “a bloated, costly squad riddled with aged, crocked players on huge salaries who are difficult to move on and make sporadic contributions to the team.” – quite a scary prospect, and I’d say that it’s not too far from the truth. Success, but at a cost.

      Totally agree with you about Levy keeping the shopping under control, and totally agree about the core being strong too.

      I love your view for the future strategy and, of course, would love to see that too.

    • Alf says:

      Arry was a needs must appointment by Levy – the last chance saloon ( hugely exaggerated level of danger though – only 90 points to play for!)He was the Red Adair of the PL – a fire fighter supreme BUT with a dreadfully myopic way of working. The level of success achieved (a relative term if analysing trophies)has been surprising and very welcome, but as some have been asking for a while, what happens when the fire is out/ what is Arry’s legacy?

  • Anonymous says:

    I think were in a great position – Great young players to come in as back up ( Kyle Naughton / Yago Falque / Steven Caulker / Andros Townsend ) with many players going out ( Adebeyour / Gallas / Nelsen / Bentley / Bassong / Jenas / Corluka / Pienaar ) massive savings in wages alowing us to bring in a good couple of new expensive signings.

    • Windy says:

      I would definitely like to see a few of our young players brought into the first team squad next year – Caulker is a definite, and Townsend a possible. I can see Naughton and Falque moving on, particularly Naughton who Norwich are keen on signing permanently.

  • Quinny says:

    I’m not sure what you think is wrong with what Harry has done. He has loaned out the deadwood with a view to sell (Jenas, Bentley, Bassong, Corluka). Sold underperformers (Keane, Palacios, Pavlychenku). Brought in key players (Van Der Vaart, Adebayor, Gallas, Parker). Brought in players with enormous potential (Sandro, Walker, Kaboul, Falque, Coulibaly). And has coached a rough diamond into one of our best players (Bale). He has also instilled a expectation of how Spurs players should play – something which Dos Santos and Kranjcar seem to be struggling to meet. He’s also raised our expectations too…which might explain why people have suddenly become so critical.

    • Windy says:

      Hello Quinny – cheers for the comment!

      I obviously appreciate the style and quality of football that Redknapp has brought, but am just pointing out that it has come at some cost. I am really not a negative fan on the whole – I am very pleased with how things have gone over the last two years.

      It’s important not to forget to prepare though, and there’s a lot of work to do this summer to get ourselves ready for next year.

    • Anonymous says:

      Redknapp bought the majority of ‘the deadwood’!

    • Windy says:

      He did indeed.

  • Anonymous says:

    Just bring us some quality youthful shotstopper,Vertonghen,Hazard,Damiao…Keep Adebayor and recall Caulker we could win the league with those signings

  • Anonymous says:

    Nice article, very solid points. I do think we have a good core of up & coming young players who if Harry/ a.n.other coach has the courage will serve as good squad players to play a few minutes here and there or play lower profile games. The complication may likely be the ability to shift on some of the ‘deadwood’ however as Levy has shown a habit of wanting to recoup what he has spent, and a lot of them have seen their perceived value plummit (Jenas and Bassong being prime examples).
    Just one other point, we signed Falque on a permanent deal in January so I’d highly doubt he will leave in the summer.

    • Windy says:

      Thanks for the comment! Agree re: young players being brought in, we SHOULD still have a solid squad after shifting deadwood, but we need to start planning for the future.

      Falque hasn’t impressed at Southampton and I just can’t really see where/how he’ll fit in – he’s nearly 22 so can see him moving on for his career.

  • Anonymous says:

    (TonyRich here) Agreed that lots of work needs to be done in summer – not just for next season, but for the future. Extremely comprehensive list you have compiled. However I do not expect Cudicini or Naughton to go (unless they really want to). We need keeper & RB backup/competition. I agree that Ade, Saha and due to age and not fitting in: Defoe will have to be replaced in the next 12 months. Falque signed a permanent deal, so I expect him to stay too. The areas to strengthen are plain. New CB lynchpin – Caulker is still green. Kaboul still needs experience next to him. New LB – good LBs are hard to find, so we need to help out Ekotto by giving him a breather from time to time. New RM – Lennon needs backup and potential competition. I believe that Modric will go this summer so we will need a Modric/Vdv/Bale type player – who could compensate for the loss of Modders, and cover for Bale/VDV when they are changing positions or rested. Unlike the other Spurs fans online, I do feel that the majority of our strengthening should come from the Premiership. The is lots of talent here already, and honed to playing here – but also there has been a shift. Traditionally Premiership players were more expensive, but it has changed and now the continental teams are trying to milk Premiership buyers dry (mostly due to City). When buying strikers from abroad, 9 times out of 10 that new striker takes a season or two to get going. I can only think of Torres/Ba/Papiss Cisse are the only ones to get off to flyers – goalscoring-wise. Considering that we need to buy 2-3 strikers in summer, this will be the biggest challenge.

    • Windy says:

      Hello TonyRich!

      Cudicini is 38 and, for me, lookingly increasingly creaky. I think the reason Friedel has kept going is that he plays every game. With Cudicini mainly sat on the bench, I think he is getting very rusty and I’d personally cut him loose.

      Re: Naughton, I think Norwich want to sign him permanently and I can see him wanting to stay there permanently for the good of his career.

      Left back is definitely an area where the squad needs strengthening. I think BAE is an excellent player, but you’re right, he needs better back-up.

      If Modric leaves, Hazard could be his replacement?

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello Windy Davpsurs you have some valid points and some negative i can understand both points. But my worry is not the aging players Harry has brought in but who we can keep of our younger ones. We have an experience young team in the waiting and if we get this lot staying and fit i will be Happy fan Modric Bale Lennon Walker Huddlestone Dawson Caulker Livermore Rose Townsend Bostock Smith Luongo Coulibaly. Saha King Nelson Gallas Jenas Bentley Kranjar Corluka Pienaar. All these would not let us down if they where still with us. The new rules will start to be applyed next seaon and good housekeeping will be in order. We need good youngster like Lennon Hudds Daws Bale to come through and Sherwood has not inspired me to leave him in Charge in our new complex and i would put Gallas Sir Les under 18 and development shopping list Phillips the younger one at Blackpool Mclane at Sunderland Hoilett Dyer Allen Keeper Swamsea Robynn Loriente Bilboa Hunterlar Shalke the Ajax center half these ar just some possible buys Windy the futures bright the futures Lilly whight

    • Windy says:

      Hi Davpsurs,

      Some good suggestions there, mate, it’ll be so interesting to see where we look to strengthen our squad – as in, what region.

  • bonse says:

    Not Too worried about the aged experienced players, dead wood is only dead wood if they are on contracts we cant afford to terminate. Cancelling Bentley’s, Jenas’s, Bassong’s, Pienaar’s etc would cost us around the price of another signing, on the other hand Gallas, Saha, Nelson, Friedel are all on short low ones that could be written off or just left to expire, so we may as well let the team and youth squads benefit from that experience.

    If I were a fancy foreign manager I would be looking at the Spurs squad and thinking that overall it’s strong enough, what needs picking up on is that when a player gets injured it tends to be when his back up is also injured. What other club needs 6 established center backs?

    Youth is coming in nicely, Falque looks like a keeper where as its a shame about Khumalo, he looked handy in the world cup. Loaning out players ready to bring them in the next year is paying off and the structure is there. The general previous idea of only adding if its an improvement seems right, but we do actually need to add that improvement, certainly to retain/replace adebayor.

    Any gaps in the squad will be made by offloading loanees and more likely natural wastage.

    Suspect Hazard and Damaio have reached media saturation and so our chances of getting them are now nil but the others mentioned are all very good signings. I have to say here I wasnt a Comoli fan, I found his approach to be rather scattergun in that he would march into a country and demand a price for the young player of the year, paying whatever was ticketed. While we look back and see names that have come through, we have to say that they are names that were bought for a different system and only flourished when said system was changed, or bought for a completely different position and had to be moved on.

    I keep looking at the Director of football position, and it’s in the wrong position, it should not be placed above the manager, it’s more of a purchasing officer in modern industry, you tell him what you want, he gets it, what we had was someone buying people and pushing them onto a team, doesnt work. And when we readjust our perspective of director of football, lets just call him purchaser, we see that all of the managers in the past had one, they were called assistants

    • Anonymous says:

      In terms of Directors of football, we could take Curbishley’s West Ham as an example. On his watch, West Ham committed some of the worst signings in history – Bellamy, Dyer, Ljunberg, Boa Morte – expensive, injured and on wages that they could not afford. Plus the Tevez/Mascherano debacle. The manager’s objective is to win games, points and trophies. But a director of football is there to make sure that the club is running within its means and competing with rivals. The director of football HAS to be above the manager who is closer to the pitch. As an owner, you would WANT someone to sit above the manager as a throttle or overseer or string-puller.

    • Alf says:

      I agree. The DoF ensures consistency of strategy and long term objectives (set by the Chairman & BoDs)…implemented on the pitch by a Manager/Coach – the assumption or intention being that a DoF is much much more of a constant than a Manager/Coach. Comolli’s fingerprints are all over our current “best XI”

    • Windy says:

      Brilliant, bonse.

      Agree to an extent re: contracts. I can see your point on having no pressure to sell some of these players, but are you not worried about them losing value?

      The DoF position you describe – I get the impression that Ian Broomfield pretty much does that in tandem with Levy.

  • Gregory says:

    Windy- I would love to get your thoughts on the following players as less discussed transfer targets

    Gabriel Torje – Udinese’s Romanian winger (I know he just signed last summer with them but I think he could be special)

    Abel Hernandez – rumoured arsenal target

    Ron Robert Zieler – a talented young goalkeeper for Hannover 96 (Friedel will need replacing in the next few years)

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RT @thfcacademy: Brief highlights of yesterday's UEFA Youth League draw with Real Madrid: https://t.co/WTLbLDwkPr
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