July 21, 2013

Youth/loan update – July 2013

Return to training

As the squad return to training, it seems some of the Development Squad players have been given extended leave – Coulibaly and Veljkovic, for example. I presume this is because they don’t get to see their families regularly, as travelling home is more tricky. (EDIT: Veljkovic is away with Serbia U19s).

It’s unclear whether these two players have joined up with the rest of the Development Squad in the Algarve where, amongst others, they play Swindon Town. The squad had their first two training sessions in Portugal today.

Loans

There have already been three loan deals announced, all involving Swindon Town (see my article on loan links here). We seem to have forged an informal link with Swindon, apparently due to Tim Sherwood’s friendship with their Director, Lee Power.

Grant Hall and Massimo Luongo were the first to join the Wiltshire club on season-long loan deals, with Alex Pritchard following soon after. It now sounds as though Ryan Mason will be a Swindon Town loanee by next weekend too.

Hall is a 21-year old central defender, signed from Brighton last summer. He started 19 games for the Under-21s last season, captaining the side. He seemed to grow as the season went on, and has impressed in pre-season for Swindon town – notably against us!

Luongo is a talented Australian central midfield player who has a bit of everything to his game. Tenacious and technically gifted, he seems well-suited to playing at any level, and I personally think he has a chance of eventually being a first team squad member at Spurs. Hopefully he can play every week for Swindon and use the experience as a springboard to push on.

Pritchard caused a stir when he signed for Swindon, as many fans felt sure that he’d get another Championship loan after he spent time at Peterborough last season. Pritchard proved, to an extent, that he could compete in the Championship. Having said that, the difference between The Championship and League One is not that significant and, if we feel comfortable about the Swindon set-up, there could be logic in the move. Additionally, the chances are that Pritchard wouldn’t play every game for a Championship club, whereas he is likely to play most weeks at Swindon. Pritchard has become overrated due to the videos of his NextGen Series free kicks, and his performance against Barcelona at White Hart Lane. He’s a talented player, but has a long way to go – he’s clearly nowhere near ready for the Spurs first team as it stands.

Mason is a little bit of an enigma, and someone I wrote about in detail recently following his non-start in Lorient, and so I won’t go into that sort of detail again. However, he’s a player I’ve admired since I first saw him in the Under-18s as a 16-year old, and I think Swindon’s fans will enjoy his style of play.

Also on the move is Tomislav Gomelt, who has joined Royal Antwerp in the Belgian second division on loan for the season (Spurs have not yet confirmed this one). Antwerp have a new manager in Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and it was apparently he who ear-marked Gomelt. I suspect that the move may have something to do with work permit issues – Belgium enjoys more relaxed laws, and Manchester United have often used their feeder club for this purpose. Hasselbaink has made eleven signings this summer already, including John Bostock, who we released at the completion of his contract.

Spurs XI matches

The Spurs XI won their first match of pre-season – 4-0 against Kingstonian at Kingsmeadow. Check out my report, and be sure to watch the highlights.

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July 19, 2013

18/07/13 Kingstonian 0-4 Tottenham Hotspur XI, Kingsmeadow

Jordan Archer (20)

Ryan Fredericks (20) Dominic Ball (17) Kevin Stewart (19) Adam Smith (22)

Ruben Lameiras (18) Giancarlo Gallifuoco (19) Simon Dawkins (25)

Cristian Ceballos (20) Jon Obika (23) Ken McEvoy (18)

Shaq Coulthirst (18) for Obika, 46.
Laste Dombaxe (18) for McEvoy, 46.
Aaron McEneff (18) for Lameiras, 46.
Jon Miles (20) for Archer, 46.
Roman Michael-Percil (18) for Dawkins, 60.
Alex McQueen (18) for Gallifuoco, 61.
Darren McQueen (18) for Stewart, 65.

There was a slightly frantic start to the game, before Spurs started to control possession. A nice early cross-field pass from Cristian Ceballos found Adam Smith, but as he looked for McEvoy up the line, the young Irish winger was just starting to break forward, and Smith played the pass straight into touch.

Gallifuoco then did exactly the same on the other side of the pitch (right in front of his coaches!), perhaps with less of an excuse.

Simon Dawkins, now back with us after his loans with San Jose Earthquakes and Aston Villa, looked tidy and controlled early on, his first touch precise and close to his body, allowing him time on the ball.

The tall Australian, Gallifuoco, was robbed in midfield, but Smith was there to get his body between his man and the ball, drawing a free kick.

Shortly after, a neat turn by Ceballos was followed by a pass to Gallifuoco – he found Ceballos again, but the Spaniard crossed with his weaker right and it was over-hit; for a second it looked as though it might dip in the far corner, but eventually it sailed over the bar.

Dominic Ball conceded a free kick to the left of the box, but it was set up for a shot that was struck wildly over.

Spurs made it 0-1 when McEvoy started a break, found Obika, and got into the box to head home Obika’s well-flighted cross at the near post.

The next piece of action saw Gallifuoco play an excellent pass inside the full back – perfectly weighted for Smith to run on to. He was fouled as he tried to progress, but the resulting free kick came to nothing.

Dawkins then showed his neat touch again, before Ceballos took the ball from him and ran at the defence. As they backed off, he tried to find Fredericks on the right, but his pass was telegraphed and easily intercepted.

Another driving run from Smith ended with his cross being blocked. It fell nicely for either McEvoy or Dawkins to strike, but they got in the way of one another and Kingstonian cleared.

Smith intelligently stabbed a ball over the full back with the outside of his foot for McEvoy to charge after – he kept the pass in, cut back onto his right foot, and found Obika, but the big striker couldn’t create space for a crossing opportunity and lost possession.

Kingstonian then broke forward, but an inviting low cross was blocked by Fredericks and went out for a corner. Spurs seemed to struggle when defending set pieces – much like the first team. Unlike the first team, though, they opted to have a man on at least one of the posts.

It was 0-2 when Dominic Ball received the ball at centre back, stepped out confidently towards halfway, and slipped a pass to Obika. He strode forward and, as the defender backed off, he struck a shot which took a wicked deflection and looped over the goalkeeper, who had no chance.

Smith then carried the ball forward yet again and played in McEvoy who sent another cross in, but it was cleared at the far post.

Lameiras won possession in midfield, nipping in at just the right time. He found McEvoy, who beat his man and got a cross in with his left foot – it was met by Ceballos who took a touch, and had a low effort deflected just wide. Perhaps a first time shot may have been a better option.

Gallifuoco caught his opposing number 4 with a clumsy tackle, which he swiftly apologised for – a bit of a clash of the titans, the two tallest players on the pitch colliding.

Ceballos and Dawkins worked an opening with some nice interplay in a tight area, but Ceballos’ end product was disappointing – a common theme of the evening.

Ceballos then beat his marker with ease, but curled a right-footed shot well over the crossbar.

Soon after, Obika picked up the ball midway through the Kingstonian half, ghosted past a man as Ceballos had done just moments prior, but dragged his effort on goal tamely wide.

A nicely-played cross-field from Lameiras found Smith, who juggled the ball – showboating somewhat! – but his cross was too strong.

At the other end, Kingstonian worked a great position for their right back, but he tried to ambitiously toe-poke a long range effort into the far corner, and got it all wrong.

Lameiras showcased his passing ability with a nice ball to McEvoy with the outside of his foot just before the half-time whistle went.

As is typical in these games, there were plenty of half-time subs: Miles, McEneff, Dombaxe, and Coulthirst came on for Archer, Lameiras, McEvoy and Obika for Spurs.

I stood behind the dugout during the second half, and it was fascinating to hear the vocal input from Sherwood, Ramsey and Ferdinand. Whilst all three were quite critical of their players – Ferdinand especially with Coultirst (“don’t be a midfielder”), Sherwood with Gallifuoco, and all three with Ceballos (Sherwood: “Cristian, we need you”, Ramsey: “Cristian – you have to pass that”) – the feedback was all constructive, with instructions given of what they expected. This was very refreshing, as I can clearly remember the days of Clive Allen just yelling constant expletives.

It was also funny to see a familiar face as first team coach for Kingstonian – Martin Tyler! I had no idea that he coached them, but apparently he has done so for a while.

Gallifuoco played Coulthirst in with an intelligent pass behind which was only half blocked, Coulthirst was on to the loose ball, and found Ceballos in space on the right. He had a shooting opportunity with his right foot, but instead cut on to his left, and it was blocked.

Simon Dawkins – now playing on the left of a front three – made it 3-0 when Smith played him in, and he finished low from an angle. He was immediately replaced by Roman Michael-Percil.

Alex McQueen replaced Gallifuoco and took his place in central midfield – I’ve only ever seen McQueen play at either right back or centre back, so it was interesting to see him go in there, but it didn’t last long.

Aaron McEneff, a holding midfielder signed from Derry last year, had an effort from range which wasn’t too far off the mark.

Kingstonian probably had their best chance when they scrambled a header just over from a corner as Spurs again struggled with a set piece.

At this point Chris Ramsey instructed Ceballos to “keep moving the ball – around the box”, seemingly wanting him to try to draw players out of position. The Spaniard has a tendency to hang on to the ball for too long.

Dombaxe lost the ball in midfield, but Alex McQueen’s pace allowed him to get back and hold up the attack, and we forced Kingstonian to take on a shot in a less promising position, which was well wide.

Stewart went off after a tough tackle, replaced by Darren McQueen – his cousin, Alex, moved to centre back at this point.

Smith then limped off with what seemed to be a minor knock; as there were no subs to replace him, we went to three at the back, with Ball flanked by the very attack-minded duo of Fredericks and McQueen.

Ceballos drove forward and had an opportunity again to shoot with his right, but wanted it on his left foot. As he cut on to his left, the chance was lost, but it came back out to him and he finally hit an effort on his right foot. With bodies in front of him by now, it was blocked, and Ramsey at this point yelled that he should have passed the ball.

Roman Michael-Percil, who signed professional terms recently, whipped in a dipping shot from the left, but it was a few yards wide.

Ceballos finally got his goal when he picked up Fredericks’ back-heel and hit a low shot which struck either Coulthirst or a defender on the way in. Ceballos claimed it and seems to have been credited with it, despite some banter with Coulthirst post-match!

Jordan Archer – largely untested, but did what he needed to do.
Ryan Fredericks – as ever, better going forward than defensively, but made a timely block and was generally solid.
Dominic Ball – composed in possession, and seemed better positionally than the last time I saw him.
Kevin Stewart – calm defender who reads the game well. Went off after a strong 50/50 challenge left him shouting in pain.
Adam Smith – swashbuckling as ever. Bombs forward and reminds me of Stephen Carr. His understanding with McEvoy improved as the first half went on. A shame that he was playing left back, as I was hoping he’d be Walker’s back-up this season, and as much time at right back as possible would surely be beneficial.
Ruben Lameiras – excellent in possession, gave a ‘smooth’ passing feel to our game. We lost a bit of our midfield flow and control with his half-time departure.
Giancarlo Gallifuoco – hit and miss; very clumsy, conceding lots of free kicks, but also some intelligent and difficult passes which were played well.
Simon Dawkins – looked one of the more accomplished and calm players but, at 25, you’d probably expect that.
Cristian Ceballos – people were getting excited about him as he’s a flashy, eye-catching player, but in my opinion he mostly flattered to deceive last night, and wasted most of his good positions. I’ve seen him have much better games.
Jon Obika – mostly on the periphery, but his cross for McEvoy’s headed goal was really excellent.
Ken McEvoy – a constant threat throughout the half, but I’m reliably informed that Sherwood berated him for not tracking back – turning to the players on the bench and saying “see, that’s what he’s got to learn, he doesn’t track back”.

Jon Miles – a couple of minor handling errors, but mostly solid.
Shaq Coulthirst – didn’t manage to get too involved, and was being berated by Ramsey for dropping too deep.
Laste Dombaxe – seems to have developed into a good all-round midfield player, but was a little loose with some of his passing.
Aaron McEneff – composed and tidy in possession, I look forward to seeing more of him.
Roman Michael-Percil – didn’t see too much of the ball, but added pace and a sense of directness after Dawkins departed.
Alex McQueen – his excellent recovery pace can sometimes make up for positional indiscipline, but I do think he has some potential.
Darren McQueen – didn’t see much of the ball at all.

 

EDIT: Highlights available here.

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July 14, 2013

Some thoughts on our 25-man squad

When planning our squad and identifying targets in preparation for the forthcoming season, our management team must pay close consideration to the the 25-man squad rule. We are able to name a 25-man squad if eight of the players are “home grown”. We could name fewer than eight home grown players, but would need to also name fewer than 25 players in our squad – e.g. if we only have seven home grown players, we can name a 24-man squad, 6/23, 5/22, etc. A home grown player is defined as follows:

… one who, irrespective of his nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to the Football Association or the Welsh Football Association for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons or 36 months prior to his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21).

We do not need to name players who are under 21 on the squad list; for the 2013/14 campaign under 21 players will have been born on or after 1st January 1992.

As it stands, our 25-man squad would probably consist of (* = home grown player):

Hugo Lloris
Brad Friedel
Heurelho Gomes

Kyle Walker*
Benoît Assou-Ekotto
Danny Rose*
Kyle Naughton* / Adam Smith*

Younes Kaboul
Jan Vertonghen
Michael Dawson*
Steven Caulker*

Sandro
Paulinho
Mousa Dembélé
Scott Parker*
Lewis Holtby
Tom Huddlestone*
Jake Livermore*

Gareth Bale*
Aaron Lennon*
Gylfi Sigurðsson*
Clint Dempsey
Andros Townsend*

Emmanuel Adebayor
Jermain Defoe*

That would mean that the following miss out:

Kyle Naughton* / Adam Smith*
Yago Falque
Ryan Mason*
Bongani Khumalo
Simon Dawkins*
Jonathan Obika*
Grant Hall* (on loan at Swindon)

We are then able to select any players who were born after January 1992 without needing to register them. This means that any of the following (plus the 1st and 2nd year Academy scholars) would be available for selection:

Tom Carroll
Zeki Fryers
Massimo Luongo (on loan at Swindon)
Ryan Fredericks
Cameron Lancaster
Cristian Ceballos
Jonathan Miles
Jordan Archer
Alex Pritchard (on loan at Swindon)
Harry Kane
Kevin Stewart
Lawrence Vigouroux
Giancarlo Gallifuoco
Kenneth McEvoy
Shaquille Coulthirst
Nabil Bentaleb
Grant Ward
Rueben Lameiras
Soulemayne Coulibaly
Tomislav Gomelt
Roman Michael-Percil
Alex McQueen
Darren McQueen
Laste Dombaxe
Dominic Ball
Milos Veljkovic

We have some flexibility with the goalkeeping situation; it is likely that Gomes will move on, and Archer (a “freebie”, so to speak) will be third choice. This frees up a further squad place, which does help somewhat.

Realistically we need to find buyers or loan clubs for those who will not make the cut, so as not to waste their time or wages. In addition, for any further over-21 signings we make, we will need to find a squad space for them. The likes of Huddlestone and Livermore could be moved on to accommodate new signings, but it does illustrate how little room for manoeuvre we have.

On the plus side, we have plenty of homegrown players (as it stands), and we also have the bonus of the likes of Carroll and Archer, who do not need to be named in the squad in order to be used.

Having just spent a club record fee on Paulinho, there is clearly an argument that we ought to sell before we buy – that spending money without recouping it makes poor financial sense. The 25-man squad limit also, I think, points to this being a prudent approach. Being stuck with high-profile players on big wages that do not make the squad (and therefore lose significant value over a 6 month period) would be far from ideal, and should be avoided if possible.

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July 6, 2013

Some thoughts on Spurs’ tranfer window strategy

Early movers?

We all wondered whether Spurs had learnt their lessons and would get their transfer dealings done early this summer.  This morning we became the 19th Premier League club to have announced at least one signing so far (Swansea have signed eight players!).

The Paulinho deal has finally been confirmed – the box-to-box Brazilian presents a real coup for Spurs,  especially after his strong performances in the Club World Cup and Confederations Cup.

Does this represent us getting our business done early? Possibly not, but at least we’ve completed some business before the players return for pre-season training.

AVB/Baldini vs Redknapp

Potentially the crucial difference this time round is that Andre Villas-Boas has Franco Baldini in place as Technical Director. With his a reputation for being both a likeable character and strong negotiator, it should bode well.

Whilst former manager, Harry Redknapp, tended to go for ‘tried and tested’ players, often older than Chairman Daniel Levy will have been comfortable with, Spurs’ new transfer committee – which seems to consist of  Levy himself, Franco Baldini (Technical Director), Andre Villas-Boas (Head Coach), and Tim Sherwood (Technical Co-ordinator) amongst others – will seemingly look further afield in order to improve the squad.

For example, if rumours are to be believed, a big-money deal is close for two 17-year old Croatians from Dinamo Zagreb – Tin Jedvaj (defender) and  Alen Halilović (attacking midfielder). Whilst Halilović has been capped by Croatia (and is the national team’s youngest ever debutant), Jedvaj is not so well-known, and would represent what many Spurs fans might raise an eyebrow at – use of a scouting network.

In fairness to our former manager, there were more left-field signings  – Sandro, for example. These were said to be arranged by his Chief Scout, Ian Broomfield, who he put a lot of trust in.

Baldini has a reputation as someone who will unearth young talent, but who will blend that with experienced signings for the here and now. For example, he took Gonzalo Higuain and Marcelo to Real Madrid as 18-year olds, but also signed experienced players with winning mentalities – the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy (30) and Fabio Cannavaro (32). The David Villa story, then, might not be total fantasy.

Positions to strengthen 

Most Spurs fans will have an opinion on which positions need strengthening, but there is a concensus, no doubt, that we need to bolster our front line. Emmanuel Adebayor – brilliant two seasons ago – was totally unreliable during last season’s campaign, whilst Jermain Defoe is also below the required level if we want to improve; he has only once managed more than 13 goals in a Premier League season (in nine attempts). Roberto Soldado and Leandro Damiao (again) have been mooted, and either would likely represent an upgrade if they could settle quickly (which is always the danger of change).

If AVB wants to move to his favoured 4-3-3 formation, we will also quire another wing-forward to complement Gareth Bale. In my opinion, Aaron Lennon’s output is not prolific or consistent enough to justify a starting berth if we want to push on. His work-rate and attitude are second to few in our squad but, if we look at the player he is rather than the player we want him to be, he’s not quite there (although will be a fantastic rotation option). Whilst David Villa is not the player he once was, his signing would be a true statement of intent – his profile alone would turn heads, but he also has the winning mentality and know-how that our squad lacks, as well as being able to cover anywhere across the front three positions

Full-back cover is another area that needs to be looked at; Danny Rose is seemingly unhappy with the prospect of being cover (who knows, maybe he’ll start), and on the other flank, we certainly need to upgrade on Kyle Naughton. Could this be the season that attack-minded England U21 international, Adam Smith, steps up and grabs the opportunity to be Kyle Walker’s deputy? For me, we could probably carry one inexperienced full-back so long as we had solid back-ups in all other areas of the defence.

I still think we lack someone in midfield who can pick a pass – especially with Huddlestone seemingly on the way out. It might be that AVB is planning to rely on Dembele/Holtby/Sigurdsson/Carroll as the creative element of his midfield but, for me, Keisuke Honda – out of contract at the end of 2013 with CSKA Moscow – would represent good value at a knock-down fee.

On the way out 

Willaim Gallas, David Bentley, plus a few of the younger professionals who hadn’t broken through (Barthram, Bostock, Nicholson, Munns) were released at the completion of their contracts, but we’ve got a bit of deadwood still to shift.

I would expect the likes of Naughton (24), Livermore (23), Khumalo (26), Obika (23), and Dawkins (25) to leave permanently, but there are others at risk too, depending on who comes in.

Harry Redknapp’s QPR are chasing Scott Parker, and one last “big” move might appeal to Parker, who is 33 in October. Tom Huddlestone has suitors in Fulham and Sunderland, although I think it’ll take more than the £5m mentioned to twist Levy’s arm. We’d surely listen to respectable offers for both Adebayor (29) and Defoe (31 this year), who both disappointed last season and, if a bid were to come in for Dempsey, AVB might be tempted to sell.

Transition

We have a real opportunity to progress, especially looking at the managerial changes at Manchester United, Chelsea, and Manchester City, and with Liverpool seemingly losing their prized asset, Luis Suarez. Arsenal are clearly not the side they once were, although are still dangerous, particularly if Higuain does sign.

My gut instinct says that Chelsea will be a very strong side next year – the impressive Hazard and Oscar now have full Premier League seasons under their belt and will no doubt be even stronger this year. They still have centre back troubles, though, and Mourinho will need to focus on their defence if he is to win the league.

After that, second is up for grabs – City are a brilliant side on paper, but have a squad littered with “characters” and egos. United under Moyes will be fascinating – their central midfield still looks weak to me, and I wonder whether they can rely on van Persie to drag them over the line for a second year running. Arsenal are the most stable team, but lack a goalscorer and much will depend on whether they can snag Higuain.

Spurs are well-placed to push on and finish in the top four – especially if, as expected – Bale stays at the club for another year. Paulinho plus a top-class forward would, in my opinion, push us to the next level, and it’ll be down to AVB’s coaching ability (we must improve at defending set pieces, for example) and the squad’s mental strength as to whether we can progress.

COYS

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July 4, 2013

Spurs/Swindon loan links

Loan news

Earlier this week Spurs announced that Massimo Luongo and Grant Hall were to join League One side Swindon Town on loan for the season.

Rumours suggest that they may shortly be joined by both Alex Pritchard and Nathan Byrne. Byrne had been announced as a permanent signing by Swindon Town’s chairman, Jed McCrory, at a supporters group meeting back in April – apparently prematurely as, by all accounts, Byrne remains contracted to Spurs for the time being.

Young full-back Jack Barthram, released by Spurs after his contract expired, has joined Swindon permanently as the links between the two clubs grow.

Unofficial link

After Dean Parrett, Nathan Byrne and Massimo Luongo spent time on loan at the County Ground last season, there has been growing speculation of an unofficial partnership being formed.

There are clearly links there, and indeed there were rumours that the Swindon manager, Kevin Macdonald, would join Spurs’ Academy set-up after he had left Aston Villa. The move never materialised though, and he joined Swindon, but there remains an apparent respect for the work he is doing in nurturing young talent.

Spurs have previously sent multiple players to one club – Yeovil, for example, where we sent Townsend and Obika, and later Mason and Caulker. This is, it appears, a deliberate ploy; it could be to help the young players settle more quickly, to make monitoring progress more easy, because there are few coaching set-ups that we trust, or a combination of the three.

Recall clauses

Luongo and Pritchard both played Championship football last season and I would imagine that both are capable of doing so again. In theory, though, Luongo being tied down to a season-long loan means that he can’t be recalled and sent to a Championship club in January should he naturally progress, due to FA rules.

This has lead to talk of a sneaky work-around. Could Spurs have actually sold the players – i.e. transferred their registration – with a buy-back clause of £1? I guess we will find out in January.

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