July 6, 2013
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.
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.