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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.
We have a number of players likely to leave come the summer:
Giovani dos Santos
I would also assume that some younger players will move on – potentially:
We also have another group of players who could all potentially leave the club:
Ledley King (retirement?)
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.
Rafael van der Vaart
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.