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.

Thoughts on the Tottenham Academy, season 08/09

It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for the Tottenham Hotspur Academy squad. The best side in their league, they have been involved in a cup run, an end of season play-off, and not to mention five European tournaments since July 2008.

In pre-season, the U18s finished as runners-up in both the Eurofoot in Belgium and the Santiago Tournament in Spain – losing the Santiago final on penalties after an injury time equaliser from Benfica.

Having begun the domestic season well, January saw the squad participating in the prestigious Copa Chivas tournament in Mexico. According to Alex Inglethorpe, the lads got a bit of a rough ride with a poor refereeing decision which saw Berchiche sent off and the team lose in the semi-final.

Arguably the biggest heartbreak of the season for the side came in March. Having made their way to the Youth Cup quarter-final, beating Sheffield United at home, and Charlton and Plymouth away along the way, the boys lost to Arsenal in a 1-3 defeat at White Hart Lane.

In April, they travelled to Switzerland, to take part in the ‘Tourneo Internazionale’ in Bellinzona. They won the trophy, beating Barcelona and Sporting Lisbon – two hugely talented, technical sides at this level of football. It was a very young travelling squad – in total contrast to the squad that had made the trip to Spain in pre-season. For comparison purposes:

Squad for Santiago Tournament, Spain:
Button, L Butcher, Caulker, C Butcher, Smith, Parrett, Kasim, Townsend, Mason, Obika, Bostock, Mtandari, D Hutton, Fraser-Allen, Rose, Pekhart, Hughton.

Squad for Tourneo Internazionale, Switzerland:
Jansson, Ranieri, Carroll, Durojaiye, Oyenuga, Kane, Cox, Butcher, Smith, Kasim, Mason, Waller Lassen, Parrett, Ekim, Caulker, O’Neill, Byrne, Nicholson.

The domestic season ended with yet another defeat to a very strong Arsenal side – this time in the Play-Off final. Having finished top of their league, the lads beat Sunderland in the semi, before going down 0-1 to Arsenal, again at White Hart Lane. Arsenal U18s are a physically strong, and technically gifted side, who have several players in key areas who are a year older than our boys and, whilst defeat to our local rivals is never easy to take, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Finally, the long season for the U18s was coming to an end, but not without more success first – the team retained the Tournoi International de Monthey, beating Hajduk Split 3-0 in the final. It’s interesting to note that John Bostock won the Player of the Tournament award, and that Bostock, Mason, Sam Cox and Jon Obika were all named in the Team of the Tournament.

Player of the Season for this team is clearly Ryan Mason. Nils-Rune, a poster on the COYS forum, has calculated that Mason has managed 37 goals and 19 assists this season – outstanding at any level. He has also managed to make his full Spurs debut, coming on as a late substitute against NEC Nijmegen in November 2008. He plays just off a front man and is a stylish and gifted footballer – his physique is what many think holds him back, but he seems to use his slight frame well and, personally, I don’t think it’ll be long before we’ll see him in first team football.

Mason’s regular strike partner Jonathon Obika, alongside left-winger Andros Townsend, moved on-loan to Yeovil for the run-in – crucial experience for these young players. Both impressed, and I would hope that both would be back out on loan at some point next season.

For the second year trainees: Calum Butcher, Adam Smith, Yaser Kasim, and Sam Cox, along with Mason, Townsend and Obika, it could be a slightly transitional season in 2009/10. I think this is where Spurs have tended to struggle slightly in the past; players have shown potential for the Academy side, but have then failed to make the step-up, and end up getting released or sold for a nominal fee. Of course, it only takes one larger sale to make it all worthwhile, but we’d all hope for more from this group – a group that Academy Director, John McDermott, told me is “the most talented and exciting group of players I have worked with in the 18 years I have been working in youth development.”

Whether the second years play a combination of youth and reserve football, go on loan, or move up to the first team squad, it is a crucial year in their footballing development and, I for one hope that we don’t end up with another group of “inbetweeners” like the Fraser-Allen, Mtandari, Hughton (etc) intake that have just been released – stranded in reserve football and not quite cutting the mustard on trials and loans at other sides.

Key links for the Academy:
Official Site Academy Pages
Spurs Odyssey Youth Team Reports

Gareth Barry

Gareth Barry is a very overrated footballer. He’s a good player, no doubt about that. He’s not, however, one of the best midfielders in England, although yes, he probably is one of the best English midfielders. His transfer to Manchester City this week has got me thinking on two levels:

  1. The transfer in general.
  2. Spurs missing out on him.

The transfer in general

Initially, reading Barry’s letter to Villa fans you can’t help but think “fair play to the guy”. He’s spent a lot of time at Villa and won nothing. He’s brought them in a decent transfer fee (although only about half of what they could’ve got this time last year), which will allow them to bolster a few other areas of their squad (which certainly needs to be done). He’s been made a big offer from City that was too good for him to turn down.

Then you start thinking about this from the point of view of a Villa fan – their club captain, fan favourite, longest-serving player. He gets his break in the England team and starts to make a name for himself. Great for the club, who are already doing the best they’ve done for some time (certainly the best whilst he has been there), to be getting some recognition. However, he decides he needs to move on to win things, and to play Champions League football. After the protracted move to Liverpool, the fans were very happy for him to stay for one final year, in the hope that he could help them qualify for the CL, and then would maybe stay. If they don’t manage it, then fine – he is free to go. And after all that, he moves to a club that finished 4 places and 12 points below them.

So City are aiming to break into the top 4 next year by signing some star players (Tevez, Lescott and Eto’o if you believe rumours) from around the world. Strange, then, that they’d prioritise Barry when, I’m sure a lot of their fans would agree, De Jong and Kompany were two of their better performers in the midfield holding roles towards the back end of the season.

Spurs missing out on him

There were plenty of rumours to suggest that Spurs were keen to sign Barry – with the likely departure of Zokora, and with O’Hara and Huddlestone hinting that they’d move on in search of first team football, it would be no surprise to most Spurs fans that Redknapp may want to bring in some quality competition for Jenas and Palacios. Indeed, Redknapp confirmed in his Sun column that this was the case, and that we’d lost out on Barry to Manchester City’s millions.

On the face of it, Barry sounded like a great idea – this is the guy who has taken Carrick’s place in the England set-up. Carrick, who was the best midfielder Spurs had had for many years, and whose departure left us with a gaping hole in our team. So Barry must be perfect, right?

Remember though, that we’re a totally different side to the one that Carrick played in. In the days of Carrick, we frequently played a lop-sided 4-4-2 – Lennon wide right, with Davids (or Tainio) and Jenas tucked in close to Carrick. Carrick would sit deep and dictate play – everything went through him. In the last half of the season under Redknapp, we tended to play with Jenas and Palacios holding, giving Modric and Lennon license to roam and create. Jenas and Palacios have complimented each other well – neither player sitting particularly deep, but both well aware of their defensive responsibilities, and both with a burst of acceleration that allows them to be quick to recover their positions when necessary.

I simply can’t see how the Barry that we see for England would fit into our formation. Firstly, because he plays too deep and, secondly, because he is painfully slow. Our midfielders are left to mop up and to pass the ball quickly to the creative players, and occasionally to support the attack or to drive forward with the ball. They aren’t playmakers.

It’s also worth pointing out here that Barry has played a totally different role at Villa this year. With Petrov as the deepest lying of the midfield players, Barry has played often as a schemer – a passer, short or long range, who likes to arrive late in the box, or pop up on the left wing. This player wouldn’t really fit into the line-up either. Essentially, we’d be paying £12m for a 28 year old who would then need to adapt his game, and who we wouldn’t really be getting the best from.

And now I revert back to my opening line – in my opinion, Barry is an overrated player. I’d pick Carrick over Barry for England all day long, and I’d also pick Jenas/Palacios over Barry for Spurs’ midfield.

Plenty more fish in the sea.

Stick or Twist?

With the Summer transfer merry-go-round nearly upon us, and the red tops already going into overdrive, it’s the time of year where we, as fans, think about what players we’d like to see join our club.

After a couple of seasons with very high player turnover (April 08 – March 09: 14 players in, April 07 – March 08: 11 players in), my hope is that we finally “do an Everton” and stick, largely, with what we’ve got.

As I suggested in an earlier article, one of my concerns with Harry Redknapp being our manager is his reputation as a tinker-man. He showed in January what he’s capable of, bringing in 5 “new” faces and getting shot of 8. I’m hopeful that that’ll be the majority of his transfer dealings for the year.

My reasons for not wanting change are three-fold:

  1. I think we already have the 6th or 7th best squad in the PL, and I am happy for year-on-year improvements.
  2. I think a consistent approach – like Everton, or Wigan, or even Arsenal/Man Utd is the only way that we are going to get close to Champions League qualification.
  3. History shows us that multiple changes can do more harm than good.

Harry has said recently that he’ll be targeting more established players (“The players that I have in mind are playing very well and are in their prime”), and according to a lot of the speculation on various forums, he has identified Sulley Muntari (Inter Milam), Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn Rovers), and Matthew Upson (West Ham United) as his three key targets.

Personally I would like for us to make minimal changes:

  • Central midfield – some competition for Jenas and Palacios. My choice would be Manchester City’s Michael Johnson – a technically gifted player who has had some “off the field problems”, but will be a future star in my opinion.
  • A left-sided midfield player if Harry doesn’t fancy Bale there (although personally I’d be happy with Bale as Modric’s back-up, particularly after his excellent showing against Everton)
  • And a left back to compete with Assou-Ekotto (Warnock?).

Clearly Bent would need to be replaced if, as expected, he moves on and, if that were the case, I’d like us to try to snatch Jô from under Everton’s noses. He would give us the physical presence that we do tend to lack at times, and also has a decent scoring record since being in a settled side

I for one hope that Harry opts for stability over another transitional Summer.

Loanee Round-up

Now that we’re at the end of the season, I’d like to round up the performances of our loanees.

Anthony Gardner joined Hull on loan, but the move was made permanent before he could play a game. Unfortunately for him, his injury curse has struck again.

Leigh Mills went to Gillingham on loan, where he played 7 games. However, he was released from Spurs in February and, as yet, hasn’t found a new club. Rumour has it that he has given up playing.

Charlie Daniels went to Gillingham for a month, where he scored once in 5 games started. He was then signed permanently by Leyton Orient, whom he played for on loan in 2007/8. He’s started 21 games for them.

Tomas Pekhart initially joined Southampton on loan, but failed to make an impact, starting 2 games and making 8 sub appearances, scoring once. He has since joined Slavia Prague on loan – their season is still ongoing.

Jake Livermore had an unfortunate season, having initially been sent to Crewe for the whole year. He suffered a broken leg in pre-season, and returned to Spurs, where he has now recovered and has been playing reserve team football.

Simon Dawkins started 4 games and made 10 sub appearances for Leyton Orient, scoring 1 goal in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. He returned to Spurs in January, and has since made a few appearances for the reserves. I imagine that he’ll be released at the end of the season.

David Button has had a bit of a mixed time, spending time at Grays Athletic, where he made 16 starts, Bournemouth, where he made 4 starts and had a bit of a nightmare, Luton, where he was an unused sub, and finally Dagenham & Redbridge, where he made 3 starts.

Lee Butcher went to Margate, where he played a handful of times, before eventually spending a month at Grays to end the season, playing 3 games.

Andy Barcham went to Gillingham, initally on loan. He made 13 appearances, usually as a left winger, scoring 3 times. He eventually joined them permanently, and has made a total of 38 appearances for them, with 9 goals and 5 assists, helping them to a play-off place.

Ben Alnwick made 6 appearances for Carlisle on loan, before coming back and being a regular for our reserves. Surely another player who will move on at the end of the season – a poor signing.

Troy Archibald-Henville has had a very mixed season. Not making a single appearance in his loan spell at Norwich, it was decided that he’d come back to Spurs. He then went to Exeter, for whom he made 19 starts, helping them to promotion to League One. I would think that there is a fair chance that they will sign him permanently or take him on loan next year.

Kevin-Prince Boateng joined Borussia Dortmund on loan for the rest of the season back in January and, according to Dortmund, they have an option to buy him. I believe he has so far made 7 appearances for them. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of him at Spurs…

Dorian Dervite has been one of the biggest successes of our loanees. He joined Southend until the end of the season at the end of January, and has made 19 starts. He was one of their outstanding players throughout his spell, and I’m sure they’d love to take him permanently.

Kyle Fraser-Allen spent a month on loan at Macclesfield, making two sub appearances. He came back and played a few games for the reserves, but is another player that I imagine will move on come the end of the season.

At the beginning of March, Danny Hutchins joined Yeovil Town on a one-month loan deal, having been told that his Tottenham contract wouldn’t be renewed. He made 8 starts, and 1 sub appearance, mainly playing at right-back. He had a number of impressive displays, and supposedly Yeovil want to sign him.

Chris Gunter played 8 games for Nottingham Forest, hitting some good form. He is a player that they’d like to take permanently, but I can’t see us wanting to let him go just yet. Perhaps another loan next year will follow.

Adel Taarabt made 5 starts and 2 sub appearances for QPR, scoring once. He has been quoted as saying that QPR have made a bid for him, and that he’d like to move on in search of first team football.

Giovani Dos Santos impressed at Ipswich Town, making 6 starts and 2 sub appearances, netting 4 goals (I think 2 were penalties).

Young Jon Obika and Andros Townsend joined up with Hutchins at Yeovil Town and both made their league debuts. Both made 10 starts, with winger Townsend scoring 1 and striker Obika getting 4 goals and an assist.

Danny Rose got 3 starts and 4 sub appearances at Watford, playing in the middle of midfield, and on the left. He scored a spectacular own goal in this time, and also managed to miss a chance from two yards. However, his stint improved as it went along, and I think he’s a player they will have their eye on this Summer.

David Hutton joined Cheltenham Town, having been told that his Tottenham contract wouldn’t be renewed. He started off with two sub appearances, but soon impressed, and got 5 starts, scoring once and getting an assist. It seems he may have done enough to win himself a contract.

Yuri Berchiche joined Cheltenham Town with Hutton, and made 7 starts at left back. He is another player that I could see leaving us.