Transfer activity has been slow for Tottenham at the start of this season, much to the disappointment and frustration of fans, but it appears there is finally light at the end of the twisting and turning tunnel.
Andre Villas-Boas entered the club with a blueprint and a philosophy which he believed would help achieve the success Spurs fans demand even if it didn’t arise instantly. He is a revolutionary coach and a man who knows what he wants and what he needs. He will have looked at the squad and thought to himself of the changes that needed to be made to implement his strategies best, and a large part of his ideas would have involved player movement.
Within this plan there would no doubt have been plans to overhaul the squad that was largely under-utilised and carrying much deadwood, whilst adding players capable of playing in a high-pressing energetic system based on reducing opposition time on the ball inside their own territory. So it came as a huge surprise to many that after the initial flurry of movement in snapping up Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen early in the window, their has been relative silence regarding incoming and outgoing players. Until now.
A flurry of snippets of transfer news has exploded onto social networking sites feeds, and for a change many appear to carry much plausibility. From trusted sources it can be assumed that senior figures at the club are frantically working to move money around quicker than a bank robber. But before we look at the potential incomings and outgoings let’s assess the signed, sealed and delivered.
The afore-mentioned Gylfi Sigurdsson is the type of player that would have been outlined by AVB during the interview stages of the managerial process carried out by Spurs following Harry Redknapp’s departure. The Icelandic international is a fantastic deliverer of the ball and his composure under pressure and ability to release a pass to a teammate when in tight situations means greater retained possession, keeping opposition chasing shadows. He’s also a fairly energetic player and whilst not a specialist tackler, his presence will pressure opposition into making the mistakes AVB hopes Spurs will be able to pounce upon
Long ball is not an option in an AVB system and the acquisition of Jan Vertonghen will rid of ‘Lumping it from the back’. Schooled in the famous Ajax academy, the central defender is a calming presence at the back, suited to a quick short passing game. A high line of defence is not unusual to see enforced at Ajax and that will have given the Belgian a taste of what to expect under the Tottenham manager’s guidance of the club.
Meanwhile in the departure lounge sat Croatian pair Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka, readying themselves for moves to Dynamo Kiev and Lokomotiv Moscow respectively. Both had been valuable additions to the Spurs squad, but the final years of their time at the club saw both holding peripheral roles at the club. With a lack of pace evident in both players, and work rate said to be lacking, it came as no surprise or huge disappointment to fans when the exit door opened to bid farewell.
The ageing figure of Ryan Nelsen was instantly ditched in the light of Vertonghen’s signing and soon followed last season’s inconsistent Louis Saha who will most likely have just been deemed too old for AVB’s vision.
Unfortunately the club were rocked by the departure of Ledley King in disappointing circumstances as injury eventually succumbed King to the sidelines despite years of battling through his horrific condition whereby both knees carried not an ounce of cartilage, needing constant topping up of artificial surgical alternatives. The player would undoubtedly have played a part in AVB’s team in his prime but the obvious decline in performances last season put end to any hope of King renewing his contract at Spurs.
Steven Pienaar politely left the club, as expected, to return to the more receiving Everton fans. Pienaar would have been ideally suited to a high energy pressing game, but it is believed that after talks with Villas-Boas, the South African needed guaranteed football, something that Spurs could simply not offer due to the mercurial talent of rival for the left wing position, Gareth Bale.
It was a fast and furious transitional period for the club until suddenly the Spurs fax machine stopped working. For the month after names were bandied about with little concrete evidence behind them, fans desperate to get some idea of further examples of the exciting future Villas-Boas had lined up for the club. But more importantly they needed a striker.
The opening game of the season saw Tottenham head to St James’ Park with just one recognised proven striker in Jermain Defoe. Whilst Defoe grabbed a goal and put on an admirable performance, there was simply something missing within his game. In a 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 system, the striker is the focal point of the attack and is expected to carry a lot of attacking burden. To succeed in this role, strength, hold up play and aerial prowess are extremely important skills that Defoe simply does not possess.
Emmanuel Adebayor on the other hand could be said to hold all of those attributes and it was with great delight amongst Spurs fans that his signing was announced officially, following months of hearing how close the deal was to completion. The former Arsenal man can be inconsistent at times but even when playing poorly he carries an aura of confidence that can worry even the most confident defenders. Not only that but in his time at the club last season he formed and efficient partnership with Gareth Bale, a player set to be a vital fixture of the team.
The announcement of Adebayor’s arrival had been preceded earlier in the day by the news that Sebastien Bassong had left for Norwich. It marked the end of a spell in Bassong’s career that had seen him go from one of the Premier League’s most promising players to one of the biggest liabilities. Whilst the player had all the physical attributes required, his understanding of the game was questionable at the highest level.
Following that it emerged that Michael Dawson, a club stalwart, could be leaving after a deal was struck with QPR thought to be in the region of £7.5 million. It was a move that split opinions amongst Spurs fans with a wide variation of emotions felt. Some felt it was unfair to cast off a player so nonchalantly who had served the club admirably over the years. These same fans used his England caps, his dedication to the club and the remaining presence of the older William Gallas as reasons why ‘Daws’, as he’s so affectionately known, should stay, firing venomous remarks at Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy for showing such brutality in cutting loose. Others felt it was a necessity to help the club push on whilst they could still attain a good transfer fee for an injury-prone defender.
I tend to agree with the second lot and so does AVB. Michael Dawson is one of the greatest role models Spurs have had, an honest and hard working pro, but ultimately one with his limitations. His cross field passes out to the wings have been a common trait in his game and something that many fans love, but in the system outlined by AVB this is not how he wants to play. Pace is one of the few attributes Dawson lacks and sitting on the halfway line as opposition breaks is a disaster waiting to happen. Looking past sentimental values there is no logic in keeping the player at the club whilst blocking the path of the young talented Ledley King successor Steven Caulker.
Now rumours that arose earlier in the window have resurfaced regarding Rafael Van Der Vaart returning to Germany, with either Wolfsburg, Hamburg or Schalke. Like Dawson, Van Der Vaart is a tiresome worker and his talent on the ball is clear to see. However the incoming Sigurdsson is a mirror image of Van Der Vaart in playing style, only with greater energy. This story certainly has legs with Van Der Vaart’s wife working largely out in Germany, something not ideal for the player and Van Der Vaart’s opposition to playing second fiddle (see Holland’s Euro 2012 campaign). Whether we see the end of his time at the club over the next few days remains to be seen but Spurs fans should have faith in the decisions of the new man at the helm.
On the positive side for all Spurs fans it seems as if the club are pursuing Brazil and Internacional’s striking star Leandro Damiao, with the manager announcing today that he is a player he admires and has looked at. Damiao is very similar physically to Adebayor and it is clear that these types of strikers are what AVB is looking at, with another said to be Llorente of Bilbao. Powerful strikers are evidently common in AVB’s tactics as Radamel Falcao played an integral role in FC Porto’s success under the Portugese man.
Willian and Isco are two others that Spurs have been watching closely, attacking midfielders capable of playing on either wing or just behind the striker. Both are pacy, tricky players that press opposition back. Anyone who has played in a full back role will tell you that facing pace is awkward, just ask Maicon about Gareth Bale. They both carry greater accuracy in finding their man than the inconsistent Aaron Lennon.
The Modric saga will be disappointing for Villas-Boas, with the Madrid bound midfielder a player who would implement the system set out to great effect. Nevertheless Moutinho, a player who previously excelled under AVB, has been linked with the club and if that does not come off, Sandro is a player who could step into a more advanced role.
Sometimes fans and the media need to take a look at the bigger picture. Harry Redknapp’s spell at the club was highly successful, but it will do no good harping on about the past. Did Man Utd mope about over their loss in the wake of Ronaldo’s departure? No, they pulled their socks up and won yet another Premier League title. Whether fans and pundits like it or not, AVB is here to stay and all of his changes, whether they seem mad on first thought, happen for a reason. At Chelsea he wasn’t given the opportunity to apply his touch on the side, with undermining from fans, players and the management providing his downfall.
Ferguson didn’t build United into the superforce they are now overnight. Hell, he was nearly out the door after a poor debut season, but senior figures put trust in his project. Patience is the key with AVB’s revolution just beginning. It’s going to be a rollercoaster but in the long term it could be incredible.
Viva la Revolution
image: © Vladimir Maiorov