I know that new things are shiny and hard to resist. I mean, it’s been a whole week since Tottenham has signed someone. And we haven’t had a real transfer saga the entire summer, as much as we tried to create one with Ben Davies.
So the time is right, I suppose, to get back on the merry-go-round and go after the highly-rated French international and first-ballot Football Twitter Hall-of-Fame nominee Morgan Schneiderlin.
“He’s big. He’s tall. He wins the ball.
“He forced his way to Tottenham.
“We took him off of Krueger’s hands,
“To lead us back to Wembley again,
“Morgan Schneiderlin Tottenham’s super man.”
I can hear it now. Spurs are playing the ball around the box, pinning the opponent back, pushing forward, when Andros Townsend takes a touch too many and loses the ball. The opponents break, but before the danger can really develop (whether at that instant or closer to Spurs’ goal), Schneiderlin slides across, intercepts or tackles, and plays a pass out to a fullback. Simple, yet something that keeps the momentum on the right side and something that our high-pressing manager would value. We as fans would love him, I’m sure. This past season, he finished 3rd among midfielders in tackles and 9th in interceptions, and, working under the same manager, it’s not unreasonable to believe that he’d be able to replicate that form at White Hart Lane.
Except Spurs still have Etienne Capoue, a razor-thin selection of centerbacks, a variety of mediocrity (or much of a muchness, if you will) on the left wing, and too little stability in recent times. Schneiderlin has a price tag, redundant attributes, and only a place as a co-defensive midfielder with Capoue. Spurs shouldn’t be pursuing a high profile signing just to have another good defensive midfielder. The circumstances at the club are not right to pay a big sum of money for him, and I hope that Spurs focus their energies elsewhere.
A healthy and well-managed Capoue can do everything that Schneiderlin did at Southampton under Pochettino. As footballers, they are remarkably similar. Both are sturdy, upright runners who read the game extremely well and have the ability to pass. Except neither pass it all that dangerously.
Schneiderlin is not a cure to the 10 Yard Sideways Syndrome that Sandro, Dembele, and Paulinho suffer from far too often. He makes very few key passes, completes very few through balls, and whether he’s considered the main defensive midfielder, or given license to get further forward, he is a ball recycler, not someone who can be relied on to create chances. Playing him with Capoue is not feasible, as Spurs shouldn’t rely solely on Lamela, Eriksen, and Soldado for chance creation. A more creative player needs to be played in the center of the field with Capoue. Bentaleb, Carroll, or a hopefully resurrected Dembele would do well there.
It helps that Etienne has looked fantastic this pre-season. He has the ability to physically dribble and push by people, and shows off a superior range and ambitiousness of passing. Whether he played the full 90 minutes against Chicago as a shop-window show-off or as a fitness test, he was great. He was in it from start to finish, sweeping up stray passes, playing the ball forward between the lines, and mixing in an occasionally accurate cross-field long ball. He will command a $0 transfer fee this window, and he has shown the potential to serve as our prime Re-Creator throughout this upcoming season.
Capoue is now 26 years old, so physically, he is right in his prime. He has had a full pre-season with a manager who got the best out of an extremely similar player. And judging by how he’s played so far in the pre-season, he is well on his way to overcoming his Post Tim-matic Stress Disorder. His play has echoed a renewal in confidence, an obviously strong fitness level, and an excitement to play for Pochettino. (I imagine their first meeting after Pochettino was hired, playing Sherwood’s and Ferdinand’s defensive midfielder soundbites, and sharing a good laugh together.) Yes, Capoue is coming off an injury, but athletes come back from moderate injuries all the time when they have ample time to recover and a promising set-up to come back to.
Everything adds up to Capoue being to Spurs what Schneiderlin was to Southampton. So let’s just sit still for a change. Let’s just focus on what the team has or really needs, if anything, and forget the Twitter rumor or row of the day, the instant gratification, the new toy that after two weeks will look like all the rest of them.
Throughout Spurs time in the US, the overwhelming sentiment from people I spoke to was excitement regarding the manager. The fan base, at least vocally, is putting 100% faith in him. Most are crediting the club with a brilliant hire, the correct move. As am I. The gaffer has shown he can show up on the scene at a club, take what he has (including the youth system), and get a team playing his way, an attractive way, and most importantly, an attractive way that gets results. And Spurs have a better cast of characters than Southampton had. We have two legitimate world-class young players (prospects, depending on who you ask). We have a top-5 goalkeeper in the world. We have a good, stable, young left back. And we already have our screener/distributor. Pochettino can do tons of good with this team plus the money we should be saving instead of spending on the first shiny player that hands in a transfer request and wants to join us. I just hope he has enough faith in himself, the roster, and specifically Capoue to do so.
Stats courtesy of Ted Knutson of StatsBomb.com.