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Tottenham Hotspur don’t need a summer overhaul; they need patience

Kane

Tottenham Hotspur is a team eternally on the precipice. They sit on the precarious razor’s edge between greatness and obsolescence, fame and obscurity, goals and misses, and success and failure. Tottenham is constantly striving forward, trying to play with the big boys while simultaneously being pushed backward. They are swimming upstream. They are running against the wind. They are walking up the down escalator. Use whatever metaphor you would like, but leave it to Sir Alex Ferguson to describe them perfectly: “Lads, it’s Tottenham”.

The past two seasons at White Hart Lane have been interesting to say the least. Gareth Bale was sold, that money was spent, Andre Villas-Boas was sacked, Tim Sherwood was sacked, Mauricio Pochettino was hired and finally, Harry Kane ascended. The great irony of the past 730 days is that, despite all the turmoil and hand-wringing, the results were ultimately the same. At the end of the 2014 season, Tottenham sat sixth in the table with 69 points, while at the end of the 2015 season they sat at fifth with 64 points. How very, very Tottenham.

As the transfer window begins to enter full swing, the questions facing Tottenham, Pochettino and chairman Daniel Levy loom large – where are we going, and how are we getting there? The first part of that question is deceptively easy to answer. Tottenham should be competing for the top four every year. The second part is far more difficult to rankle with. The approach in the past has been to spend, spend, spend, and not always in intelligent ways. Since 2009, Spurs have brought in 35 players. Of those 35, 15 have already moved on with the recent exit of Paulinho after an incredibly disappointing time at White Hart Lane. The problem with this is that it erodes stability, of course, but also that these moves seem to be occurring with no rhyme or reason. It’s as if the top brass uses the same method to sign and sell players as the writers of ‘Family Guy’ use to craft jokes.

For once, it would serve Tottenham well to exhibit some restraint this off-season. They have a good core of young players, highlighted by Kane. We know they believe strongly in the futures of Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason, although both players had their struggles this year, especially Mason. Christian Eriksen was a revelation last season, and he is just 23. Danny Rose is 24 and certainly showed he has potential if he can be more consistent. Eric Dier is a question mark at full-back – his season was marked by moments of brilliance interspersed with far more frequent shortcomings. All of this is to say that Tottenahm is young and raw and has a lot of potential. The best way to turn that potential energy into kinetic energy is to let these players play. Give their young minds and legs some stability and guidance, and good things will come. Spend and sell rashly and risk sending the entire team into a state of tumult.

Thus far, Tottenham seem to be doing just that, surprisingly enough. While the transfer rumor mill is never to be believed in full, it is still useful if you can remember the difference between smoke and fire. Rumors do not come from thin air; that is to say, if you hear your team’s name or your favorite player’s name being thrown around a lot, something is likely afoot. Tottenham have not been on the mouths of many pundits, and that is a good sign. They have made two very intelligent signings thus far, Kieran Trippier from Burnley and Kevin Wimmer from Cologne. Neither of those players are big names, but both are young, came at a low price and played regularly for their respective squads last year. These are the kind of signings that Tottenham need to continue to make – low risk, high reward.

The other reason these were good signings is simple – defense. Despite the fact that Tottenham employs a world-class keeper in Hugo Lloris, they surrendered an astounding 53 goals this past year, tying them with Burnley as the fifth worst defensive side in the Premier League. Tottenham desperately needs to improve their defense this off-season. Wimmer and Trippier are both good additions. Trippier has a chance to start at right-back, especially if Kyle Walker makes an exit this summer, which is rumored and does seem somewhat likely, but is far from guaranteed. Wimmer will find an entry into the starting lineup a more difficult endeavor, as Dier, Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen all stand in his way at center-back.

Tottenham still should add one more full-back this summer. DeAndre Yedlin is not yet ready to start every Saturday, although there is definitely potential there. The speedy Rose is their only surefire starter on either side of the defense and his play can at times leave Tottenham open to easy counter-attacks on the flank. They need to strengthen their defense around the edges, which will hopefully stabilize their central defense led by Vertonghen, their only legitimate Premier League starter in defense.

Moving up the field, their number one need, now that they have at least added two defensive backs, is a defensive midfielder. Benjamin Stambouli and Etienne Capoue are incomplete players at best. Neither can shoulder the entire brunt of the defensive midfield work, and Capoue is one of many Spurs players rumored to be on his way out. The two made a total of 24 combined appearances last year, making minimal impact. Tottenham needs to have a strong spine, and they need at least once consistent defensive midfielder to help build that spine. Besides Vertonghen, the back four will inevitably be inexperienced and prone to getting run over by some of the league’s best strikers. The best way to hide these weaknesses is to win battles in the midfield, especially in their own half.

The rest of the midfield provides more stability. Pochettino clearly believes in central midfielders Mason and Bentaleb, and reasonably so, both showed enough flashes of brilliance (or at least competence) to give the Spurs faithful hope that they can develop into an adequate central midfield battery. They have Eriksen to lead the midfield, but he cannot do the job entirely by himself. Spurs would be wise to augment him with another young creative attacking midfielder, and luckily they have one already in Alex Pritchard, who will be returning from a successful loan at Brentford. Pritchard is probably not ready to make an immediate impact, but pair him with Eriksen and give him Kane to feed the ball to and expect his ascension to occur sooner rather than later.

Finally, we arrive at the front, where we join Sir Harold of Kane himself. Enough ink has been spilled over the past season praising Kane that I will avoid doing too much of that here. Quite simply, Kane is their attack, and there does not need to be much more of a conversation than that. They can play him in a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or even a 4-3-2-1. It does not matter. He will score. Tottenham do need to add at least one more body in the front though. Andros Townsend is probably out. The less said about Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado, the better. This leaves Nacer Chadli, who can contribute, but is far from a sure thing, and the biggest wild card in North London, Erik Lamela. No player has tantalized and tormented Spurs’ faithful as much as Lamela. The mercurial winger is equal parts unbridled potential and infuriating failure. It is impossible to separate one’s personal feelings on the player from a realistic assessment of whether or not he can become a successful Premier League player. The talent is there, though, and when it shines through it is blinding. Give him some stability and make sure he stays healthy for an entire season and hope that he takes the steps forward that are necessary.

It is fitting that Lamela is a Lilywhite. There is no player in all of soccer that personifies Spurs’ current plight than Lamela – young, talented, at times brilliant, at times very obviously youthfully impetuous and foolish, full of potential and on the precipice of either great success or great failure. It is impossible to divine which way either player or team will go as we approach the coming season. What is clear for both is that now is the time for rationality in favor of rashness and for a deft hand rather than a heavy one. The white and blue side of North London has many reasons to be hopeful for the first time in a long time, and some of those reasons do not wear number 18.

 

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. greavesandgilzean

    July 3, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Spurs only key competitive advantage is that they are prepared to play young players. So they need to make sure they keep doing so. Looking forward to seeing if Pritchard (now injured) and Alli can make it.

    aside from obvious needs at the pack (perhaps now addressed)and a real defensive midfielder (love both bentaleb and Mason but neither is quite right for that)the key is improvement on the wings. Chadli and Lamela are just good enough (or potentially) to make us ignore the fact that neither contributed any sig number of assists, and Chadli aside from his goals has gone backwards.

    we clearly need better service to Kane and wing players who can score regularly.

  2. ribman

    July 2, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    I think the Spurs by almost complete accident have fallen into a perfect EPL philosophy for them. Build through academy and accent with 2nd tier signings along younger players who haven’t quite blown up yet

    The signings that have paid off have been Bale Erikssen type that matured under Spurs, and if we develop great players like Kane then they are more likely to stick around as Harry is proving. We may not compete with Chelsea and Manchester United in signing players but we don’t have to. The best lesson we learned from the orgy of $ we got for Bale was when a team like Spurs signs big players you end up with a team without passion -no connectivity who don’t get the basics like a game with Arsenal is a big deal not just another game. Spurs should strive for the best academy on the planet.

  3. PeeLee

    July 2, 2015 at 11:37 am

    “Since 2009, Spurs have brought in 35 players. Of those 35, 15 have already moved on…”

    So in a period of six years, players who may have been with Spurs for a year or two, or five and a half years, have moved on. Nothing out of the ordinary in that, is there? How long is a player supposed to stay?

    Also, what is significant about 2009? Why didn’t you count player signings and departures from 2010 or 2011? Or from 2008 or 2007?

  4. PeeLee

    July 2, 2015 at 11:31 am

    “..is a team eternally on the precipice. They sit on the precarious razor’s edge between greatness and obsolescence, fame and obscurity, goals and misses, and success and failure”

    None of that is true. They are false opposites. And nothing presented there teeters on a precipice between those false opposites. There are great writers, chefs, electricians, footballers, for example, but others not being great can still be bloody good, really good, very capable, reliable on a number of stages to being obsolescent (you mean ‘obscure’, I think).

  5. Keith Wikle

    July 2, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Did we watch the same season?

    MP trusted around 13 players to perform.

    And out of those 13, a few could either be improved, challenged with competition, or replaced.

    The spine of this team is really, Kane, Eriksen, Bentaleb, Rose, Vertonghen, and Lloris.

    Everyone else is a question mark IMO.

    I could throw in optional passes for Dier, Chadli, and Walker.

    so that leaves holes in every single position except keeper, with the assumption lloris stays?

    So how is patience going to help?

    Here’s the shopping list

    We need a quality centerback to pair with vertonghen.

    A left back if walker is not fit, or leaves.

    Another midfielder in the pivot if mason is flaky, and a backup midfielder as clearly dembele, paulhino and stambouli were all not trusted and we will have europa/fa/league cup matches to contend with.

    Further we will need another attacking midfielder as we have to fish or cut bait on lamela or another attacking option and no one including lamela, chadli, seems to be able to cross the ball worth a damn, hell dier does a better job of crossing…

    And then we clearly need to replace soldado and adebayor as they are not worth trusting either.

    We do have delle alli, pritchard and winks, which is great news, and I am 100% behind giving these younger players a try, but that means we have to be open to using the december transfer window for once.

    Excited by the news that our first transfers have been Wimmer, and Trippier, 🙂 And if we get Alderweireld, so there are signs that the transfers are being done with a strategy this time.

    • jtm371

      July 2, 2015 at 11:24 pm

      No love for Mason?

    • Dale Wilks

      July 3, 2015 at 6:01 am

      ‘A left back if walker is not fit, or leaveS’

      I think you’ll find Walker is a RIGHT back, fella. Covered by Trippier. Yedlin. Even Fredricks.

  6. Peter Goggin

    July 2, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Stopped reading after this sentence–“Wimmer will find an entry into the starting lineup a more difficult endeavor, as Dier, Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen all stand in his way at center-back.”

    The writer clearly did not watch any matches last year or have ANY idea what is going on with Spurs if he things Wimmer has KABOUL in front of him on the depth chart at CB. Poch hates Kaboul and will never let him wear a Spurs shirt again.

  7. glenn

    July 2, 2015 at 5:00 am

    yes it’s true.it’s on he’s agents own twitter page. transfer complete. coys

    • Dale Wilks

      July 3, 2015 at 5:45 am

      Although he just signed for Seville. Agent – ha!

  8. bob

    July 2, 2015 at 12:29 am

    I just see it my on laptop. get in there levy well done. konoplyanka is a spurs player at last

    • Brett

      July 2, 2015 at 2:01 am

      Is that true??? i cant find it

    • ribman

      July 2, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      BS it’s Sevilla

  9. jay

    July 2, 2015 at 12:24 am

    BREAKING NEWS.TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR COMPLETE SIGNING OF YEVHEN KONOPLYANKA ON A FREE TRANSFER. KONOPLYANKA HAS SIGNED A 5 YEAR CONTRACT.

    • Peter Quinn

      July 2, 2015 at 3:35 am

      It’s not true.

    • Jasinho

      July 2, 2015 at 6:49 am

      Whether or not that is true, it isn’t necessary to go all caps over this. I had high hopes when they signed Paulinho too and look how that turned out…

    • Dale Wilks

      July 3, 2015 at 5:50 am

      HE’S SIGNED FOR SEVILLE, YOU PLONKER

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