Spurs turning into the inverse QPR
You know how QPR are splashing out loads of money on has-beens and mediocrity in an attempt to stave off relegation? Well, Tottenham seem to be doing the opposite – putting a stack of players up for sale in an attempt to get rid of them.
Look at the list of players that Andre Villas-Boas (and probably Daniel Levy too) has got rid of, actively tried to get rid of or is rumoured to want to get rid of:
– Ryan Nelsen (defender – released)
– Vedran Corluka (defender – sold)
– Sebastian Bassong (defender – sold)
– Michael Dawson (defender – rumoured to to be off to QPR)
– Niko Kranjcar (midfielder – sold)
– Steven Pienaar (midfielder – sold)
– Luka Modric (midfielder – sold)
– Tom Huddlestone (midfielder – rumoured to be off to Stoke)
– Scott Parker (midfielder – rumoured to be transfer listed)
– Rafael van der Vaart (midfielder – rumoured to be transfer listed/off to Hamburg)
– Aaron Lennon (winger – rumoured to be transfer listed)
– Louis Saha (forward – released)
That’s basically most of the team. The incomings? Jan Vertonghen, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Emmanuel Adebayor and…umm, yeah. That’s it. By 11 pm on Friday, Villas-Boas and Levy’s aim will be to have shipped out at least 12 players (not counting other make-weights like Bentley, Jenas, Gomes and dos Santos who are still there), and so far they’ve signed 3, with Moussa Dembele possibly to be added to that.
Obviously Villas-Boas wants to develop a younger squad that can play his style of football – high pressing, passing, pace. That was his aim at Chelsea, although he failed because he found it difficult rooting out what he saw as the weak links and the fact it was just too big a task to achieve – you can’t just get rid of virtually everyone. And yet that’s what he seems to be doing here. Has he learned anything? It seems not. He has binned or wants to bin all these players and seemingly expects no repercussions? It’s certainly an imposition of authority, and I doubt he’ll quite have the egos as at Chelsea.
But there is one issue – the fact that you do actually have to have players to play football. It’s quite important, you know. Or, to put it another way, you’ve got to replace any players you get rid of with good players. You can’t improve a squad just by getting rid of players. Villas-Boas has two days to do bring a stack of players in. He probably will sign Dembele, providing they can agree personal terms before Manchester United hijack the deal. Then, he might sign M’Vila. He might sign Willian. He might sign Moutinho. And he might sign Lloris. These are rumoured but seemingly drawing no near to a conclusion. It’s unlikely that all of these will happen.
There are so many questions left unanswered here:
– Spurs have four senior centre-backs at the moment (plus Caulker who’s still only 20), one of whom may leave before the end of the deadline. Four centre-backs ordinarily wouldn’t be enough for what they are aiming for. Three certainly isn’t. But they haven’t been linked with a new centre-back. So where’s it going to come from?
– Spurs still only have two strikers, one of whom is Jermain Defoe, surely not a long-term part of Villas-Boas’ plans (if he has any knowledge of football whatsoever). Again, though, they’ve not been linked with another striker.
– With Parker and Huddlestone on their way out, who’s going to play as the holding midfielder if Sandro is out? Jake Livermore isn’t that good. Jermaine Jenas is surely only there because everyone’s forgotten he’s there. M’Vila might not sign – they aren’t the only team interested in him. There are questions over whether or not he’s even that good. And he has a neckbeard.
And this is a squad that’s meant to be aiming for a Champions League spot. Villas-Boas surely realises that squad rotation is a necessary part of the game. You need a deep squad to challenge the big guns of the Premier League. In fact, the lack of squad rotation was one of the main reasons why they didn’t make the Champions League last season – players were over-played and became tired.
Of course, he may have a few fingers in pies (as Martin Ling would say) that haven’t already been discovered by transfer rumourists. But given that all of these incoming transfers aren’t guaranteed, there’s a very real risk that Spurs, when the music stops on Friday night, will end up in a worse position than when they started – yes, the mediocre (in AVB’s eyes) players will be gone, but no one has replaced them. Of course the sales of players may not happen until players have come in, but that’s still leaving a squad Villas-Boas didn’t want, with players that know their manager didn’t want them who can’t play the type of football he wants to play. That’s very awkward. That’s mainly why he’s in North London and not West London at the moment.
The question isn’t so much about what Villas-Boas wants to achieve. It’s more the way he’s going about it. Why is it that three players have allegedly been transfer-listed two days before the end of the transfer window? Why has it taken this long? He’s had all summer to shape the squad he wants. Now it’s panic stations. That’s never conducive to a good squad or a happy environment. It all feels a bit Football Manager, which isn’t surprising as the Portuguese is supposed to be a big fan of the game – it seems as if he’s detached from the players, as if he’s thinking they don’t actually exist. He’s still young and inexperienced, but that isn’t an excuse – it’s a level playing field for all.
In the great traditions of FM, though, he now needs to do some wheeling and dealing that ‘Arry would be proud of. Of course Levy is pulling the strings, as he did with his predecessor, but Villas-Boas probably wants a more specific type of player – he needs someone who can play the type of football he wants, and he can’t just sign anyone from a previous club, because that would be a bit difficult considering he only has three previous clubs (unless there are a couple of undiscovered talents in the British Virgin Islands).
But fear not, Spurs fans, there is a precedent with a happy ending, although you still might not want to look – Arsenal last year. Wenger still managed to bring in a few half-decent players at the end of the window to stop them from losing 8-2 every week, and they did finish 3rd. So there’s hope yet. Spurs at least won’t get relegated (unless Alex McLeish is appointed by December), but as last year showed, Levy wants Champions League football and trophies. And, crucially, so does Gareth Bale. If they don’t get them, another key part of the dream will float away.