EPL preview 2012-2013: Tottenham
We continue our preview of the 2012-13 English Premier League season. This week we turn our gaze on Tottenham Hotspur.
2011/2012 RESULT: Fourth
MANAGER: Andre Villas-Boas
Ins: Andre Villas-Boas (Free), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Hoffenheim), Jan Vertonghen (Ajax)
Outs: Harry Redknapp (Free), Ledley King (Retired), Emmanuel Adebayor (Manchester City – Returned from Loan), Vedran Corluka (Lokamotiv Moscow), Niko Kranjcar (Dynamo Kiev), Ryan Nelson (QPR), Lois Saha (Free), Oscar Jansson (Shamrock Rovers), Bongani Khumalo (PAOK – Loan), Massimo Luongo (Ipswich Town – Loan), Ben Alnwick (Barnsley)
To put it bluntly, Villas-Boas has inherited a squad of players that is the wrong end of five years of rushed transfers. The above list demonstrates this.
The squad is messy, disorganised and severely lacking in a stocktake – and the above transfers don’t even included the players returning from loan spells.
The untidy nature of the ‘bargain basement’ transfers under Redknapp and his predecessors has left the Tottenham squad fat, confused and lopsided: one full time striker, 12 midfielders (8 of which are centre mids), nine defenders and three ageing goalkeepers.
This needs to change, and this change must be more than the sum of it’s parts. It has to symbolise a new era for Spurs: gone with the underachieving, wage hogging excess fat that were ‘nearly theres’ (that’s YOU Bentley, Bassong, Jenas, Gallas and Dos Santos), and hello to something younger, more exciting… and better.
To do this, first and foremost on Villas-Boas’s list of concerns is to give Levy some emotional support and encourage him to budge on his £40 Million evaluation of Modric. He’s got to go, and go fast (for squad cohesion, and to prevent being ripped off on transfer deadline day).
Realistically, Modric is justified in demanding a transfer from Tottenham: he stopped being a Tottenham player the second Drogba scored the winning penalty to seal Chelsea THAT Champions League victory. Fact. Relationship over. It’s not him, it’s us.
Then the fun begins, Villas Boas subsequently sells our symbolic midfielder and perennial deadwood under achievers and purchases something better: less quantity, more quality. The cash from the Modric sale, and freed up wages, will trigger key signings in this exact order:
1) A replacement CM (Moutinho, Willien, Moussa, Carzola, the fat bloke from your five-a-side – it doesn’t really matter who)
2) Emmanuel Adebayor
3) A target man up front
4) A younger goalkeeper
These key signings, plus the promotion of young talent such as Caulker and Rose, will provide Tottenham with the balance across the pitch it needs.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Gylfi Sigurdsson. The 22 year old Tottenham freshman is a fantastic purchase. Strong in the air, intelligent off the ball, good passing range, strong and skilful with the ball at his feet, unique ability to ghost past players and most importantly, an absolute Kraken in his right boot.
Seriously, his shot stops time. And no, he is not a replacement for Luka Modric: sitting in the hole just behind the striker, this guy will score goals and set up just as many, but will not be our playmaker.
And for the budding fantasy manger, he will be on penalties. And free kicks. And corners. If he stays injury free and gels with the squad, this guy will be a legend before Christmas.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Reflecting on the transfers and subtle team mechanic changes (4-2-3-1 and suicidally high defensive line), this year’s Tottenham will be a new look squad with the same playing style: fast, stylish and relentless attacking play while remaining responsibly rubbish at the back.
Our philosophy will focus on scoring one more than the opposition. Our squad has been strengthened, but so has everyone else’s, so expect us to finish a comfortable fifth. Without the legend of our ‘Cartilage Free (ex)Captain’, we predict the penalty box hero Michael Dawson to be skipper.
Dawson will do so from the bench until his long term injuries sort themselves out – that or Andre Villas-Boas ditches his suicidally high defensive line, whichever comes first. Vice captaincy goes to our future club legend, Sandro.
– - – - – - – - Friedal – - – - – - – -
Walker – Kaboul – Vertonghen – Assou-Ekotto
– - – - Sandro – - – - Modric replacement
Van Der Vaart – - – Sigurdsson – - – - –Bale
– - – - – - – Adebayor – - – - – - –
Tottenham do not have a reserve team. The decision was made in 2009 that it would be more beneficial for their youngsters to be loaned out to other teams to gain first-team experience in a competitive environment. If this has been a success is still up for interpretation.
The likes of Kyle Walker and Steven Caulker have certainly benefited from their respective loan stints, but how has it affected those players on the fringe of the first team? Would Niko Kranjcar or Gio dos Santos have been able to push for more first team start had they been playing week-in-week-out right under the nose of their manager?
It will be interesting to see what Andre Villas-Boas’ take on the reserve situation will be.