Tottenham Hotspur’s first foray into the transfer market has hardly been the blockbuster signing may fans hoped for. However, Redknapp’s purchase of a couple of Kyles provides some fresh insight into his plans for the club, on and off the pitch.
Messrs Walker and Naughton caught my eye when I watched Sheffield United a few times at the end of last season. Both are agile and pacy, early days but very much in the modern mould of the multi-skilled full-back who uses speed and timing as defensive weapons, rather than the traditional attributes like hard tackling. Those talents are essential in attack too, plus a good cross comes in handy.
Having overcome Jol’s fixation on collecting centre-midfielders, Redknapp is apparently compelled to stockpile right backs. Although both these boys are for the future – Walker is being loaned back to the Blades to continue his footballing education – this deal is part of Harry’s wider plans to rebuild the squad.
We have a number of right backs but actually they are different types of player. Corluka, who I rate extremely highly, is excellent defensively but less dynamic going forward. Centre half could be his eventual home.
Hutton looks strong in both departments. In his first game back at the end of last season as a sub, he signalled his arrival with a superb fast swerving cross, a reminder of what we had been sorely missing for most of last season. But word is that Hutton has a bit of a problem off the field, maybe likes a drop or two and can’t take it, so he’s being touted around.
Chimbonda was bought in different times, to cover a defensive problem that never materialised as Woody and King stayed fit and BAE grew into a class act.
Full backs are crucial to tactics that succeed in the Premiership. Lying deep, they can see openings ahead of them and utilise that precious space, providing they are sufficiently swift and aware. I retain high hopes for Bale in just such a role, but he needs to work on the defensive aspects of his game.
Naughton therefore gives us the attacking full back option, one that Harry wants to develop, although in my view every effort should be made to keep Hutton. At Portsmouth, Redknapp out of necessity went for a different option at first, as did O’Neill at Villa. Both constrained by budgets, they deployed centre halves at full back. They stayed back, did not come out of position and provided a platform for the midfield and attackers to move up. When an alternative became available in the shape of Glen Johnson, Redknapp changed style, allowing him to advance frequently. The arrival of the Kyles may well signal his preference for this formation, or at least have that option available, depending on how attack minded our opponents allow us to be.
One casualty is another more defensive minded player, Chris Gunther. A shame: he looked promising. We did not need the cash to complete the Kyle deal. Rather, he is an example of a player who we might have happily kept but who is expendable if Harry believes he can do better. The same applies to several other squad members. Expect more deals where we sell only when the replacement has been sorted.
He is also a victim of our excessive turnover of managers. Each has been given Levy’s full backing, each has their own idea of which players they want, especially risky in the business of spotting young talent. Gunther, Taarabt, Gio, perhaps Bale: Harry does not value the potential in which previous managers invested. Possibly a waste of talent, certainly a waste of money. These are the hidden costs of the constant regime changes,
Levy must shoulder full responsibility, but he can be a shrewd dealmaker. The reputed £8m is a fortune for two young unproven players but in years to come it may be seen as a wise investment. In the here and now, we are not going to pay it all in a single lump sum. Also, we have two assets not possessed by our bidding rivals Everton – cash and squad players. Levy used both as levers, cash upfront and a promise that Sheffield can take players on loan this season to seal the deal. Nice work, and, as I said last time, a lot of money and some risk, but what Harry wants, Harry gets.