Not so much an article on the aftermath of the transfer window for Tottenham Hotspur, more a series of slightly disjointed thoughts.
Or maybe, ‘disjointed’ is a suitable summary of our transfer policy this time around. There was one constant, however: the word ‘no’, uttered in Geordie, Spanish, west country and Scottish accents, plus a few others no doubt. Levy and Harry aren’t used to this.
This blog has been highlighting the problems with our strikers for some time and to be fair to them Redknapp and Levy responded by making huge bids for high quality players. And Andy Carroll. We can’t fault them in this respect at least. Remember that whatever figure is quoted in the media is only the opening bid. If the players wanted to come, we could have upped the cash but we hit a brick wall in the shape of the cold hard realities of modern football.
It’s January and everyone is after the same scarce players, never mind clubs anxious to keep their precious assets, thereby suddenly finding the money to increase salaries and extend contracts. Thanks to Levy’s prudence we have money but there are often (but not always) others who are rich enough and desperate enough to spend beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
Step forward Roman Abramovich. He’s been quiet of late, seeing if his team can cope without him. They can’t: they need to rebuild. Faced with buying a new model or a repair job, in the end Roman cannot bear to leave his precious toy to decay so he finds a spare £50m down the back of the sofa. On the day that his club announces operating losses of around £70m, we can’t compete in this parallel reality, and neither should we.
In our world, we went big, big and risky. £25m for Carroll and clearly some sustained bargaining over the last few weeks. Again to be fair to Levy, I suspect that rate than leave things to the last minute as it appears, he and Harry have a method in their apparent madness. They work away over an extended period, making sure clubs and players know we are interested, then we come with a late run on the inside, rather than coming out of the blue. I doubt the offers as are much of a surprise to the selling club as they claim.
It’s been effective in the past but on this occasion Liverpool suddenly fulfil the criteria. Answer yes or no to the following questions: Rich – Yes. Desperate –yes. Oh god yes. Reckless – yes. Prepared to pay a bonkers sum for a largely untried but admittedly talented prospect – yesyesyes.
We can’t tick all the boxes and again, good decision re Carroll in my view, not worth the £35m risk. The Spanish players don’t fancy north London, the salary, the lack of tax breaks or the fact that they don’t really know who Spurs are. The World Famous Home of the Spurs and a CL place if you are cup tied cuts little ice if you’re fifth, I’m sad to say. Face it – they have to have a blinding reason to come and Harry’s banter isn’t it.
So we were left with nothing. That’s how it felt last night but that’s manifestly unfair. What we are left with are the players who got us into the CL last year, plus Pienaar, a useful addition in my view, and Rafa of course. There’s plenty to work with and Harry and the coaches have to work damn hard to turn around the fast fading form.
I would have liked to see the arrival of a defensive midfielder who could properly shield the defence and allow Luka and others the freedom to get forward. The Adam bid was absurd, a sign of desperation for a decent but overpriced player who does not fulfil those requirements and anyway Hud can pass better than he can.
Crouch. From my viewpoint, he’s been awful in the league this season, but I’m not going over that again. Harry’s not stupid – he put a lot of faith in Crouch who has not repaid him. The centre forward has limitations but he has been woefully off-form even by his relatively average standards. Harry must be as disappointed as I am. He didn’t expect us to be in this situation, crying out for a striker. Pav he doesn’t rate and JD lacks sharpness and the nouse to play on his own up front.
All our rivals have strengthened in this window. Sunderland have invested part of the Bent money in a couple more midfielders. Like us they don’t score that many but unlike us, they have a plan B – work like Trojans, defend hard in midfield and see what they can nick. It’s not an insult – far from it, it works in the Prem but we can’t do it. They are set for the battle.
Perhaps the most vulnerable are L’arse – scintillating midfield (although is Nasri injured?) but weak if you can get at them. But then I think that every season and look what happens…
The key people at the club right now are the coaching staff. They have to reorganise and reinvigorate our flagging form and spirits. Waiting for the CL to start again is not an option. I maintain what I said yesterday – you can’t turn form on and off. The team’s potential would be greatly increased by the addition of a top striker but what we have remains underdeveloped. There’s so much more we can do – let’s get back to basics, work like stink with this talented squad and get some results. If the strikers aren’t scoring, work on the midfield coming through into the box. Try two up front and sacrifice an attacking midfielder – even Lennon if the balance requires it. Rest Hutton and bring back Charlie again. Something different with what we have.
A final thought. Damien Commolli’s period as Director of Football created backroom tensions that harmed the club’s development. However, he brought a wealth of talent to the club, talent that needed to be developed and nurtured but was worth the wait. That supply has largely dried up since he left, assuming that Rafa’s arrival was as sudden and unexpected as the accounts make out.
Commolli may or may not have spotted those players himself and some of the deals were in the pipeline before he arrived. However, he had a wealth of knowledge about European football, the contacts to know not just about ability but also temperament, whether they wanted to settle in England, what price it would take to get them. That’s what modern scouts have to do, and it seems to me that we have to find someone who can do something similar. Given our experiences in the window, even with money that wasn’t enough. We have to get hold of players on the up, like Modric, and make them into stars.
Harry was always able to pull out a plum, However, you don’t hear so much now that he has Levy to keep a close eye on all the, um, payments. No inflated salaries either. Also, Harry’s contacts bring him players who will shine (usually) but not those of the highest quality. It’s a different world now, remember.
The problems with the DoF role were partly down to Commolli liking the power but mainly down to Levy’s weak grasp on the key management question in any business – who is in charge and what is the line of accountability for decision-taking? I don’t advocate a return to those days but call him a chief scout, call him a co-ordinator, call him Shirley, but we need someone who can find those players on their way up.