Windows and West Brom

The team’s the thing. This season was always going to be about the manager, about how Andre Villas-Boas created something greater than the sum of its parts. That’s what he came with, his organisation and tactics to bring added value, his ambition to convince players that, like him, they could better themselves.

The men who came were cast in the same mould. Vertonghen, Dembele, Lloris, Sigurdsson, all skillful, technical players, all on the up, wanting to prove themselves at a high level, Caulker the same only promoted from within. More to come from Bale, Lennon and Sandro, all still to reach their peak.

But there were gaps. No Moutinho, the man our manager wanted above all else, only two strikers plus one opportunistic purchase in Dempsey. The season began in earnest when the summer window shut. Villas-Boas looked around at what he had, a fine team, decent squad, a wonderful club. He shrugged and told himself that’s good enough to be getting on with.

The die was cast. The January window was an irrelevance and always would be. We need a striker but top quality players are seldom available until the summer. Levy failed to produce a rabbit out of hat, or even a Rasiak or a Booth for that matter. Another body would have been something but I like to think we are beyond that now. The striker, the right striker, mobile, clever, aware, would inspire and energise the whole team. I was disappointed,  shrugged and told myself that’s good enough to be getting on with.

In the summer Daniel Levy did not fully back his manager in the market. He did spend a great deal of money but as I’ve said many times before, it’s less about the cash for Levy and more about value. Sure, he likes a bargain and the signing of Holtby could well be a masterstroke but like any good businessman he understands about an investment that matures over time. However, Levy waited to see how his new manager performed. Having had his fingers burned with his appointment of Hoddle, Santini and Ramos and probably tired of dealing with Redknapp’s demands for players, he decided to hang on. Hardly a ringing endorsement but the decision was made and we all got on with it.

I’ve expressed my disappointment in the past and haven’t changed my view that Levy was in the best possible position in the

Lewis Holtby

Lewis Holtby

summer to spend big on two players and stretch rather than break our wage structure without dumping the prudent financial approach that has built a solid foundation for the future. We should have paid for another striker and the extra for the Moutinho deal. But this is now and this window was never going to make a significant difference.

We seemed to have made an effort but the fans will never know how hard we really tried. In our frustration, perspective is the first victim. I should know better but strayed onto Twitter as the window closed. The supposed Spurs fan who compared Levy unfavourably with Hitler because Hitler had the decency to kill himself needs to take a long, hard look deep inside their vile soul and sort himself out.

The reality is more straightforward. Clubs do not want to sell their best players. They can get another half-season from them.  They can plan for a replacement. If we are prepared to offer big bucks for Damiao, I’d hang on until the summer if I were his chairman because others might come in too. Nothing a chairman likes more than a bidding war for one of his players. If I were Damiao, I’d hang on for the same reason. And perish the thought that a Brazilian international might pause for a moment before coming 6000 miles from home to a club in a poor part of north London with a capacity of 36,800 not in the Champions League. Another target, Willan, did go – for £30m. Out of our league.

Never mind the ‘ifs’, what I am is fan who pays a hell of a lot of money to feed his passion. I am the most patient of individuals. A colleague once said to me, “The trouble with you, Alan, is that you see both sides of the argument.” She did not intend it as a  compliment. I will watch patiently as our destiny reveals itself and support Villas-Boas, who is doing a good job. But if even I can sense the frustration, others will express it more vehemently. There’s an undercurrent of exasperation amongst the supporters because we know better than anyone what those one or two players could achieve for our team. It’s expressed on the messageboards, on twitter and in the flat atmosphere at some games. You can’t keep asking the fans to pay through the nose and expect us meekly to toddle through the turnstiles and accept these big mistakes. Fans are loyal but not docile.

Leave me out of any debate that is polarisied between the so-called Levy lovers and Levy haters. I’m interested only in my club. Guess what, nobody gets everything right. Broadly I support Levy’s approach. His financial acumen has stabilised the club and we’re free of the dark shadow of debt that hangs over so many clubs but his choice of manager has not matched his accountancy skills. He’s helped to get us to where we are now but should have backed his man in the summer, and it’s a fatal flaw because I’ve written that same sentence for the last three summers. At the risk of repeating myself, in the summer the financial and footballing conditions were perfect to spend big on two top class players. Levy’s hesitation could cost us dear.

So here we are. Fourth place and exposed to a lack of striking options and injuries to our defensive midfielder. But the team is the thing and the task for Villas-Boas remains the same, to sort out the right formation, particularly in centre midfield where if we get it right, we can both protect the back four and get more goals.

Harry Kane. Or is it?

Harry Kane. Or is it?

On the positive side, to be up there shows how well our Andre is doing with what he has. The dynamic between Dembele and Holtby is especially important. I’d try one up front and play both, see how that goes. It will give Lennon and Bale some freedom too. He also has to get the best from players, just as he did at the start of the season. Many have improved but Walker badly needs some defensive coaching and Caulker needs to progress. Kaboul soon? Hope so.

Yesterday we saw what Holtby can bring to the team, a whirlwind of a footballer so involved, surely we cloned him at half-time or brought on his identical twin. Talking of which, have we ever seen Lewis and Harry Kane on the same pitch…I don’t think so. He makes the runs from deep into the channels. which is where the damage is done, then drops back to break up  play. Goals can come from midfield not just strikers.

If we can’t get a striker, the next best thing is to play against ten men. That needless dismissal turned an even match in our favour. Kudos to Steve Clarke for not defending Popov in the slightest. Less kudos to the West Brom fans who barracked Walker for the sin of being spat at. Before that, our high line against two strikers eager to chase early long passes brought back uncomfortable reminders of last week.

It’s a good way to play against us but it also leaves space behind, and in Gareth Bale we have a world-class footballer waiting to take advantage. Playing inside with a starting position that was not too advanced, we had an extra man in the midfield even before the sending off. He had an outstandng game even by his standards, For younger Spurs fans, you have the chance to see your own legend in the making. You too will be able to tell tales to your grandchildren of one of Tottenham’s finest. A glorious winner, thumped left footed, but the abiding memory is that succession of weaving runs, slaloming through the defenders with the grace and power of an Olympic skier.

A good first half from Dembele, a good second from Parker, a good match from Lloris. We kept the ball well, kept it moving and in

I'm really confused now

I’m really confused now

the end our patience was rewarded.

One final thought from my straightforward world. If we can’t score as many as we would wish, we could get our points by decent defending. Blanket defence is not our thing but talk of tactics and organisation is not all about false nines, runs from deep and balls into channels. It’s about getting back behind the ball, about keeping it, about not over-committing. It’s about holding on to those precious goals when they come along. Over to you, Andre.

15 thoughts on “Windows and West Brom

  1. Your interest may only be in the club but Levy runs the club and you can’t divorce the two things.You rationalise too much mate.
    You think it’s better to do business in the summer and never mind the January window ?
    All well and good in an ideal world.Our reality is that the team are starting to show signs of wear and tear and we have no out and out strikers at the minute.Levy is an arsehole
    He put in a bid for Damio that he knew would be rejected.Thats an old Alan Sugar trick.Do these people think the supporters are stupid ?
    Levy has left us in the lurch once again.Our team is depleted and tired and the chairman makes.A pathetic Half arsed effort to rectify things?
    Sorry.Not good enough.I can see Spurs fading slowly but surely and a 5th or 6th place finish beckons and if we wind up there , who are we gonna attract in the summer when you say that business ought to be done?
    Business ought to be done when needs must… And if ever we needed to bolster the squad the January window was it. An opportunity missed,and missed on purpose by a chairman who id love to see the back of sooner rather than later .

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    • Make that August not January. Fine if the players had been available this past month but it’s the summer when the real business is done and Levy’s half-hearted support of his manager then could cost us dear. Players of the quality we need aren’t available. I would have gone for Sturridge but recall him not being happy with Andre at Chelsea because he played him out of position. I wouldn’t say the Damiao bid was halfarsed so much as pie in the sky. He was never going to come for the reasons I’ve given in the article. I didn’t really take any notice of the ITK to be honest.

      Regards, Al

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  2. Who knows we might just get away with it.
    Levy was lucky yesterday in that we won the game with Popov’s help
    even after our lone striker was helped off.
    Also because Togo are out of the African Cup and Adebayor could be available for the next game.
    But its no way to run a railway with all the engines either in the repair shop
    on a special excursion in S.Africa.
    Memo to Mr. Levy: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

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    • It will be a good season, Jim – as you suggest it’s what it could be that is the problem. Get that midfield mojo working, keep it tidy at the back and it’s one-nil to the Tottenham. Or else a triumphant march to the CL led by Obika…

      All the best Jim, hope things are good with you

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  3. There’s a downside to hardball negotiating and that’s whenever the other side has options. There seems to be a ever increasing list of people who’ve been bitten by Levy in the transfer market and if you can wait or deal with someone else, then you’ll take that option.
    I don’t have a beef with Levy over the Damiao deal in this window on its own. The question of third party ownerships always makes deals like this difficult. I can imagine this was no different and lowball offers will always struggle to grab the interest of all the parties (which is why there is often a high buy out clause to cut through all that sort of thing). However I do have an issue over what has been a consistent failure to secure a decent balanced forward line.
    The main damage was, as you said, done in the summer but I think there was significant added impetus to signing a striker in January which justified more urgency. Ade has been poor, Defoe’s fitness was suspect even before yesterday, Dempsey is not an out and out striker and Kane was injured whilst out on loan depriving him of the experience he needs to become a PL striker. The gamble in financial terms seems straightforward. We’ll get in the order of £20m extra via a CL place offset by the extra costs from buying a striker in Jan vs Jun and any extra wages (spread over the length of his contract). It seemed worth more effort even if we’d have done some sort of Saha type deal just to give us some cover. We’ll just have to hope that midfielders other than Bale can contribute more goals and we may need to try someone up front like Dembele.
    On a more positive note, I thought it was a highly competent performance yesterday. Bale had a magnificent game and Holtby seemed to bring that bit of sparkle that we’ve been missing this season. I’ve certainly not given up hope of CL qualification but we’re really making it difficult for ourselves.

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  4. Not getting another striker smacks of negligence – we’ve needed one for 2 years. Surely there were options other than Damiao?
    We got lucky against West Brom and the result could easily have been a 4th draw in a row or worse…Bale’s goals apart, we’ve looked a bit toothless up front for a team with top 4 pretensions. To me we look too predictable and too slow in our build up and I think we will struggle against the better teams. I happened to watch Newcastle v Chelsea last Saturday and I think Sisoko and co will cause us a few problems. Hopefully Adebayor will be back ( and turn up ) and Holtby will start…

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    • We’re playing well but as you say, deep breath v the bigger sides. Newcasle will attack but also are open – not good at shutting teams down and we like a bit of space to move about. The options should have been seriously explored in the summer.

      Regards, Alan

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  5. As much as there was inaction by Levy in the transfer window, I agree that the summer window is a time when more rational (rather than desperate and frantic) decisions are made. Yes, it’s massively disappointing that we still don’t have a top striker yet, but we shouldn’t just dip in for anyone, and Modric replacements don’t grow on trees. A poor signing or a number of basic cover signings can be detrimental to a squad, so I understand Levy’s thinking, but watching Spurs generally, and the Defoe situation in particular, in the first half yesterday did worry me. Once again what made us tick for much of last season was missing, that great Modric/Parker combo which somehow freed Bale and Lennon on the wings, and made us a seamless and attractive ‘winning’ team. Parker and Dembele are not the best of mixes, as good and as hard working as they are, even with Bale helping inside too, The cohesion is too often not there. WBA were bullying us and looking the more likely to score first as Norwich were in the first half last week. Again our defenders were exposed too often, we ‘booted’ up field too much, and when Defoe went off (and out for a month or so) many of us really were waving bye bye to fourth.
    BUT …something happened and I truly feel now it isn’t that bad for the immediate future!
    OK we were playing 10 men in the 2nd half, but our swarming midfield play, necessitated by having no replacement striker, was impressive. Holtby is looking the business and it seems he can fit in anywhere. He could be a far better buy than VDV ..who often had nagging injury problems .. while our strengthened midfield, with no recognised ‘strikers’, and led by Bale, looked a real force (whether playing a team of 10 or 11). Who knows, but with Scotty given more time to play in front of the back four, and Holtby assisting Dembele, plus Dempsey able to switch back to midfield at any time, maybe we can still do this …and Ade’s surely back for the weekend too!
    Apart from his hot and cold striking form, Defoe mostly runs about a lot ..with little purpose at times, and without creating too much space for others.
    OK, maybe I’m being unfair because I like him and he is capable of goals at critical times, but the team, even without a proper playmaker and a top striker, can still go forward and cement a top four finish …because we have a strong midfield (in depth ..both holding and attacking) and a strong all round defence.
    Everyone can score goals, not just Bale, if our midfield and wingers are hammering away at the opponents’ back four/door ..but what we must hope is that there’ll be no more serious injuries in these final 13 games. With Sandro out, Kaboul has to come back soon, while Sig, Hud, Gallas, Caulker, Norton and Livermore can cover adequately. The big thing is that Bale must stay fit, and must be rested for the Europa games (as much as I’d love to see Spurs do well in that competition).
    All is not lost. We still need that potentially legendary striker in the summer and Levy must be prepared to pay to get him, whether we finish top four or not, and we still need a Modric clone, but this squad has the ability, quality and depth to ride out the next few months and get that top four; and not fade, as Harry’s squad did from late February onwards last year.

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    • A swarming midfield, perfectly put. You’re right about the summer, but as has been the case in previous years, it’s also about keeping the players we have. keeping Bale.

      Regards, Al

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  6. Loads of dissenters screaming for a new striker, but there’s an awful lack of names I notice? When the ‘Strikers-4-You’ shop has a late night opening or even a sale on, perhaps DL may want to use up his Nectar points on purchasing one of these mythical beasts? Talk’s cheap-but actually getting in a ‘top striker’ isn’t easy in real terms. Should we go for, say Jordan Rhodes? He only cost 8m, so Blackburn would accept 10m-maybe 11, for an unproven forward. Leanadro said he never wanted to leave Brazil, although it’s taken him 2 years to actually say it? What about Drogba or Anelka? Oh, we can’t afford 150-200k per week in a country that pay’s less tax…any other suggestions out there-c’mon it’s easy isn’t it?

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    • Well said. The grass is always greener on the YouTube clips of strikers you’ve never actually seen play a full game.

      And for every Michu or (maybe) Benteke, there’s a bunch of Torres-like purchases around. Better for a club like us to err on the side of caution, work on the youth side, and buy young exciting players where we can.

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      • Well said gentlemen!! Hear, hear!
        Modern football supporters & FM obsessives, eh?!
        We are an extremely run club, who backed the menager with a world class goalkeeper, ball playing centre half & midfielder and 2 ball palying attacking mids, with a knack of getting a goal or 2… All of this after having the HEART of the team taken away, our best centre half ever?, world class midfielder and attacking mid, all of whom any team would miss, not to mention we’ve only been able to field 4 of last seasons regulars togehter.
        I feel we’re ticking & growinmg very nicely.. The race is on… lets be ‘avin’ ya
        COYS

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    • I’ve written about the mythical striker to take us to another level. I have no idea who he might be but I didn’t see a bidding war from other clubs for this man, meaning clubs were saying no sale until the summer.

      Regards, Al

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