The summer so far: Tottenham Hotspur
by James McManus
Much has been made, and perhaps rightly so, of the importance of Spurs ‘keeping their top players this summer’. I have heard this phrase so many times since May that it now has a permanent residence in my mind, similar to the infamous Ray Wilkins catchphrase ‘stay on your feet’.
It is however, an important issue to Spurs fans and on the whole, we feel Daniel Levy and co. are right to be bullish on the matter. Our little Croatian maestro Luka Modric seems to be adamant on forcing his way out of the club despite signing a new deal relatively recently, and having just under five (yes, five) years left on it. My opinion on the matter is pretty clear-cut; he is under contract and should only be allowed to leave the club when the club sees fit. If he didn’t want to be in this situation he should not have signed such a lengthy deal. Simples, you might say. Any refusal to play or train would be a breach of contract and should be dealt with as such. We can all appreciate how damaging it must be to have a player in the dressing room who does not want to be there, and also understand the view that there is no point in keeping a wantaway player. Surely though, there has to come a time when players realise that they cannot continue to bully their way out of clubs. The reality is that players under contract do not have to be sold, and perhaps Luka needs reminding of this.
That being said, £35m for a ‘creative’ player who scored three league goals and managed just three assists last season does not seem like terribly bad business. Add to that the fact that Luka was actually injured when we finally secured fourth spot the season before and life after Luka suddenly seems possible. Provided we get the right price for him and buy a genuine replacement and don’t just turn to Jermaine Jenas, then I’ll be satisfied. Also, I can tell you, Spurs fans do not view a genuine replacement as being Scott Parker. While there can be no doubting his attitude or work ethic, he simply does not have anything like the ability or guile of Modric and we would need to replace like with like in this instance.
On the issue of replacing players, there will undoubtedly be some change in personnel this summer. At present, Spurs have lots of players. An awful lot – too many in fact. The problem is that several of them are simply not good enough for where we want to be. Jonathan Woodgate of course has recently joined Stoke, and Jamie O’Hara has made his loan move to Wolves permanent. Both are decent Premiership players, but neither had a future at the club and we are far better off removing them from the wage bill than having them on it. Add to these two the list of Gio Dos Santos, David Bentley, Jermaine Jenas, Robbie Keane, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Alan Hutton and you see that a lot of selling needs to take place before Harry Redknapp can start strengthening and refreshing the squad.
The areas that need strengthening are obvious as most Spurs fans are painfully aware. Our need for a (wait for it) ‘20-goal-a-season-striker’ is clear for all to see. To be honest, I’d settle for 15 in all competitions from this long-coveted ‘top’ striker. Having an unfit Dutch midfielder as your best striker does tend to lower expectations in that respect. We have been linked with what feels like every striker on earth over the last 12 months, all to no avail, and our need for someone who can be relied upon to score regularly is an issue that must surely be addressed before the next campaign is underway. Defoe, Pav and Peter Crouch managing just 18 league goals between them says it all really.
A solid centre-half without a history of injuries would also be a welcome addition. William Gallas is the wrong side of thirty and is often on the treatment table, and Ledley King’s knees are surely going to give way once and for all before long. That leaves just Michael Dawson and Sebastian Bassong as recognised our only centre-halves without underlying fitness issues. Younes Kaboul is a decent right-back but lacks the positional sense required to be a top centre-half. Vedran Corluka simply lacks the conviction and aggression required to be an effective centre back. Blackburn’s Chris Samba and Bolton’s Gary Cahill have both been mentioned as possible signings and either one of those would be a very welcome addition. Backup to the ever-present Benoit Assou-Ekotto is also required with the young Danny Rose not really suited to a career at full-back. Unless Harry plans to chance his luck with having just one left back in the whole squad for another season, this is an area of particular necessity.
Despite the large squad and the fact that Spurs need to sell this summer more than they need to buy, most fans will agree that fourth spot is very much the aim for next season, not the expectation. While Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal still remain English football’s ‘Big Three’, Manchester City’s wealthy owners have clear designs on upsetting that party, and Liverpool’s current spending under Kenny Dalglish and our former Sporting Director Damian Comolli appears currently to know no bounds.
I’m really looking forward to watching it all unfold, and hope more than anything else that we can actually play with some consistency this season. But then again that’s not the Spurs way.
James likes Spurs, FIFA 2011 and hair gel. He dislikes Arsenal, PES and Brylcream. James will be chipping in with some more Spurs related pieces in the new season and you can follow him on Twitter here.