Tottenham have managed to turn around their season (although they were hardly on the ropes) and put together a run of results that presents Andre Villas-Boas far more favourably. The highlight, of course, was the win at Old Trafford, giving further evidence of just how clinical Spurs can be on the counter attack.
The manager should also be praised, as even without key components which would make his system a successful one, he appears to have the squad on side and achieving results. It’s certainly no worse than what he experienced at Stamford Bridge.
But there’s an argument that suggests Daniel Levy could have focused greater efforts on securing players the new manager desired. Hugo Lloris will become a staple in the Spurs side for many years, and there’s no question that the signing of Moussa Dembele was an impressive one. However, there are still areas that need to be addressed in the squad, notably in midfield. Spurs’ position in the league table at this stage should bode well for them should they wish to move ambitiously again in the transfer market.
There is already concrete interest in the Brazilian, with Daniel Levy reportedly having held talks for the signing of the Shakhtar midfielder in the last transfer window. But with Willian’s ability to play either centrally or on the flanks, and with Gareth Bale’s future beyond next summer coming into question, Willian would be an outstanding option in the Spurs attack. There’s a reason Chelsea were after him, although they’re certainly in no great need for him now. He’s one of he two focal points for this Shakhtar team and plays superbly as a creator from the left position. Gareth Bale gives Tottenham pace and power in a very good counter attacking system, but Willian plays a possession based game that can be equally devastating.
What about the right of Tottenham’s attack? As with Bale, Aaron Lennon provides the necessary pace in their counter attacking game and unsettles defences with the way he drives into the penalty area. But could they do with an upgrade in that position? Arda Turan doesn’t hit the same notes that the players at Real Madrid do, for obvious reasons, but the Turkish international is comfortably one of the best attackers in La Liga. He has formed an excellent partnership with Juanfran on the right, doubling up for attacks and in defence. And this is where Arda can be so important: he’s such a hard worker that he’s quickly become an invaluable asset in Diego Simeone’s team. His versatility means he can play anywhere across the attacking three, and he’s certainly got an eye for goal as well. For those outside Spain and his native land, Arda isn’t top of the list in terms of glamour signings. But he’s undoubtedly a player who could star for any team in the Premier League.
Tottenham are still without a natural replacement for Luka Modric following their failed attempts to secure Joao Moutinho. But what better way to replace the Croat than with his international team mate? It’s a real wonder why Sevilla can’t string together a run of good form, such is the quality in their squad. One of the standout performers is Ivan Rakitic, who arrived from Schalke last year. Spurs would do well to bring in creative players who take up advanced roles in the team, but there’s no doubt they need someone to occupy a place in the centre of the pitch. Rakitic has outstanding numbers in La Liga, averaging three key passes per game, equal to that of David Silva. He can play further up the pitch as well, scoring his only goal of the season so far from the advanced role against Deportivo. He passes the ball superbly, with excellent range and is equally impressive from dead ball situations. Unlike with Moutinho and Porto, Sevilla are unlikely to demand a transfer fee close to £30million, but they would certainly negotiate the parting of one of their key players should the price suit them. Due to the financial situation in Spain, Sevilla are among the many teams who would welcome respectable bids for their best players.
Roberto Soldado may be one of the only bright spots in Valencia’s terrible season so far. The Spanish international continues to be a regular source of goals, even without Ever Banega and Sergio Canales to supply him from midfield. But Tottenham don’t seem entirely at ease with their striking options. Jermain Defoe was close to the exit door during the summer and Emmanuel Adebayor hasn’t figured as prominently as he did last season. With Spurs playing with one striker up front, they can get the best of both worlds with Soldado in the team. He’s excellent at holding the ball up and working with players on either flank, and as mentioned, he continues to score even under difficult circumstances. He would have given Valencia a win over Real Madrid at the start of the season were it not for the linesman incorrectly calling offside.
Questions remain about Michael Dawson and William Gallas, and Younes Kaboul is still out. Steven Caulker looks an exciting prospect, but perhaps there is room to add greater solidity to the centre of defence. Andre Villas-Boas has obviously seen little use for Dawson, despite his qualities at the back, while Jan Vertonghen has had to fill in at left-back for the majority of the season so far. But even when the Belgian international returns to the central position, he’s very much a ball-playing defender who likes to advance out from the back. Spurs would do well to have a defender who stays at home in the mould of Benedikt Howedes. The Schalke captain has drawn plenty of attention and the German club remain firmly in the stance that they want to keep him. But he’s also versatile, able to operate at right-back and provide cover when needed. A natural leader and a defender with excellent interception percentages. Spurs would do well to have him partnering either Vertonghen or Caulker.