Given the recent efforts from the men and women at Sky Sports to turn the January transfer window into a box-office national institution, it hardly needs another article to over-inflate its extravagance even more. But for Tottenham Hotspur, it’s hard to quantify just how important the first month of 2013 might be to the North London club.
You don’t need any luminous yellow ticker bar or size 72 font to spell out the task that awaits Spurs chairman Daniel Levy when the transfer window reopens. More than just the mid-season addition of reinforcements, the Essex-born businessman faces a month of desperately needed redemption.
Because for all the merit of his past achievements with this football club, the fact remains that Levy indisputably failed new managerial Andre Villas-Boas back in the month of August.
After making the decision to part ways with Harry Redknapp, Levy decided to turn to the youth and verve of Villas-Boas to take the club in a new direction. His appointment split many fans down the middle, but when all was said or done, the White Hart Lane support took it upon themselves to get behind their new man. Unfortunately, Levy didn’t seem to get the memo.
As we now find ourselves well into November, the legacy of the summer months is hanging over both Villas-Boas and the rest of the side, as the Lilywhites go into this weekend’s North London derby with a squad not so much lacking in ability, but lacking in identity.
Levy knew what he was getting in Andre Villas-Boas. The Portuguese manager’s tactical blue print and ethos of playing was hardly some government secret and supporters knew that a shift towards the 4-3-3 method of playing that adorned his Porto days, was always going to be on the cards. But a tactical overhaul will only work if a manager is given the right tools to do it.
The metronome-like figure of Joao Moutinho was the one player AVB craved more than any other. A midfield focal point capable of instigating the passing and pressing game of which he wished to instil at White Hart Lane, a player whom he knows from experience, has exactly what his grand designs require.
Although Moutinho never came to Spurs. Why? Daniel Levy’s high stakes game of poker with Real Madrid over Luka Modric, ensured the club waited till deadline day to make a move for Villas-Boas’ number one target. But although failure to acquire your number one target is one thing, the abject inability to seek out a similar compromise is quite another. The signing of Clint Dempsey from Fulham was, for all his graft, the ultimate booby prize for the Portuguese.
Dempsey of course, has almost zero similarities with Moutinho the player. But far from not just being a fitting midfielder, he isn’t a fitting attacker within AVB’s system, either. He has no natural place in either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1. The one player who looks as if he may be a better fit, is Levy’s one hit of the summer in Mousa Dembele. The Belgian unfortunately already has the burden of being the glue that sticks Villas-Boas’ midfield together.The result has been an abject lack of fluidity in Spurs’ forward unit, making both a mockery of Villas-Boas and his aforementioned way of playing.
And what about that forward unit? Villas-Boas craved the services of Shakhtar Donetsk’s mercurial Brazilian forward Willian. Fans were at first sceptical of a potential signing they hadn’t seen a great deal of. Similarly, Daniel Levy was also seemingly unconvinced, refusing to budge to the Ukrainian’s transfer demands. Although after a barnstorming, two-goal performance against Chelsea in the Champions League, no one is under any illusions of his quality now. He’s just the sort of player Spurs have been crying out for – shame there is now an absurd premium on his signature as a result.
Villas-Boas did of course receive Gylfi Sigurdsson instead, right at the start of the transfer window. Although considering how he was served up Dempsey, a player you must find it difficult to imagine placed any higher than the doldrums of his shortlist, if at all, how much of that deal was tied up before he was appointed? From what we’ve seen so far, he doesn’t look like a face that particularly fits.
You can go on and on about what happened in August till you’re blue in the face, because what’s done is done. But don’t be under any illusions of the doomsday ramifications for Levy as a result of last summer.
Villas-Boas is already under mounting pressure from sections of the Spurs support, after his stuttering team have continued to look far from impressive. Of course, he’s made his share of mistakes, but the overwhelming issue is that he has a group of players who simply do not seem to fit his system. Should a heavy defeat await for Tottenham tomorrow against Arsenal, the tides of opinion could turn inconceivably bitter almost overnight.
One school of thought behind Redknapp’s dismissal was the amount of investment he’d need to remould the squad during the summer. The Englishman isn’t much of a squad builder and Levy may have had to dig deep into his pockets for him. But in his failure to adequately back Villas-Boas, the money spent in potential compensation, addition of a new manager and subsequent funds or that man to bring in who he wants, would dwarf any kitty he’d have had to lend Redknapp.
Injuries have ravaged this Spurs side, but it’s only served to expose not just its inadequacy to conform to the appointed manager’s way of playing, but its startling lack of depth. The fact that fans are pressuring Villas-Boas to return to the 4-4-2 of seasons gone by, tells you everything you need to know. That is simply not good enough, and come January, he has to pull his finger out and back the manager to the very hilt.
There can be no brinkmanship, no hesitation and no mucking around any more The club came close to sealing a £22 million record deal for Moutinho on deadline day. That money needs to be unequivocally invested in targets of Villas-Boas’ desire. Anything less could instigate the wheels of motion into a very toxic run of events indeed.
Is it time for Levy to be stand up, counted and to back AVB in January? Join me on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and tell me what you think.