Energetic midfield players that can offer a link between midfield and attack are a vital offensive component for any team as they can often provide the key to unlock the most difficult defences.
During the summer, Tottenham were faced with the daunting task of replacing their playmaking maestro Luka Modric, who departed to Real Madrid. The signing of Moussa Dembele from Fulham over the summer has been an excellent one but he doesn’t play forward enough to get into the ‘number 10’ position behind the strikers and pose a real goal threat. Although Modric wasn’t a prolific scorer, he floated around in areas where he was very difficult to pick up, and he was extremely effective in his link up play.
The signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson was possibly the one AVB would have hoped could play that role but for one reason or anther it hasn’t worked out for the Icelandic international and he has fallen out of favour, starting just one of the last 15 league games. I feel January signing Lewis Holtby looks more than capable of filling this berth however.
So what do we know about the new arrival? He is an energetic player who doesn’t tend to over complicate things, playing simple passes and moving intelligently off the ball with the ability to link play reliably and effectively. Although he was deployed as a winger before his arrival at Schalke in 2009, he has since played in a more central role. He has been a success for his national team at Under-21 level, and maybe slightly unfortunate with the lack of opportunities in the senior side due to the talented midfield players they have at their disposal. At only 22-years-old it does surprise me that a player with his potential has been allowed to see out his contract at Schalke and leave at a snip of £1.25million without Spurs facing much competition for his signature.
Gareth Bale has spoken up the Germans arrival as well, quoted in the Independent as saying, “He’s looked very sharp and he seems the type of player who could play well in a team like ours.”
Holtby’s importance to the set up at White Hart Lane has been further enhanced with Jermaine Defoe’s injury. Emanuel Adebayor is the only other striker for AVB to choose from, while Clint Dempsey is also able to do a job as a a make-shift striker. I think Defoe’s injury could be a blessing in disguise as the striker has been struggling for form for a while despite a good start to the season, and maybe a fresh approach to the attack will give the side a new dimension. Although dropping Dempsey may seem harsh after the attacking midfielder has just started to look more like the player he was at Fulham, AVB will have to decide what’s in the best interest of the team.
People have spoken about Adebayor’s failure to reproduce his form from last season since making his move permanent but he has endured a disrupted season. While he has only scored two league goals, he has also only started eight games so I don’t think he has featured enough for him to even have a chance to make an impact. His return from the African Cup of Nations could effectively be the start of his season for Tottenham and if this is the case it will be like having another new signing for AVB. The striker chalked up a tally of 17 goals and 12 assists in the league last season when playing as the lone front man.
With the personnel available to the Spurs chief now it may force his hand in reverting to a system that served the North London club so well last season, with Adebayor deployed as the lone target man and Van Der Vaart playing off him. I feel that Holtby, while he has his differences to Van Der Vaart, has the ability to play the role which the Dutchman did and form a good partnership with the Togolese striker. His previous experience in wide areas could also provide the Lilywhites with a more flexible and interchangeable set of attackers, as the German would be more than capable of filling in out wide when Bale or Lennon attack inside.
Holtby obviously has a lot of work to do as so far he can only boast two promising substitute appearances, but I feel that the signing which was meant for the summer, could end up being one of the most important components in the sides success for the rest of the season.