Despite a crunching challenge on Howard Webb in Ledley King’s Testimonial which was universally celebrated on social media, Lewis Holtby’s future at Tottenham looks far from certain. With the club’s attention currently focused upon the search for a new manager following Tim Sherwood’s dismissal, the issue over the German’s role at White Hart Lane has been pushed on to the back burner for now.
But the question remains, should Tottenham keep hold of Holtby?
The midfielder performed well on loan at Fulham but was ultimately powerless to prevent the Cottagers’ relegation into the Championship. The twenty three year old German has recently come under fire from Felix Magath for allegedly showing a lack of fight in the club’s unsuccessful battle to beat the drop. The Fulham manager claimed that “Lewis is very skillful and a nice player but he is not a fighter – I think it was not the right move for him.” The midfielder was substituted at half time at Hull and after only 34 minutes against Stoke.
But despite these remarks, it was only back in mid-April where Holtby was being pinpointed by many as the key man in the Cottagers’ bid for survival. In the back to back victories over Aston Villa and Norwich, both of Hugo Rodallega’s decisive strikes came courtesy of the German’s left foot.
Rather than excelling in one key area though, Holtby has demonstrated his capabilities as an all-round midfielder. The German delivered three assists and one goal in his brief spell at Craven Cottage, averaging 1.6 key passes per match according to WhoScored. Despite being selected primarily as an attacking outlet, the German also demonstrated a willingness to press and harass the opponents in possession. Statistics from the same website show that the midfielder recorded an average of 2.7 tackles and 0.8 interceptions per match, a more than useful contribution from a player predominantly in the final third.
Energy and passion are traits where the German is not found wanting. Tears were shed following Liverpool’s thrashing of Spurs back in December, the match which prompted the demise of Andre Vilas-Boas. Holtby has managed endeared himself to fans of both Tottenham and Fulham through his tireless efforts on the pitch.
But are these qualities enough to warrant the German’s place at White Hart Lane next season?
Upon his arrival from Schalke for a cut-price £1 million back in January 2013, Holtby was heralded by Vilas-Boas and the media as possibly the “bargain of the century.” The midfielder was lauded for his ability to fill in any role across the entire midfield, but this versatility may have actually proven to be a hindrance. Having occupied a number of positions, the midfielder has developed the unfavourable reputation of being a jack of all trades but a master of none at White Hart Lane.
Unfortunately for Holtby, midfield is an area where Tottenham are blessed with an array of talent. In every position, the German faces strong competition to make a specific role his own. The former Schalke man is known to prefer the popular “Number 10” role but will find it hard to dislodge Christian Eriksen from the position, with the Dane impressing in his debut campaign in England. In a deeper lying role, Holtby will have to jostle for a spot with the likes of Moussa Dembele, Paulinho and Sandro.
This isn’t to suggest that the German has no place in the Spurs side next season. But the popular German will likely have to cement his status in one defined role if he is to avoid being continually used as a square peg for every midfield round hole. In joining Fulham for the second half of the season, Holtby has already proven that he isn’t content with merely being used as a versatile squad option.
Much will obviously depend upon the identity of Tottenham’s next manager. Having been shipped out on loan just a month into his tenure, Holtby clearly wasn’t a favourite of Sherwood’s. For the midfielder, the sacking could provide the necessary impetus to kickstart his career at White Hart Lane.
For now though, speculation over the German’s future will likely persist. Schalke are rumoured to be interesting in tempting Holtby back to the Bundesliga whilst Paul Lambert is reported to have identified the midfielder as his primary transfer target for Aston Villa this summer. If Spurs or the player himself decides that his future lies away from White Hart Lane, there will be no shortage of suitors for the midfielder’s signature.
Ultimately though, Holtby may be too much of an all-rounder to ever command a regular berth in the Tottenham starting XI.