If Tottenham Hotspur fans had any underlying worries about the fate of the club in the transfer window this month, then from what we’ve seen so far this January, you’d imagine that supporters would be breathing a small but steady sigh of relief.
After seeing the club weakened in the last two transfer windows under different managers, it’s hardly as if fans in the white half of North London haven’t been unfounded in their mounting concerns.
While fans were keen to avoid the last January window, in which Spurs replaced Steven Pienaar and Roman Pavlyuchenko with Ryan Nelsen and Louis Saha to supposedly aid their Champions League aspirations, they were also keen to avoid the costly game of brinkmanship that left a painful scar over their summer dealings.
Yet with the signing, albeit controversially of Standard Liege’s Ezekiel Fryers last week being complemented by a stunning swoop for Schalke’s prodigious Lewis Holtby, chairman Daniel Levy can hardly be accused of resting on his laurels in the New Year. But while the club can be delighted with the business they’ve done so far, the chequebook can’t be popped away just yet.
Because while swooping for Fryers and Holtby may serve to benefit the club greatly in the long run, in terms of achieving this season’s sizeable goals, they’re not likely to be of any particular aid to Andre Villas-Boas. And for all Spurs’ recent good form in the Premier League, the Portuguese needs to fill the cracks that most certainly still exist in his squad as opposed to simply papering over them.
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While the method Spurs adopted in the signing of Ezekiel Fryers might have left some in Manchester questioning the club’s methods, you won’t find many questioning the logic behind it. The 20-year-old left back, who made six appearances for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side last term, is a great talent in a position that the club are hardly spoilt for choice for.
After joining up with the squad on trial during the summer, the club have clearly liked what they’ve seen. But with Fryers expected to link up with the development squad, you’d imagine that barring another defensive injury crisis, he might not play much of a prominent role in the first team for the rest of the season.
But considering his age and the recent return of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, that might not necessarily be too much of a problem. In the case of Lewis Holtby’s delayed arrival however, the outlook isn’t quite so similar.
The caliber of player that Spurs are set to acquire isn’t in any doubt. For all the Anglo-centric obsession with Holtby and his English heritage, it’s easy to forget just how talented the 22-year-old is. The three-time capped German international posses a wonderful array of technical gifts, an eye for a great pass and the vision and guile to thread balls through defences. What is in doubt however, is the timing of his arrival.
Because while no one is denying that the club have pulled of a remarkable coup in sealing the services of such a young and talented player on a free transfer, the issue is that Tottenham need him a lot earlier than mid-June.
Although maany supporters have championed the need for a new man up front – and if reports suggesting Emmanuel Adebayor has decided to head to ACON this month, that will become an absolute necessity – the fact remains that the side are still short of an effective No10 like figure within their attacking unit.
Andre Villas-Boas may be happy to play a poker face regarding anything resembling a marquee arrival this month, but given the side’s continued inability to consistently break opponents down, it’s hard to imagine him feeling quite as content as what he’s publically claimed. The Portuguese possesses a wonderfully gifted squad at his disposal, but a failure to turn a high tide of possession and shots into goals has become something of an overriding hallmark for the Lilywhites’ season.
Despite the deployment of both Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor in recent weeks, the long term Villas-Boas blueprint only has room for one out-and-out striker in the starting line up. But until the club invest in another attacking midfielder to play centrally in the attacking three within a 4-2-3-1 or a deeper-lying midfielder to push Mousa Dembele forward, it’s difficult to see how AVB can push through with his plans.
Considering Spurs sit third in the Premier League with less than half of the season left to play, it’s easy to become overzealous in the critique of the likes of Clint Dempsey and the lesser-played Gylfi Sigurdsson. But while Dempsey in particular, with his four league goals and three assists still has a role to play in this Tottenham squad, the side have yet to feel as if they’ve really clicked with the American playing behind a lone frontman.
Quotes attributed to Schalke’s managing director Horst Heldt seem to suggest that the club would be open to letting Holtby move to N17 this month, should Spurs be willing to pay a nominal fee. While that might not make perfect business sense, it seems crystal clear from a footballing standpoint. And that’s what matters most.
If Holtby is set to arrive in the summer, it must be in addition to, not instead of, the acquisition of another attacking midfielder this month. Be that a Willian, a Moutinho or an early arrival for the German, the club must address this in January and back Villas-Boas to the hilt as he looks to fight on for the season ahead.