Some things it seems, will never change.
While the Christmas lists of Tottenham Hotspur supporters may have bestowed a whole variety of colourful and contrasting transfer targets, for the optimistic amongst the White Hart Lane faithful, there was a far more basic festive request to the club’s hierarchy.
Simply put, it was time to back Andre Villas-Boas to the hilt and address the side’s transfer needs both promptly and effectively. With less than ten days to go till deadline day however, supporters now find themselves in an all too familiar position.
Indeed, while in a perfect world fans would have seen Villas-Boas start the new year with one or two fresh players ready-made to boost the side’s top-four chasing credentials, supporters know all too well they don’t inhabit a faultless landscape. Because while on one hand they were served up the duo of Lewis Holtby and Ezekiel Fryers, the former isn’t set to arrive till the summer and the latter has been sent straight to the side’s development squad.
This is of course the painfully frustrating yet ultimately effective nature of a club run under the stewardship of chairman Daniel Levy and the ENIC Group. While some supporters would depict Levy’s game of transfer brinkmanship as pointless penny-pinching, the majority would rather describe it as a negotiating tactic born out of necessity.
While the club is by no means a pauper within the Premier League as a whole, Spurs are competing on a plateau of ambition alongside clubs with vastly superior means of financial resources. The road that’s led them from mid-table mediocrity post-Sugar to striving to dine upon Europe’s richest table hasn’t come without investment and it hasn’t stemmed solely from just careful accounting.
Although it certainly hasn’t come via coincidence either and Levy’s remit to squeeze every penny out of deals and playing a ruthless – and often even dangerous – game of risk in the transfer market, has played it’s part in cultivating the financially stable and relatively successful Spurs side we’ve seen today. Leaving things late in the transfer window has been a frustrating part of this.
Yet while the majority of support within the white half of North London remain firmly in sync with Levy’s extremely successful brand of club management, that frustration that often bubbles beneath the surface during the speculation of the transfer window has felt increasingly palpable.
The elder statesmen amongst the Spurs faithful have had more new dawns than most have had hot dinners, but even for the most skeptical of Andre Villas-Boas’ doubters, there’s a genuine feeling of optimism surrounding the team’s prospects under the helm of the Portuguese. For all the injuries, departures and incessant tabloid speculation that the ex-Chelsea boss has had to deal with since joining in the summer, the side sit fourth in the league, three points clear of fifth placed Everton with under half the season remaining.
It is of course a position the supporters are fairly well acquainted with and part of the frustration that’s continuing to simmer in N17, stems from events this time last year. But this January, there is no maverick Harry Redknapp of which Levy was rumoured to be wary of handing a considerable transfer warchest. Villas-Boas is the antidote, yet seemingly the same problems are continuing to exist.
With around a week-and-a-half left for Spurs to do business, the likelihood is that Levy will open the chequebook to bring in one or two fresh faces at White Hart Lane. Yet another likelihood of those arrivals, is that those two fresh faces are unlikely to be of the manager’s first choice. Or to use appropriate terminology, of the ‘head-coach’s’, first choice.
Under the club’s transfer committee structure, Villas-Boas does of course possess only a partial say as to which new faces come through the door at White Hart Lane. While it’s difficult to speculate who else may wield an influence within this committee, it’s thought that Levy seeks the counsel of both assistant manager Steffen Freund and most poignantly, technical coordinator Tim Sherwood.
Such a structure may have only been in place by name since Villas-Boas’ arrival, but in essence, it’s been in place at Spurs in some guise for several years now. Sherwood may now possess more influence, but the value Levy places upon the ex-Blackburn Rovers man’s views is no secret. Few successful clubs these days or even companies, operate with one man in sole charge and even Villas-Boas himself worked under such a regime during his time at Porto.
Yet at what point does the deliberation, the stalling and the internal politicking begin to detriment the club in the transfer market?
The club are arguably sitting with their own fate in their hands this January. With both Arsenal and Chelsea continuing to look both as unstable as they are inconsistent, there is a very real opportunity to push on and secure that top four position that’s so vital to the club’s progress.
Regardless of the Redknapp implications last term, Spurs tried to get there from a similar position last season, on a free ticket. Regardless of the implosion that subsequently occurred, they cannot let that happen again.
Villas-Boas was the vision that Levy put his faith into, to bring him to the football club at the start of the season. If the money is there to spend, now is the time for the chairman to put his faith in the manager and do everything he can do to bolster his blueprints for a top four finish.
Spurs are competing for Champions League football for the second consecutive season without the funds that it provides. They might not be able to repeat the trick for a third year running. Levy has so often got it right in terms of the signings he’s acquired for the club but this month more than ever, he can’t afford to get it wrong.