It was all looking so bright for Andre Villas-Boas at the start of the season. With a victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford, a fixture in which Spurs had failed to claim all three points for 23 years, it seemed the former Porto boss had finally lifted a weight off the back of every Tottenham fan who has witnessed their side come-up short against the Premier League‘s top teams throughout the club’s recent history.
The main concern for Tottenham fans is playing in the Champions League, but as an extension of that, there is the desire to beat top four clubs – this ambition cost Harry Redknapp his job at the end of last season. Spurs have now lost their last four out of five Premier League outings, including defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea as well as a humbling loss in the shambolic North London derby.
Tottenham have now slumped to 8th in the table, and will face stiff competition for fourth spot from Everton, West Brom and their old foes Arsenal. Currently, Steve Clarke’s in-form West Brom side occupy the league’s lowest qualification position for the Champions League with six points and a seven goal lead on Spurs in the table.
Today’s papers are claiming AVB will be handed £20million by Daniel Levy in January to turn his fortunes around, but is it enough? Or will it make any difference at all?
Mark Hughes this summer was handed £18.5million, the fifth highest net spend for the pre-season transfer window, but is yet to reap the rewards for the club’s investment as rock-bottom QPR continue the search for their first win of the season. Tottenham also had money to spend this summer, bringing in Moussa Dembele, Clint Dempsey, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jan Vertonghen, Hugo Lloris and the permanent signing of Emmanuel Adebayor for a combined total of nearly £60million.
Despite the spending spree, Spurs are yet to fill the gap left by Luka Modric and Rafael Van Der Vaart, as the cheaper signings of attacking midfielders Dempsey and Sigurdsson have failed to impress. Belgian international Moussa Dembele looked to be in good form at the start of the year but has since been held back by injury.
AVB’s shortlist includes the likes of Willian and Christian Eriksen, who will be available if the price is right. Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu informed Europe’s top clubs that if they want his Brazilian midfielder they can pay his buy-out clause of £28million, whereas Eriksen has made his intentions to leave Ajax clear as he refuses to extend his contract past summer 2014.
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Another option is rekindling a deal to bring Portuguese playmaker Joao Moutinho to White Hart Lane, who was an integral cog of AVB’s Porto team which won the Primera Liga undefeated and also lifted the Portuguese Cup, Portuguese Super Cup and Europa League trophy in the same year. CSKA Moscow’s Alan Dzagoev and Miralem Pjanic are also on the North-London club’s radar.
However, will £20million be enough for any of these targets considering the shortlist seems more like a Christmas wish list of Europe’s rising stars? They all have bags of potential, and have been linked to many of Europe’s elite clubs. In the summer, Spurs and Porto reached a financial agreement over Moutinho, but failed to seal the deal. It is doubtful the Portuguese champions will allow their star player leave half way through the season, and the kitty to be given to AVB is £8million short of Willian’s contract clause. Furthermore, will any of the desired personel be willing to risk missing out on Champions League football and join a team that has only made it once into the European tournament?
Villas-Boas also wants some improvements in defence, with Michael Dawson expected to be shafted against his wishes, and William Gallas being firmly into his twilight years, but will surely not be able to bring in players to raise the quality in two key departments. £20million will be not enough in the January transfer window, better known for huge fees such as Andy Carroll’s £35million move to Liverpool and signing what you can as oppose to what you want.
Daniel Levy has often been generous in terms of funds available to his managers. But considering the vast amount of money Manchester City have spent year upon year to improve the team, an estimated combined total of £970million, and have still proved they are way behind Europe’s other big teams following their failure to make it out of the group stages in the Champions League, money certainly doesn’t guarantee success. Many of the City signings have failed to live up to their price-tags; Roque Santa Cruz (£17million) Robinho (£32million) Wayne Bridge (£10million) for example, whilst others who have been good servants to the club came with transfer fees that seem excessive to say the least; Milner (£24million), Lescott (£24million), Kolarov (£16million) and an ageing Craig Bellamy (£14million).
The case of Man City has many differences between that of Tottenham. City were a club in the middle to lower table wilderness who made a bid for the Premier League title. Tottenham have always been a team of relative success but have been striving to take the next step. At the end of last season, Spurs were a single point away from qualifying for the Champions League, but that single point difference is completely unquantifiable in monetary terms.
There is little doubt that any of the names on AVB’s shortlist will improve his team, and would make exciting additions to the Premier League, but can a £20million cash injection alone come anywhere close to guaranteeing a Champions League spot for the North Londoners? It seems unlikely. Until AVB can take points from the Premier League’s big boys, Spurs fans can consider the promised land of the Champions League a far-away destination.