Controversial free transfer may just give Tottenham the edge

Tottenham Hotspur’s season has been preceded by bold claims from the manager and the playing staff. Heurelho Gomes believes they can finish higher than last season while star striker Jermaine Defoe rates their chances of going further than Arsenal in the Champions League. This brash confidence is matched by manager Harry Redknapp who has also targeted the club’s north London rivals: “We have been behind Arsenal by miles for years and years and years, but now we’ve got a chance to really push them and get above them.” William Gallas is a name who has been mentioned around White Hart Lane for different reasons lately. Could his signing give Spurs the advantage against their old foes this season and would the supporters wear it?

Tribal loyalties are only of minimal significance to Redknapp, who identified the former Arsenal centre-back together with Joe Cole and David James as this summer’s outstanding free transfers. It is to be expected that Redknapp would seek to downplay talk of loyalty and long-standing rivalry. The Poplar born manager who supported Arsenal as a boy, trained at Spurs before becoming a professional player at West Ham. He later managed the Hammers and crossed the Southampton Portsmouth divide before becoming Tottenham boss. Redknapp has made no secret of his desire to sign Gallas in recent weeks. “It is a possibility. He has not been greedy at all. His people rung up and we have spoke about it.” Reminded of Gallas’ previous allegiance, Redknapp was quick to highlight the defender’s five year stint at Chelsea. But is Redknapp being too quixotic in his approach? He acknowledged last year that Sol Campbell could never be accepted back at Tottenham and his alleged interest in Patrick Viera triggered some unease amongst fans.

Yet in their quest to usurp the Gunners and improve on last season could the signing of the 32-year old free agent give them the edge? Gallas certainly has experience of playing in teams mounting a sustained championship push having won successive PL titles at Chelsea. Upon leaving Stamford Bridge Jose Mourinho accused him of “lacking respect” and he was no stranger to controversy at Arsenal too. His sit down protest at Birmingham and public revelations about team-mates are etched in the minds of Arsenal fans.

While his personality has been described as abrasive, Gallas’ displays on the pitch continue to solicit interest. A graduate of the infamous Clairefontaine academy, the halcyon days of Gallas’ career are arguably over but he still has much to offer. Most comfortable in central defence the Frenchman is known for his speed and strength. Indeed Gallas navigates the football pitch with consummate ease, often supporting an attack. Intelligent movement is also a key feature of the stopper’s game as he anticipates opposition forwards, halting the attack before it develops. He is a proficient man-marker who is willing to use a well-timed foul if his judgment temporarily goes awry.

Redknapp is the envy of many managers for having so-called strength in depth. Ledley King and Michael Dawson are his preferred central defensive pairing but the former is unlikely to be risked twice in a week. Vedran Corulka can play at centre-back and whilst Jonathan Woodgate remains absent, Sebastien Bassong and Younes Kaboul are able deputies. Nevertheless Spurs made a virtue of having options where their direct opponents did not last season. If the experienced Gallas is recruited Tottenham’s varied back line would provide a impressive contrast to the Gunner’s currently depleted defence. Gallas to Spurs may have appeared a bizarre transfer prediction a few months back but according to Redknapp, who has been curiously quiet in transfer dealings, the chances are now “fifty-fifty.”

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