Did Tottenham simply get their priorities wrong?

Daniel Levy, Tottenham HotspurAnother transfer window, another sense of missed opportunity as Tottenham once again failed to capitalise on a great opening by failing to invest in the key areas of their squad which needed it the most as the window slammed shut with their fingers caught underneath it.

Whether it was last January’s swathe of baffling, disruptive short-term, stop-gap purchases, as Daniel Levy seemed reluctant to trust an openly flirtatious Harry Redknapp with any sort of budget as he batted his eyelashes at the FA, or the last-ditch attempts the January before that when a mad scramble around Europe for a striker saw them offer a fee in the region of £30m for several of Europe’s top talents; Tottenham have garnered something of a reputation now for struggling with this whole deadline day malarkey.

Of course, there was Rafael van der Vaart two years ago, bought for a bargain £8m from a Real Madrid side so desperate to flog him and get his wages off their books, but that was far more the exception as opposed to the rule. While they have obviously still brought in some excellent players, with Moussa Dembele a fantastic signing, there are still the nagging doubts that they haven’t strengthened as much as they would have liked and there are still some holes in their squad that need plugging in the near future if they are to truly challenge the top two done the line.

The main reason for this was the tiresome Luka Modric transfer saga which appeared to keep a stranglehold on the club’s finances for the majority of the summer. Emmanuel Adebayor arrived roughly three months after everyone assumed he would for the same fee everyone assumed he would, meaning he failed to get a proper pre-season under his belt at his new club under his new manager, who is also rather unhelpfully trying to implement a new system.

At the start of the summer, if you were to put down on paper what Tottenham’s squad needed, it probably would have looked like, in terms of importance at least, something a little like this – Emmanuel Adebayor on a permanent deal, replacement for Luka Modric when he inevitably departs, another striker, a long-term goalkeeping option to replace Brad Friedel, some more depth out wide to compensate for the likelihood of Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale getting injured, another centre-back.

Now, Jan Vertonghen arrived for £8m from Ajax and is by all accounts an excellent, versatile defender, although the fact that Younes Kaboul is now likely to be out for up to four months, means that they look like they’re going to be relying on a 35 year-old William Gallas for the most part, which when you consider that Steven Caulker and Michael Dawson are at the club, is all rather baffling – I still believe that they could still have done with at least one more centre-back on top of Vertonghen, but it wasn’t the most important concern.

Adebayor did indeed eventually arrive but he has yet to start a game for the club and when he has been involved, he’s ranged from anonymous to rusty. The club even loaned out young striker Harry Kane to Norwich on a season-long loan, so the same problem that haunted the club last season – a lack of depth up front – is still present this term, especially now that you factor in that Rafael van der Vaart’s guaranteed 10 plus goal haul is no longer there and they still have just two first-team strikers to choose from.

Brad Friedel was man of the match against Norwich, keeping his side in it at with a number crucial saves, but at 41 years of age, everyone can accept that this is probably his final season at White Hart Lane, perhaps even as a professional footballer. Hugo Lloris was signed on the final day of the window for a bargain £8m fee from Lyon, but Villas-Boas has already declared that the number one spot is Friedel’s as long as he keeps performing, which makes their pursuit of the Frenchman somewhat strange given the strict deadlines and time constraints and they would have been best served allocating their time elsewhere in the final few hours of the window.

Somewhere like the Joao Moutinho deal –  the heir apparent to Luka Modric’s throne and an exceptionally gifted playmaker to boot. At £24m, it may have been a sizeable club record fee that had been agreed with Porto, but you couldn’t really say that the 26 year-old wasn’t worth every penny or was overpriced and in a likely midfield trio of Moutinho, Dembele and Sandro, the club would have possessed one of the most balanced in the whole of Europe and certainly one of the best in the top flight.

The deal could not be completed by the deadline of 1am, after Tottenham were granted an extra hour beyond the midnight cut-off on the final day of the transfer window because they had submitted a so-called ‘deal sheet’ to the Premier League by 9pm – and the Daily Telegraph reported that they missed finalising the deal by just four minutes.

Sure, Clint Dempsey was brought in from Fulham in what Villas-Boas described as “one of the biggest coups of the transfer market” but given that they already have Dembele and Sigurdsson capable of playing at the tip of a midfield three, Dempsey has been bought to supplement the lack of options up front and cover out wide as a sort of utility forward and while he may be a good player, they could do with specialists in each of these positions instead.

It’s difficult to criticise Daniel Levy at times, for it looks as if he’s got a great deal for Luka Modric, not only in terms of the agreed fee, but the implications that this partnership agreement with Real Madrid promises, particularly in terms of commercial value off the pitch. Neverthless, they do appear to have forsaken some depth and balance in favour of a more long-term approach, which could harm Villas-Boas’ rebuilding programme.

A long-term appraoch is fine if everything is going well on the pitch, but the way Villas-Boas’ side, and the manager in particular, were booed off at half-time and full-time against Norwich, only serves to highlight that all is far from well at the moment at White Hart Lane and the pressure is already on the 34-year-old boss. It seems as if they just left themselves too much to do and despite good intentions, their squad is still one of unfulfilled potential as another transfer window passes by with the overwhelming feeling of ‘what might have been’ ringing in their ears.

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