With the coveted Champions League spot all but out of reach for Harry Redknapp and his Spurs charges this season after they fell 7 points behind Man City at the weekend, will Redknapp come to regret failing to purchase a striker either in the summer or during the January transfer window come the end of the season? And if so, has it proven the difference in their pursuit in ensuring that there is Champions League football at White Hart Lane for a second successive season?
It’s important when discussing Spurs’s failing up front to assert that this isn’t some form of misplaced revisionism at what has been a deeply disappointing end to what was at one point, a hugely promising campaign. The clear root of the side’s problem has been the lack of striking talent capable of putting the ball in the back of the net on a consistent enough basis. One could argue that the emphasis this summer, above all else, should have been on purchasing a new striker. The money was there, the long-term plan sadly wasn’t.
The Spurs midfield is awash with creative talent, yet the likes of Defoe, Crouch and Pavlyuchenko only have 15 league goals between them this season in a combined total of 74 league appearances. It doesn’t take a man of particularly keen intellect to arrive at the answer that the strikers Redknapp currently has at his disposal are of insufficient quality to propel Spurs to the next level that they so desperately seek. The lack of striking talent on offer at the club remains the club’s biggest obstacle to any real progress in the future.
This, however, is not a new point. Spurs have been frustrated in their attempts to sign a player of proven quality for two successive transfer windows now. It’s not that there isn’t money readily available or that Spurs aren’t an attractive proposition to prospective transfer targets, it’s just that their manager’s muddled and dithering transfer policy has seen them fall further behind their rivals just when it looked like they were ready to become a serious player at the Premier League’s top table.
Crouch will always remain an exceptional squad player whose ability to make a telling impact from the bench is second to none, but he simply cannot be relied upon to score the necessary goals required. Pavlyuchenko lacks mobility, any semblence of something approaching a work rate and the pace to trouble the best, and while he does have a cracking finish on him at times, he’s wildly inconsistent and blows cold on more days than he is hot.
Jermain Defoe, well here is a player that deserves a whole new paragraph all to himself. Defoe has had a desperately poor season, but one, that in fairness, has been hampered by niggling injuries and untimely suspensions. Those close to me will know that I’m not the England international’s biggest fan. Granted, he can hit a shot extremely hard, and yes, he has displayed a greater degree of intelligence in recent times, notably in his burgeoning partnership with Rooney for England, but to me, he isn’t far off being a one trick pony and with only two league goals to his name since last April, it appears the stats are in my corner on this one. He is a player that manages to score in bunches when his team are playing well, yet when he’s needed to make a telling contribution, he can often be found wanting.
So what were the alternatives?
Well Diego Forlan, Luis Fabiano, Luis Suarez and Fernando Llorente all appeared to be the names in the frame at various points of the season, among other it has to be said, which just goes to show how ill-thought out the club’s pursuit of new striking talent was. Forlan was frozen out for a period at Atletico after falling out with boss Quique Flores, but at 31 years of age, Spurs baulked at the £15m asking price. The cost of missing out on Champions League football though is far greater, and although a hefty sum considering his age, Forlan is well worth it in my eyes.
Luis Fabiano, the tempestuous and often brilliant Brazilian headed back, like so many have done so before him in the past 18 months, to his homeland for a cushy few seasons at Sao Paulo for a figure believed to be around the £7m mark. Wages are said to have been a stumbling block over any proposed move to North London, but surely Spurs would have been paying him more than Sao Paulo currently are and at just 30 years of age, he definitely goes down as a missed opportunity, especially considering the shockingly low price.
Luis Suarez was coveted by numerous clubs around Europe and appeared to have his eye on a move to the Premier League from the outset. The player in question seemed somewhat unfussy as to his destination, just so long as they were a top English side. He eventually moved to Liverpool for just over £23m and has taken to the Premier Legaue like a duck to water. Spurs’s interest was never believed to be as firm as Lierpool’s though and he is already starting to represent something appraoching value for money, potential-wise at least.
Fernando Lorene – now we arrive at the player, along with Charlie Adam that is (a truly baffling transfer target), that demonstrates just how desperate and slapshot Redknapp is when it comes to transfers. He lucked out with the Van Der Vaart deal, pure and simple; a quality player for a pittance does not always become readily available at the eleventh hour. Spurs went in for Llorente in the dying embers of the transfer window for a fee rumoured to be in the region of £30m. Now Athletic Bilbao, realising what Daniel Levy failed to when Berbatov transferred to Man Utd under similar circumstances in 2008, rightly rejected their offer out of hand because it simply didn’t leave them with enough time to find a replacement for the Spanish international.
They had the whole of January to bid for him. He clearly wasn’t their top priority, so why wait until the final minutes of the final day of a month long transfer window to put in an astronomical bid? It’s clear that desperation took hold and for such a significant outlay, for a deal of this size to be surrounded by such panic would appear to point to nothing other than a deeply flawed transfer policy overseen by Redknapp.
The likes of Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, Edinson Cavani, Karim Benzema and Guiseppe Rossi were all other targets pursued to in varying degrees of seriousness. It seemed like Spurs were after anyone, just anyone to fill the gaping hole in their attack, yet they still came up short despite being in a reasonably strong financial position with an exciting project on the go playing wise.
There can be no one else to blame other than the manager. The famed wheeler-dealer (just don’t call him that to his face) came up short and in the end, while Spurs’s rivals around them all strengthened. It has most definitely come at a cost – Champions League football next season and his failure to sign a striker will only strengthen the resolve of the naysars among the White Hart Lane faithful that still retain reservations about Redknapp.
Will Redknapp come to regret this failure? Most definitely. Could more have been done? The sheer number of proposed targets tells you that the hierarchy were painfully aware of their striking department limitations and to their credit, they at least tried, but their approach was all wrong – it lacked a logical end point and with clubs unwilling to part with prized assets in January, it makes his decision not to make a striker a top transfer target in the summer all the more galling, particularly when it seemed that everyone was else was in agreement that a high calibre striker was all that was stopping Spurs from truly challenging.
Redknapp may be many things, but a meticulous planner with the gift of foresight is not one of them. The aforementioned trio of Defoe, Crouch and Pavlyuchenko contributed 31 league goals last season, just under half they 67 they accrued in the league. This term, the burden has been rather unfairly placed onto their talented midfield and they’ve only registered 50 league goals so far, which for a side as entertaining and attacking as Spurs, does seem awfully short of the mark.
To put it quite simply, they cannot afford another cock-up when it comes to pursuing their top transfer targets in the summer. In the words of Alec Baldwin in the seminal David Mamet screenplayed film, Glenngarry Glen Ross – A-B-C; Always Be Closing. Spurs would do well to follow this mantra and tie up a deal for a striker as soon as possible, for it threatens to derail what promises to be a successful period in the club’s long and rich history, right in it’s tracks.