In a slower than expected transfer deadline day, a few late moves managed to catch the imagination, but perhaps not quite in the way that you’d first imagine, most notably Spurs moves for Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen. Redknapp stated earlier on in the window that he’d only move for a ‘special’ player, but there must have been a few worried glances and eyebrows raised at the clubs business, which can best be characterised as just plain odd.
It’s fair to say that no matter what business the club did in January, they still remain on course to comfortably finish third in the league. They remain seven points ahead of a struggling Chelsea side, but crucially, they sit just five points behind Manchester City and United.
On the Match of the Day sofa last week, after Spurs were dealt a crushing last minute defeat away at Manchester City after an earlier setback in the 1-1 home draw to Wolves, messrs Hansen and Dixon declared with an astonishingly premature degree of certainty that Spurs were now out of the title race.
The club’s first slip-ups in months saw them written off. Harshly dealt with, Spurs are far from out of the title race as yet. In a season as unpredictable as this, Hansen in particular needs to adjust his view of the Premier League – where once the destination of the title was decided byhow you performed against your closest rivals, now it has to be measured as much upon how you do against the rest of the league. This is what makes their transfer dealings all the more baffling.
In short, they’ve signed a 34 year-old centre back and a 33 year-old striker, both with a long and documented history of knee problems. Nelsen has started just one league game since last April because of his injury issues and Saha now casts a shadow of the his former self – devoid of any pace he once had, lacking any semblence of a professional footballers first touch and with just one league goal in 18 appearances this season for Everton.
The Saha move in particular was a baffling one. He arrives on an 18-month contract, with Roman Pavlyuchenko set for a move back to Russia with Lokomotiv Moscow. The Russian transfer window still has another three weeks left before it shuts, so there is no immediete rush for any deal to be closed, but why let the Russian go at all? Are there surely not better alternatives than Saha if the club do need to sign another striker?
Redknapp has struggled to juggle three strikers and Rafael Van Der Vaart all season. Second-choice Jermain Defoe has been prolific when he’s been called upon but even his selection is far from assured. With the Pavlyuchenko transfer, the club look set to recoup £8m of the £14m forked out for him in 2008, however, the Saha switch is most certainly a trade-down in terms of quality.
The club also loaned out Sebastian Bassong to Wolves, a central defender that’s been making his fare share of fuss over his lack of first-team opportunities of late. Nelsen, if he was ever fit, would have been an astute signing, but he’s simply not, so it remains a pointless one, even if it is just for six months with an option to extend for a further year. There are rumours that Blackburn even paid their former captain to leave the club in an effort to save money on his wages – surely that tells you everything that you need to know about his injury situation.
The Steven Pienaar deal has been in the rumour mills for a while now, but even so, he sat on the bench during last night’s game with Wigan, so the club up until that point must have thought that any deal was dead in the water.
Spurs then moved for Milos Krasic, the Serbian international and Juventus winger – a player whose pacy, direct style would have been ideally suited to the Premier League, as a replacement for the outgoing Pienaar, but he turned down the move. So why if the club failed to get a replacement, was Pienaar allowed to leave on loan to Everton for the rest of the campaign regardless?
Redknapp stated on January 14th that: “I wouldn’t want to let him (Pienaar) go. He is a good player. I brought him on for the last 10 minutes (in Tottenham’s 2-0 win) against Everton on Wednesday and he didn’t give the ball away. I don’t have any need to weaken the squad. I would rather have a good squad for last 18 matches of the season than let one or two go who could play a part in the run-in.”
Can anyone actually, with all honesty, believe anything that comes out of Redknapp’s mouth? What has changed since the Everton game to facilitate such a last-ditch move? If he were an American politician, Redknapp would be known as the worst flip-flopper ever to grace Washington.
It’s like the club does transfer business for the sake of doing transfer business. Redknapp has a compulsion to be involved in the transfer market, even when it’s abundantly clear to everyone else that this squad doesn’t need tampering with. The club has arguably the strongest squad, barring Manchester City’s, in the entire league. There is literally no weak element. So by signing two hugely injury-prone and ageing players and letting go of two better quality and most importantly, fit players, Redknapp has only served to make the squad weaker than before the window opened.
As I contested earlier on, the title is not yet out of Spurs reach, despite the laughable suggestion that they are out of the running by the Match of the Day team. In the next two months they face a tricky run of fixtures which includes Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea all away from home, and Manchester United and Newcastle at White Hart Lane, but should they go on another decent run, they are more than capable of crashing the party come May time.
With that in mind, would it not have made more sense that if the club were to be involved in the transfer market at all this window, it would be to sign players that could perhaps force their way into the starting line-up. They are just five points off the summit, so a concerted push wouldn’t have been for nothing; instead all we are dealt with is a sense of intrigue as to what the thought process was behind such deals. This window, like so many before them, will go down as a missed opportunity for Spurs, not only for the deals they did do, but also for the ones that they didn’t.
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