The squad at Tottenham is finally beginning to take shape. It needed a forced hand through fixture congestion, but the 4-0 result against Aston Villa in the League Cup showed a Tottenham XI that could have been a good outfit on a weekly basis in league competition.
Much of the good work came through Lewis Holtby, the January signing who could easily have been lost in the frenzy of summer buys.
The signing of the German midfielder should have been seen to be a prelude for what was to come during the summer window. Signed from one of the Bundesliga’s leading powers for a minimal fee, Tottenham should have rightly received praise for landing a player of Holtby’s talent and experience ahead of other reputable clubs. It signalled the swing in policy: Holtby may not be one of Germany’s crown jewels, but he’s a notable difference maker in a team who want to go places.
Of course, the headlines and limelight have been far from the German’s camp this summer and going into the season. There was no glitz and glamour to his signing, initially thought to be a bosman during the summer but sped up for £1.5 million by Daniel Levy. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how talented a player is, the transfer fee can inadvertently dictate how much of a role he is to play in the coming season, and it certainly would have been easy for Spurs to discard Holtby during the summer, even if only on a temporary basis.
But Holtby has remained focused, both in his playing and in his decision to join Tottenham. For a player too, it’s common to take the easy route and resign yourself to a bit-part role when the competition for places grows. In Tottenham’s strongest XI, Holtby arguably doesn’t have a place, but he’s showing that he deserves one. He has the creativity but importantly the work rate and desire to merit a place ahead of names like Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen, showing that he belongs – and that can only be a good thing for Andre Villas-Boas.
The Portuguese manager will need to rotate and keep his XI fresh, but he’ll be aware of the compromises to results that could occur. Holtby, provided there was a plan in place to go into the summer window in the way Tottenham did, offers genuine strength in depth and an ability to retain momentum and a winning mentality across all competitions.
Schalke may have had a very comfortable cushion to fall back on following Holtby’s sale in the way of Julian Draxler, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Holtby occupied a central and pivotal role in the team’s attack. He could assist and weigh in with goals too. Had it been a Premier League club who were more or less releasing an important player, the headlines would have been damaging.
He needed time to settle in England, of course. The fancy tricks and flicks to impress those unfamiliar with his game were quickly eradicated, at Villas-Boas’ behest, I’m sure. And now, in keeping with his sporting roots, Holtby looks efficient and well on the way to becoming another vital piece of his current club’s puzzle.
Is Holtby finally showing what all the fuss was about?
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