Tottenham fans have spent the summer boasting about their club’s free spending and regular new arrivals, especially while the Arsenal faithful have been fuming over Arsene Wenger’s limited activity in the transfer window. But as last weekend’s North London derby showed, money can’t buy you love, happiness or even necessarily three points, as the Lilywhites struggled to impact their opposition in the tight 1-0 defeat at the Emirates.
The plan for the summer was simple enough; sell Gareth Bale for an incredibly ridiculous £86million fee to devil-may-care big spenders Real Madrid, and use the Welsh Wonder’s provided transfer revenues to turn the White Hart Lane outfit from GB and his ten accomplices to an eleven man team, capable of challenging for Champions League qualification without depending on the individual talismanic efforts of one single entity.
It’s seen a host of top European talent come in, ranging in age, potential and proven pedigree, with Nacer Chadli, Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela, Vlad Chiriches, Christian Eriksen and Etienne Capoue arriving in West London at a total cost of £107million, bringing Spurs’ net spend for the summer to a negative £2million following the sales of Clint Dempsey (£6million), Scott Parker (£4million), Tom Huddlestone (£5million) and Steven Caulker (£8million), in addition to the Gareth Bale funds.
It could well be Daniel Levy’s finest hour, to add to his already impressive list of transfer escapades. But such a revolution in personnel has already had a detrimental effect that many at White Hart Lane didn’t seem to anticipate earlier in the summer.
The first two games of the new-look Tottenham’s 2013/2014 campaign went well enough, grinding out 1-0 results against Crystal Palace and Swansea consecutively with the added quality incredibly telling amid close encounters, but Spurs’ first big test of the year in a new era at the club against old rivals Arsenal produced a hardly inspiring result or performance, and it appears that the new signings are yet to connect with each other effectively on the pitch.
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Of course, one must always allow for teething pains at the start of any new season, let alone a campaign following a summer where there’s been meteoric change in North London, but the Lilywhites new boys don’t have too much time to settle before their lack of familiarity starts affecting their Champions League chances.
And the process won’t be made any easier by the fact that only Roberto Soldado comes to Tottenham above 25 years of age and with an established reputation from a parallel top flight. Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli and Vlad Chiriches are amongst Europe’s most hotly tipped young starlets, and all come with preceding reputations and success from their respective previous leagues, but none have ever set foot on the Premiership stage before, and will take time to adapt to what remains the fastest, most intense, most mentally demanding and most physical top flight in world football.
Paulinho too, has all the prerequisites in terms of robustness and style required to be an exceptional Premier League midfielder, but the Brazilian’s only experience in Europe comes from two campaigns in eastern Europe with two different clubs, where he went completely unnoticed before returning to boyhood club Pao de Acucar.
The transition could have arguably been smoother if Andre Villas-Boas had kept a hold of some of his more experienced Premier League players. English midfield duo Tom Huddlestone and Scott Parker have over 400 top flight appearances between them, in the latter’s case spanning over ten consecutive campaigns, with 200 coming in Tottenham colours, but both were moved on for the sake of Paulinho and Etienne Capoue.
Left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto, still a capable Premier League performer by all means, has made over 150 appearances for the Lilywhites since 2006 but is now on loan at QPR for the year, Clint Dempsey was sold to Seattle Sounders despite netting seven goals last term and turning out 267 times during his stay in England, and promising Three Lions defender Steven Caulker, already capped at senior level internationally, was sold for scrap to Cardiff City in a bid to make room in the squad for Chiriches.
There is still a well-experienced cohort in North London, including the likes of Brad Friedel, Michael Dawson, Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor, but in effect, Spurs have swapped six first team proven Premier League performers, the majority of whom still had a role to play at White Hart Lane, for continental counter-parts that have no experience in England whatsoever.
It’s the kind of thing that can seriously disrupt a group of players, especially considering the Lilywhites still need to find a fresh nucleus in attack following Bale’s departure, and other non-footballing issues, such as personality clashes and the language barrier. Just look at Newcastle, who lost all sense of their identity last term after making five January additions from the French top flight and are still trying to forge a new one.
The plan is that eventually the quality will tell, and Tottenham’s new stars and starlets possess it in abundance. Eriksen is the leader of his generation of Ajax prodigies, Roma forked out £10million plus incentives for Lamela when he was a 19 year-old at River Plate, Paulinho is a major player in the Brazil national set up, Chiriches comes to Tottenham as one of Eastern Europe’s hottest young talents and Roberto Soldado has been one of La Liga’s most established goalscorers for the last four seasons.
But as we saw against Arsenal, at the moment, they’re still just a rabble of talent rather than a slick Premier League outfit. Those expecting instant results will be disappointed at the outcome of the North London derby, and the Lilywhites will have to improve considerably in terms of style and flair going forward before their heavyweight clash with Chelsea at the end of the month.
The answer could lie in Christian Eriksen or Erik Lamela, who could both provide Roberto Soldado with some much needed support in the final third by taking up the creative No.10 role to compensate for Spurs’ rough and rugged midfield engine. As previously stated however, both have a lot of adapting and development to undergo in England before they can begin to rival the attacking midfield talents at Arsenal, Chelsea or the two Manchester clubs.
To give credit where it’s due, there isn’t much more Daniel Levy, working with new Technical Director Franco Baldini, could have done this summer to replace the influence of one of the most talented footballers in Europe. More than anything, such a level of quantity and quality has provided the confidence to the fans and the roster that the Lilywhites can survive Bale’s departure with their Champions League ambitions still intact, whilst the transfer duo have also created longevity by bringing in just a single player over the age of 25 as four aged veterans in Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Clint Dempsey have been moved on.
But the sheer quantity of the seven first team additions has created an imbalance amongst the squad to add to the conundrum of how to best get over the loss of Spurs’ greatest attacking threat in Gareth Bale. The new signings suggested a summer of significant progress at White Hart Lane, but the Lilywhites will have to take a step back in order to go forwards, and as a consequence, it could scupper their chances of Champions League football this season.
That being said, the long-term blue print is quite clearly in place, and if Spurs can’t claim fourth spot at the end of the current campaign, they’ll have their greatest chance to date in a year’s time once their summer additions have been endured 12 months to settle in England.
Will Tottenham’s aggressive recruitment policy affect their chances?
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