With the transfer window now a distant memory along with the additional depressing low ebb that consumed us in the aftermath, what with Jim White’s head failing to fully explode in decapitating HD, how best to look back with the aid of hindsight and pose the question: Could we have done better in our endeavours had we bulked up our forward line with far more assured and proven quality?
I think, probably not. I know, I know, considering I was spitting blood for an injection of the world class to lead our march forwards in Europe and our gleeful skip and trip domestically. The first apparent flaw is that for all the hype and stories at the time, there was no definitive true target. Even the players the club might have pencilled in as possibilities were not (looking back at it all) the type of players we perhaps should have been flirting with. Forlan has hardly been in inspired form this season and his price tag is perhaps too steep for his age.
The other targets appeared like after thoughts and misinformation disguised as apparent bids and keen interest. Which the club might have allowed the media to play out to make us look busy, a suspicion you could easily agree with when you delve deeper into the supposed bids for half of La Liga’s strikers when the reality was, at least in the case of Sergio Agüero, that football politics at Atlético Madrid was the main reason behind the story unfolding in the manner it did.
Roman Pavlyuchenko was once upon a time meant to be the answer, out of desperation from the failure to grab some Arsh(avin) from Zenit. Looking at how that one panned out (the Russians wanted £20M in the end having over-stepped the mark countless times during negotiations asking for more each time) with the player finally going to Arsenal for a snip and hardly proving to be the dynamic tongue show-off he was expected to be – I’d say lucky escape.
That’s lucky until you count the pennies spent on Roman who spent the first year tired and struggling with his English and every year since playing the role of the cameo. And still struggling with the English. Hardly worth the £14M in terms of how we’ve (not) implemented him into the side. The white Darren Bent. Scores goals, actually scores far better goals technique wise that Bent, but doesn’t play consistently enough for us to truly know just how good he could be. Did score important goals last season. An expensive super-sub, hardly the answer.
When you do look back, it appears to hurt less now that we failed to sign a forward back then when we were quite obviously not one hundred percent in love with one. Other targets were hardly fitting into the required template. We have a template, right?
Luis Suarez wasn’t quite the type of footballer we needed when we were looking for a striker rather than a partner for a striker. Although with the way we play (ideally with vdV pushing up into the pen area) you could say players like Suarez and Agüero would complement our style. Complete clever crafty inter-linking with the forward running midfielders. But then again, we play with width mostly and simply want a player that can knock’em into the onion bag without a seconds thought.
Yeah, so no template.
Andy Carroll, I fancied a bit and is a candidate for the one player that the club might have wanted above and beyond all others. Love or lust for Andy? He's sort of old school Bobby Smith battering ram with ponytail. Direct, touch of skill, but plenty of physicality. Can shoot, can get on the end of a cross and can head. Questionable balance, but thankfully no bar stools out on the pitch at the Lane. Questionable transfer price too. I cite Kenwyne Jones as evidence. The Trinidadian Andy Carroll. £20M Sunderland wanted for him. Now if we’re talking lucky escapes that’s a peach. But something tells me Carroll won't disappoint disappear and end up at a lower level side.
I’m not suggesting taking a risk is the wrong thing to do. Considering we usually just splash the money out without thought (Bentley anyone?). Some of our risks have been stunning with success. Modric and Berbatov in the season he used us to display all his worth to Ferguson. I’m not sure what I’m suggesting. Other than perhaps some type of tangible focus on the exact ilk of forward we actually want/need that can adapt to perhaps playing up front on his own or as one part of two.
A Lineker. A Greaves. A Bobby Smith. A Klinsmann.
Brilliant players who would fit into any side with minimal fuss simply because of the talent they possess.
Okay, so we’re screwed. But if our scouts can find a composed unfazed kid like Sandro for our midfield (be it a kid that has experience in the robust Copa Libertadores de América) then surely we can find a hungry marksman that can spearhead the swashbuckle?
This doesn't need to be complicated, yet somehow it is.
The players I cited are obviously all Spurs legends. All different in their manner and footballing style but all the same when in front of goal: Ruthless. And all sadly unavailable.
The new Berbatov was quite obviously Dzeko if you wish to compare goal scoring antics in the Bundesliga. Neither were unknown commodities when they transferred to their new clubs. But what chances of us competing with City and their hordes of riches? Although looking at his first touch, you wonder again - lucky escape - or maybe just another foreigner finding the grass in Blightly a little tricky to play on (but will come good in time).
Perhaps all our targets could have fitted into the side without too much trouble, if you are in agreement that each target was an upgrade to the players who have at the minute. Maybe I'm the one complicating things and that our apparent erratic money flashing policy to just bid for anyone would result with a quality signing - no matter the one signed.
Yeah, that doesn't quite stick does it?
What is unquestionably evident, as predicted and known amongst all, is that upgrades are needed. Agreed? Players to match the likes of Modric, van der Vaart and Bale in impact to give us more options than a hoof and a knock-down. That isn’t a dig at Crouch, he serves his purpose and does so well. But we need something more to edge closer to the sides above us. We need a defined Plan A to go with the collection of Plan B's we have.
At the moment we are doing our very best with one boot lace untied, losing our footing every so often with said boot left behind stuck in the mud trying to kick the ball with a sock. Could we have done better in our endeavours had we bulked up our forward line with far more assured and proven quality? You’d like to say yes to that question, but we’ll never know because there’s no real way of knowing how the signings would have turned out. Out of form, injured, new country – plenty of potential hiccups for the bedding in period for most of the players we were linked with.
Tactically, Harry has changed the way we play a few times to accommodate a player, famously with vdV. The way we line-up in Europe tends to be different to the way we’d prefer to line-up in the league. A new player up front that was like-for-like in style (but an improvement) than our current crop might not have given him any further headaches. Say we lined-up with a fit Carroll up top. Or say an in-form Torres (just pretend) or a twenty-six year old Drogba (really pretend). We'd hardly need to change our style of play. I guess our desperation in wanting a new forward (just sign someone for the Love of God!!) was because new blood would most probably give us a refreshing rejuvenation and goal revival because that type of thing happens. Probably. Maybe.
Hindsight is hardly helping me here.
There was no such luck with a galvanising last minute shock signing. You tend to forget our gaffers more favoured signings (Bellamy, Parker, Cole) when the opportunistic one out shined them all. The great thing is, Harry always finds a way even if it sometimes feels like he gets away with a wing or two. And perhaps issues concerning money and progression at both at home in the Premier League and away in Europe has left the chairman thinking about other battles that need to be fought first in the summer to retain key players before building on key areas.
So, like I said at the start. Probably not, no, in reference to 'could we have done better?'. We’d probably be sat where we are sat at the minute. Fifth within touching distance of fourth and in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Not bad considering our deficiencies, which are only such because of our new founded ambitions. That's just my opinion. You might disagree and suggest a top drawer forward would have scored the goals to have us sitting in third. Or better.
Conclusion from this messy ramble of thoughts? No massive shocker: the right player has to be available for the right price. Consolidation is always a risk if you spend big in the belief that the seduction of a new striker would equate to success on the pitch. That and there’s always the argument that if our current strikeforce took us to the Champions League and that same threesome remain present then that same three can perhaps strike their lightning emphatically a second time. Even if they are doing their utmost to be out-scored by the midfield.
My personal thoughts are that we need to sign a young player who we can truly blood in at the deep end. ‘The future’. We need to sign a world class technically gifted striker who has enough savvy and intelligence to link up with the midfield as well as goal-poach and goal-create. There has to be someone out there for the Lilywhite shirt.
At the moment, I’d say Roman is the player the club will let go. Leaving us with Defoe, Crouch and <someone new> + <young kid for the future>.
Upgrades on Defoe and Crouch can follow post-Harry for England.
For the moment, much like when the the Jan window shut, all we can do is support the players we have and hope that Harry has his best players available for selection and that he mixes it up a bit in the run-in and the quarter final. Let’s not pretend that a side with a full-pelt of Bale, Modric, van der Vaart and Huddlestone wouldn’t carve out goals for anyone of the players we have.
Defoe has had a stop-start season what with his injury and his red card and the fact that we don't play a consistent forward line-up in terms of one or two leading from the front. Crouch does a job, one that is much maligned and confusing and frustrating because of his not so amazing goal ratio. Pav continues to flatter to deceive. A scorer of great goals, not a great goal scorer.
We'll see how it pans out in the coming weeks because if there was ever a time for someone to lace up that second boot, it's now.
I have faith, as ever.