So we got what we wanted in the end.
I’m talking about the three points rather than the transfer market. More on that later. Firstly Wigan and it’s great to be able to look back at my preview of the game and bask in the fact that Spurs delivered with both professionalism and focus to brush the bottom club aside comfortable. Dominated possession, had a plenty of chances. Okay, so there were moments in the second half where we displayed questionable defending, going through the motions without much intent, but all things considered the result was never in doubt. Even if we switched off a little in the second forty five.
Wigan didn’t park the bus although they attempted to defend deep with emphasis on their back-line, waiting and building a sponge wall of protection to soak up the pressure. The opening goal the perfect illustration of them attempting to do so with every man behind the ball. But alas, Xavi found Messi with an absolute gem of a pass, so perfect it split an atom on its way through. Lio expected, wanted the pass and took it with confidence for the 1-0. A thing of beauty.
Second goal was also tasty. Fortunate how the ball came to be with Luka but his turn and shot was decisive and clinical. The third was majestic. Bale again into his favourite corner giving the keeper no chance. This was routine stuff, never really shifting out of third gear. Although I prefer not to concern myself with results elsewhere, results elsewhere proved to be kind to us. 13 points off 6th spot and 11 points away from 5th. Happy days. How to improve? Perhaps next time shift out of third gear and into first and torment and destroy.
A few highlights. Bale (the beast), could have, should have had a hat-trick. Loved some of his mazy runs. Modric was sexual. Harry getting love from the crowd. Lancaster on for his début. Kaboul enjoying the evening. Some downers include Rafa and Walker going off injured and Benny (very fortunate) not to be red-carded. Norty.
Now the supposedly tricky fixtures begin. Most of the games, IMO, are winnable. That’s if we line up with our strongest side. Which links this post-match musing into the transfer market review and the distortion the January window brings leaving many of us confused and bewildered when perhaps it’s not necessary to feel this way. But then maybe confusion is the only reaction to it.
The problem with Tottenham is that we are very finely tuned. We’re a top side when we field our very best line up. Such is the quality of the first team that if we lose a key player or two the entire shape of the side is affected, sometimes with ill-effect. Meaning we have to readjust our style and some fluidity is lost as a consequence. We don’t quite have like-for-like players when looking to replace. Lesser teams, they can chop and change and appear to be more comfortable in doing so without a massively detrimental knock-on to the way they approach every game. If we lose Bale and Lennon, we have no pace and no width. If Adebayor is out, then our movement up front and the way we attack has to change to work. We don’t have convincing depth in squad. It’s looked that way but only on paper and not when applied practically.
I’ve been an advocator for consolidation. Remember 2006? We didn’t make any major changes in the Jan window and that might have been costly. Okay, so losing points in the final minutes of games cost us, but still...we could have strengthened. Make an outlay, speculate to accumulate. Take a risk but one that shortens the odds substantially meaning the risk equates to ‘guaranteeing’ the target (say top four). Nothing is guaranteed, but if you make powerful changes to personnel then positives should shine through with very few negatives interfering. So, my thinking was that looking at the squad...at our team...and taking into account that an injury or two would seriously impede us then the logical thing would be to sign quality long term players rather than spend less on short term solutions. We did neither in this window. Why?
I guess we never learn. Take away the opportunistic signing (a van der Vaart) we are left with the mundane but required exercise of balancing the books. We have unhappy players, players that aren’t even fringe or backup as they are hardly called upon. Now this might be an irritant of lack of squad rotation or the fact that they are simply not required at all. The other factor is, the players in question want to play first team football on a regular basis. Hence the unhappiness. Hence the necessity to move them on (unless your name is dos Santos).
So we have:
Pav – He’s never quite fitted in. Supremely lazy and at times lacking any on-field intelligence, he stuttered too often and could never quite claim a first team place. Not his fault. We should never have signed him in the first place. If it was ever going to work he would have had to be first choice from the start. He wasn’t. At times he displayed technical brilliance. A scorer of great goals. In 2010 (when we finished 4th) he scored important goals for us. But he’s always been distant, always a misfit. Always apologetic. Please don’t disagree and suggest we were not expecting him to move on. It’s taken how many windows for this to finally happen? £11M isn’t too bad either.
Bassong – Another player simply not fancied. A shame because he wasn’t that bad at all when he first arrived here. Confidence and lack of game time can knock you. He’s also too far down the pecking order so it makes sense to shift him on so he can get some game time in.
Pienaar – I did my best to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s a fairly non-descript type of player. Can deputise in a couple of positions but isn’t truly a direct replacement for anyone we have. It’s now easy for me to question the ethics behind signing him in the first place when again he was not used often enough (injuries aside). If you’re going to play the squad game, then you have to look at resting/protecting players effectively and allowing the likes of Pienaar game time. Harry doesn’t tinker unless injuries force him too. This signing has proven to be a redundant one.
Corluka – Walker (from what I know at the time of writing) is fine. But if he gets injured – we have no genuine right-back cover as our ‘kids’ are out on loan. Now if it was me, I’d keep Charlie. Even if there was the potential of him playing only twice between now and the end of the season. The player though, he probably would not find that acceptable. Which is why he’s been loaned out.
Have we weakened the squad? Yes, but we’ve not weakened the first team and all the players that have left in this window are neither key or overly called upon to wear the shirt. These are players that had to move on.
The fundamental problem with January is that this is not the month where you traditionally sign super-star players (keep ignoring the opportunistic signings). End of season, the summer...that’s when players/agents/clubs begin to play ball because it’s easier to sell and buy and build your squad for the next season. This is where it gets distorted and contradictory. We don’t know and can only guess what Levy is planning for. Whether it has something to do with Harry and the court case/England job and waiting for the summer to finance big money deals, it’s tricky to work out without being a fly on the wall.
Now you could cite the fact we bid around £20M (or so) for Remy and had it rejected and that its proof that we:
a) Have the money to spend and the inclination to do so
b) We are thinking long term regardless of potential managerial upheaval
c) We are aware of the type of quality we need and we are looking to bring it in
Now c) might require a caveat that outlines we have very specific targets we wish to splash the money on and will not sign lesser targets (for less money, say £6M-£10M) as a stop-gap/panic buys simply for the sake of consolidation. Money is tight, the NDP is on the horizon. It looks like we have it to spend but we’re not going to repeat mistakes of old.
It’s frustrating when you consider we haven’t actually bought a striker out-right for a while. In the summer, Defoe is the only player we’ll have (unless Adebayor is signed permanently). So there’s no doubt we need a massive signing in that department, regardless of Ade remaining here beyond the summer. Could we do with that signing now? Yes, we could have done with him before the window closed. Because we’re 3rd and because mathematically, 1st is still not beyond us (humour me). We also cannot afford to drop out of the top four. I don’t believe we will, and I guess that’s the crux of it. Levy and Harry believe this to be the case also because faith is being placed in the risk that consolidation of our position is not imperative. We were not expected to be in this position at the start of the season and have done so off the back of signing a 40 year old keeper and the much maligned (and now loved) Scott Parker.
We should still be aiming higher for sure. Strengthening our current stature. But there you go. We tried. And cheaper less quality driven alternatives do not appear to be options when looking to splash the cash.
Krasic, according to reports, was more than an option. We wanted him on loan. Juventus agreed to it. The player didn’t, preferring a more permanent role. He would have covered off the flank, another one of those consolidation question marks. Players in the Prem that we considered viable alternatives might have been too pricey to follow through on. How many times have we been burnt in the past? Too many.
So, all I have left is the fact that we must be aiming high. It’s frustrating. It’s a harsh reality. But if clubs won’t let the players leave then you’re going to be hitting that brick wall over and over again. In the summer just past, I was told a story about Gervinho, the Arsenal striker. We were interested. He didn’t fancy us. That turned out rather well. I think the lesson to be learnt is we have to be decisive and certain. Unequivocally. I think the club know the players we want and won’t look elsewhere and we’ll have to go back in for them again. What we have to hope for is that we have enough about us (and luck) to see the season through to be in a position to attract. And when we do attract we attract the very best.
Saha and Ryan Nelsen are nothing more than replacements for back-ups. They are not there to strengthen the first team but rather make sure we have cover if cover is called upon. Saha is on a short term contract. He can hold the ball up, protect it and fit into the style of football we play presumably as an impact sub at best. Nelsen is a curious one. Free-agent, nothing more than an experienced footballer that fits into the role Bassong had on the sidelines. Samba might have been the first choice target but if Blackburn wish to hold onto their player and price him out of a move, well, we of all clubs can’t complain about that stance. Also Caulker will be with us next season. We can’t over spend for the sake of the short term. One thing of note here worth mentioning. All this ridicules the signing of Khumalo.
I know. Its underwhelming because the window distorts expectancy and everyone feels disappointed when a big signing isn’t made. Again, I’m going to refer back to consolidation. We haven’t achieved this. It’s the way it’s played out. The players will need to dig deep and we’ll have to cope with injuries. I felt underwhelmed during the summer and the start of the season, but this run and our form has proven that faith in both manager and chairman has to be respected. Benefit of the doubt. I can’t spend time wasting it on complaining when the team need me to support them. Regrets, they only come into play after the fact if we’ve failed. Something I do not wish to entertain.
Simply put. If we claim Champions League, then this summer there will be no margin for error or indecisiveness. We’ll need top drawer, dare I say, world class signings. Not for consolidation but for stepping up to the next level and to be able to retain the new founded stature.
Until then, the window is shut. No draft, and the temperature is about to rise.
We are Tottenham. We're third, five points off the top of the table. Believe.
Daring is achieving. Love the shirt.