What an astonishing summer.
To actually think I had plans to spend it detached from football, enjoying The Ashes and generally doing very little in the way of worrying/stressing/eyes popping out of head in cartoon style and banging head against any structure with bricks over Bale.
Not that I didn't expect us to do business and to do it decisively. The appointment of Franco Baldini automatically meant that Daniel Levy was backing Andre Villas-Boas. But I still didn't expect such a dynamic bullying of the transfer window, swaggering around picking out players that not only looked to have resolved issues with depth but also signing players that would not be out of place in a team competing in the Champions League.
The Bale saga took a phenomenal amount of time to complete. It's irrelevant whether Joe Lewis was going to fund a spree or not because (as discussed the other day) we knew the likelihood of Bale going to Madrid was very high. Net spend irony is also not relevant. Not to me. Have we signed good players? Yes. Are we stronger for it? Yes. Are Spurs still financially robust? I expect so. Can you imagine ENIC doing anything to destabilise their investment? Of course not. Fact is, we've not exactly been big spenders over the past few seasons. Even with the loss of Bale, we have signed some fairly marketable assets in the likes of Lamela and Eriksen. You know, if Levy and Lewis were seeking to bolster the THFC portfolio to make us more attractive to a potential buyer. If that was the long term objective.
Again, not relevant.
All that is relevant is the here and now.
Last season, we signed Lloris, Vertonghen, Dembele, Sigurdsson, Holtby.
This summer we finally ended our 'striker' drought with Soldado (an out and out goal scorer, as many still dismiss Adebayor as being proficient in that field) and covered off:
Centre-back - Chiriches
Wing - Chadli
Midfield - Paulinho, Capoue
Attacking midfield - Eriksen, Lamela
Striker - Soldado
The magnificent seven.
Key word: Overhaul. Secondary key word: Patience.
Three times we smashed our transfer record. Three times. What deserves a lengthy Orson Wells applause is the fact we did all of this during the window rather than struggling through the maddening indignity of deadline transfer day. Thankfully there was no last minute bidding for players we didn't quite need because the player(s) we wanted become unavailable thanks to third party technicalities, minutes before the window [JIM WHITE] SLAM SHUT ! [/JIM WHITE].
We showed interest in David Villa and Christian Benteke. Also attempted to court Fabio Conentrao. Willian pulled a Petit and stood us up for another. Yet here we still are, £100M splashed out (then more or less reclaimed via our oh so special relationship with Real Madrid). Not bad mathematics when you consider our 36k stadium and lack of CL football.
It's now about getting heads down, working hard on the training pitch and integrating the new players so that we resuscitate some of that missing creativity and trickery that has lacked so far. Very much early days, but you should be optimistic unless you can't let go of the Spursy pessimistic tagline that everything that can go wrong will go wrong. You traditionalist you.
Adebayor stays. For now. I know he's had time off for personal issues but there has been a fair amount of suggestion he was leaving this window. Three forwards, all very different in style gives us options as long as every player plays football with a smile and a touch of confidence. Defoe also linked with a move away (in World Cup year). Soldado will be first choice. Can't help but think only the one person will be grinning. Soldado (as long as we find him with a disguised pass or two).
Benny has gone to QPR (on loan), the crazy maverick. That was expected (for him to leave) as AVB doesn't appear to fancy him at all. Danny Rose and Zeki Fryers available for left back - although Vertonghen will no doubt deputise there if required. On the other side Walker will be covered by Naughton with Kaboul emergency RB (once he's fit - although CB is where he will preside).
Arguably it's not ideal to not have an accomplished left-back there considering we've gone for experience/class in other areas of the pitch. We'll have to trust in youth, much like we've done with Walker, but it's a risk for sure. Mainly because it's youth covering youth and Vertonghen as backup just in case. I worry a little about how Rose will develop (positionally). I guess we bang on about giving the kids a chance, this looks to be that chance. Although not entirely certain this was by choice. Does beg the question just how far apart AVB and Benny were for us to let our only seasoned left back go.
CB's - Kaboul. Vertonghen. Chiriches. Dawson. That's plenty (with the grand hope Kaboul retains fitness all season). Might be interesting to see how the LB position is handled as we might be treated to a centre pairing of Kaboul and Chiriches with Vertonghen left (and Walker right). That - on paper - isn't bad looking at all.
Midfield is key. We've done our best work here, truly strengthening what was an already strong set of players, but as we witnessed, an injury to one can be fairly devastating. Losing Sandro was costly last season. Now we look like this:
Paulinho. Sandro. Dembele. Capoue.
That is pretty fantastic. Okay, so not so subtle but there is still attacking intent in all of those players. Just more direct, physical. Paulinho is box to box, can score and assist. Capoue is a tank. Sandro is two tanks. Dembele is a tank with a clamp. He seems to be more comfortable in deep positions when I still think his glide forward can be effective (as long as he improves decision making). No confident authoritative movement from him currently.
Sandro/Capoue can play as more traditional defensive players/pressers. But both look comfortable bringing the ball out, driving forward into offensive areas. Paulinho can look to play higher up the pitch. Again, there are options. The task is to find the best midfield '3' for the occasion.
Lennon was another player maligned and rumoured to be going. His experience, work ethic should not be discounted. Might not have reached the heights (no pun, I promise) that we expected when you remember those dazzling runs at opposing defences back in the day, but he can still produce the goods for us - injuries aside. His defensive work is imperative, he's a team player. Experienced. Granted sometimes his decision making harks back to his youthful days.
Having Andros Townsend and his fearless enthusiasm means competition on the right. Townsend runs and run and runs. Again, end product needs nurturing. I get the feeling Lennon (having lost that burst of pace to beat people - edit: 'consistently do it') has changed into a different type of right-sided player. The hope is that Townsend can capture some of that missing pace that is so difficult to defend against.
Attacking midfield looks positively golden.
Nacer Chadli in at the left, looks elegant on the ball but will need time to adapt. We've added Erik Lamela that can play off the right and has (for a time at River Plate) also played on the left. Although he might well be capable of a trequartista role, roaming around between the striker and midfield - right to centre to left. Christian Eriksen is hopefully the player that will service Soldado and bring in other players. The boy can assist.
Holtby and Sigurdsson also options with rotation in mind. We're hardly short of creativity (on paper). We need to find that right balance between the power in midfield and the technical and the flair.
Eriksen, more of a number 10 than a traditional deep-lying playmaker although Holtby is a player that might grow into such a role in the future. Sigurdsson, the weakest of the three.
Worth mentioning that (against Swansea) our midfield attacked the penalty area. Paulinho a perfect example of that. With Eriksen/Lamela there's something to complement the power with inventiveness and vision.
Soldado up top, with Defoe offering a more direct and instinctive alternative and Adebayor, all dependent on whether we see the 'season one' version. On form, there is no denying his ability, considering just how physical he can be.
Soldado already looks the polished player but as mentioned, there has to be a supply line otherwise he's wasted up there. An almost identical to last season - but this season we already have several answers to this single question. This mean, even though he looks polished, on the ball/holding it up - there is little else to critique because there is very little for him to do.
Last season we had the explosive left peg of Bale, but this time around we seem to have more than one way to open a door (without always the need to break through it like a battering ram).
All hypothetically of course, as we're not at a point yet to see it play out. I'm obviously writing all this with my optimistic head on.
Regardless, every little selection question is a wonderful one to have. We have quality in abundance. We now have to work towards a cohesive structure and make the most of the power in the side, the pace and the finishing touch in front of goal. Spurs create more chances than most. Some are wild efforts, but with Eriksen (composed, intelligent approach) and Lamela (flair, trickery) we'll have more, much more, to offer. As long as the balance is right.
Also need to add pace into the football, release the ball quickly. What happened at the Emirates illustrates how detrimental a lack of ingenuity can be.
It's key to get the midfield functioning - including Demeble's role defined to something more effective and productive than it's been (although some of his work can go unnoticed due to its selflessness) .
Tom Carroll to QPR was a little bit deflating, mainly because I hoped for a Prem loan and was very pleased to hear (the rumour) that Ajax were going to take him for a season. Shame no one wanted him in the Prem.
The potential of this squad is dizzying. My opinion hasn't altered, it will take a few games to click into place but a good expansive performance at home to Norwich might aid with perking things up a little.
Potential line up?
Walker Kaboul Vertonghen Rose
Sandro Paulinho Dembele
Walker Kaboul Vertonghen Rose
Lamela Paulinho Chadli/Lennon
Walker Kaboul Chrichies Vertonghen
Townsend/Lennon Eriksen/Holtby Lamela
Walker Kaboul Vertonghen Rose
Lamela Eriksen Holtby/Chadli/Lennon
Eriksen in the hole, spraying balls into the pen box from every direction. Lamela, Holtby inverted, cutting in and roaming around. Lennon and Townsend providing width. Chadli's (hopeful) versatility. Haven't even included Sigurdsson as an option above. Throw in Capoue into the midfield mix. Can we play all of the at the same time?
We have OPTIONS. IN CAPITAL LETTERS.
The front three, pivotal, but will all be dependent on home/away and opposition quality. If we need more traditional width we'll go with more obvious flankers. If we need to craft something centrally, then the trickster magic of a Eriksen or Lamela will help.
I'm going to need a chalkboard, some chalk and some coffee. We can field two sides (although the second 'string' might do the job in cup games, I don't expect too much of a variance in league games).
Expectations are high, best not too expect too much too soon. Although considering the negativity bestowed on the likes of Carrick, Modric and even Bale...I hope we do hit the ground running. For the sake of harmony, on and off the pitch.
AVB has to find that right balance, we need to do more than just bully and win possession - we have to play with a quick tempo not too dissimilar to some of our away football last season. We did well to upgrade and move the likes of Caulker, Dempsey, Huddlestone, Parker and Livermore (loan) on. Left-hand side (as discussed) isn't as strong as it might have been had we completed this window with perfection and got Conentrao/Willian. Wasn't too be (the former didn't look like he fancied a move to us, the latter was opportunistic and opted for an alternative).
Baldini has done the job he was paid to do. His links to Roma no doubt helping us with the Lamela acquisition. AVB spoke about the end of season team building exercise/friendly out in the Bahamas and the list of players he handed to Levy. Team effort. Everyone has done their job. Did you quite expect it to play out this well? Based on prior windows, we've all been Levyed.
Refreshing not to be biting nails on deadline day. A day that has managed to create this fallacy that if you miss out on signing a player on the last day you have somehow failed or weakened yourself. An example is the reaction from some regarding Arsenal signing Ozil. They've signed a player for a position that will make them stronger but not a player for the several positions where they lack depth. Might well be the best player signed this window, but let's not suddenly dismiss the magnificent seven signed that strengthen all areas of our team and squad. Maybe Levy should have left Lamela for the final half hour of the window, just for the hype it would generate.
Every club (well almost every club) have displayed ambition this summer. I guess everyone, to varying degrees will have a transitional month or so. Seems that when you think you might have the Prem all figured out, it shakes itself up and you can't quite work out how things will go.
Shame there's an international break. Feels like the season proper is about to begin.