Spurs; hard boiled round the edges, gooey centre needs nuts
Jan Vertonghen has signed. He’s been in a perpetual state of signing for what seems like months. You can trace this transfer saga back to Friday 2nd December 2011, when we were first linked. Regardless of how long it took for it to become official at no point did I find myself thinking the usual knee-jerk thoughts as this all played out. You know, the usual agent-mind games that haunt and tease us where we get used in public to drum up interest elsewhere. Here was a player willing to come to Spurs, wanting to be part of our club. Thanks to a technicality, nothing shifted until the player shook hands with the Ajax over a contractual obligation owed. So seven months on, he belongs to THFC. Although until he parachutes onto the high road riding an inflatable cockerel singing Chas’n’Dave I’ll hold back from getting his face tattooed on my back.
12 million Euros the alleged fee. Yet another signing and it’s not even the middle of July yet. Whatever will Jim White and Sky Sports News do when that final fifteen minutes starts ticking away on deadline day? Pre-season kicks off on Monday and the message is one of relentless desire to get all our business done. Although I’m being a tad colourful with the truth as both Sig and Vert were ongoing deals that concluded regardless of Villas-Boas being appointed. It’s the signings made now onwards which will be most telling in how we plan to shape up for the new season.
Vertonghen truly adds another dimension to our centre-back horde. Intelligent, drives forward out of defence (eye for a goal) and a talented left foot - we’ve got ourselves a glamour boy that lives up to the hype. Ajax captain, Eredivisie Player of the Year and (according to Wikipedia) ‘Male Performer of the Year’. Those Dutch love putting it about. He will bring with him not just experience (title winner) but pace – something that Villas-Boas will no doubt require if we plan to play with a high-line (which failed at Chelsea thanks to their distinctive lack of it). A defender that can defend, attack and most importantly consolidate strength at the back. What with Ledley King’s future as a player in doubt. A back four of Walker – Kaboul (Dawson) – Vert – Benny is looking good (full back positions requiring sustained cover).
The key area (thanks to complete lack of depth) is up front. Defoe being the only recognised forward we currently have on our first team books. Adebayor continues to be linked and is on the cards thanks to the success he had with us and the fact that he’s open to returning (the player confirmed this himself back in May that Spurs and City were in talks). This has probably dragged because of the asking price so much like the Vert transfer, it’s going to happen but it might take a few more shrewd manoeuvres from our chairman. We’ll still need another. I’m not too concerned with this conundrum because there is no puzzle to be solved. We might play a 433, we might only need the one ‘striker’ but across the season? Three is the magic number. The ultimate would be a forward that can play on the right hand side, therefore fixing two problems (cover and alternative to Lennon, able to also spearhead the attack). I can remember thinking we needed this last season.
The biggest question however is the one in the middle. The heartbeat of the side is its centre. The phrase ‘build a team around him’ is not something you hear too much of in these modern times. Mainly because there’s no loyalty and players are very career driven meaning everyone is a stepping stone till they reach their ultimate goal. With Luka Modric, you’d love to do just that. Build the team around him. Although building a fence around him so he can't escape would be more apt. He attempted to tunnel his way out last year, but I expect this time when he gets to the barbed wire he'll jump it without crashing his motorbike. The great escape complete. We're left bouncing a ball off a wall in deep thought on what to do next.
Doesn’t score much? Placing that aside, he completes a ridiculous amount of passes and creates chances from open play, more so than most. He is prolific as the heart-beat of the side. Starting from deep, recycling possession and attacking forward space with effect. Under Villas-Boas he, in theory, would be phenomenal as I expect he would be used with far more astuteness. He’d benefit from a more structured system. But alas, it’s all theory because he will end in a different ilk of white shirt next season kicking up a storm. So what do we do?
Thankfully we have our holding midfielders. Scott Parker (the Jedi) and Sandro (the Padawan). We have the industrious ball winners and walls that you shall not pass. Bale will play out left or perhaps inside left. Sig is an attacking midfielder, van der Vaart is talismanic - but what we need is a player similar to Luka. A conductor. Oscar, the Brazilian kid, is one name touted. More of unknown to most of us, a midfielder that pushes into the penalty area with an eye for goal. Hugely talented and highly rated.
Joao Moutinho is the more obvious target. He’s a Porto player. He knows Villas-Boas. He’d like to work with him again. And, apparently, wants to leave Porto this summer. Central midfielder, adaptable and not too dissimilar to what we currently have in Modric in terms of sheer talent but perhaps with a touch more all action box to box about him. Like Modric he can get stuck in (something that people tend to forget then act all surprise when Luka does it) is disciplined and reads the game extremely well.
He’s a top target for a fair few clubs but if he is available and if we are interested, we’ll have the money to spend and in Villas-Boas we’ll have a potential transfer winning wink and hand shake.
It’s going to continue to be an exciting summer. We’re getting our work done early. Villas-Boas has given everyone currently at Spurs a clean-slate which might impact what players we target in terms of covering the key positions. The return of David Bentley? I’ll believe it when I see it, preferably with no feet on fire and not a skip in sight.
So far so good.