The Levy holds firm in stormy weathers
Blimey. That (deadline day) was just a little exciting. So okay, Jim White once more failed to explode on live television and Moutinho failed to materialise in the end, but all things considering, it’s been a good window. No doubt perception of what defines good will differ amongst the majority, splintering into a variety of groups ranging from the happy to the content to the disappointed. Review time.
Joào Moutinho was a vital ingredient to the plan. I firmly believe he’s the key to ‘replacing’ the departed Luka Modric in terms of midfield creativity, an outlet of control for a system that will be based on fluidity, pace and strength. Long term, we’ll have to revisit this particular deal. Sounds like we worked until the bitter end to get it done, so the fact it didn't happen does make me feel empty. Four months we'll have to wait so the hope is we start up on the 1st of January and not on the last day. As for Dempsey he's a fantastic addition to the squad. Not comparable, the two of them. The latter is versatile and scores goals. Not quite as creative as Rafa van der Vaart but fitter and a better fit into VB’s plans.
So why wasn’t the attempt to sign Moutinho kick-started earlier?
I don’t know. There’s no definitive answer unless you work alongside Levy. Some will blame the chairman for brinkmanship and others will point to the culture of transfer negotiations, with clubs (selling clubs) also waiting until the last minute to do business in order to pressure the interested party into paying over the odds. Seems a couple of chairman in this window have had their egos bruised by little Daniel. It might have been down to the player wanting the ilk of wages we simply cannot afford. With regards to Lyon and the hissy fit thrown by them in the aftermath of the transfer of Lloris to Spurs, one or two seem to point and shout at Levy for taking massive risks, changing his mind and playing games. But that’s how he operates. He's always operated like this. It's not going to change. In the end the fee and personal terms might have been agreed. The third-party ownership of the player the stumbling block.
The player (Lloris) signed in the end and probably signed for the fee we were willing and happy to spend on him. Levy does what he does for a reason. We want it to be purely about the football but he’s a business man, the money spent is an investment in the club which is part of ENIC’s investment. It’s why he’s so shrewd and perhaps sometimes willing to sacrifice for the sake of making a stand or refusing to be bullied or paying a penny more. Doesn’t always work. But he’s been relatively successful in this window, probably because he’s able to work with a manager who has a clear strategy in what is required.
Hate to say this, but if we had CL, some of our other targets (strikers included) might have been easier to sign as well. We’re aiming high. Too high perhaps. In fact so high that our backup plan for a striker was Remy, and that failed to get past agreeing a fee. Leandro, Llorente...perhaps not possible now for several reasons but possible in the future. Although I’ll like to point out (before you do) that both links have been ever present for the past few windows and nothing has happened. Not sure we’ve ever really bid for Llorente. If we’ve got our hearts set on someone and it’s for £20M or so then maybe we won’t want to spend that amount on someone we don’t really want. I don’t know, I’m trying to rationalise again on this. Spoke about this in my last blog about our summer targets and it does seem that wages + lack of Champions League is holding us back. What is frustrating is how there’s no apparent cheaper options out there. But then would you be happy with one?
Might not be as bad as it looks here (with Adebayor, Defoe). Dempsey can play in forward positions. Only need one up front, midfield/flanks will be important in how we attack and create. We’ll have to use width to compensate for lack of deep-lying movement from central positions. Midfield currently more robust and direct than reliant on scheming and ghosting. For now anyway.
Replacing Modric was never going to be easy. Catch 22. Sell Luka early in the window, get less money, then perhaps struggle to attain targets or sell him late on and give yourself less time to sign replacement. Then again, ground work would have been worked on throughout the summer. Some of the complexities of transfers breaking down are not always discussed in the public domain because we’re not privy to the details. Although the Porto chairman is also having a dig at Levy and his negotiations. Again, it's funny ha-ha how some are quick to just lay the blame on someone representing THFC.
Key player movement (or lack of) + reminders
Lloris in will have Villas-Boas smiling. Sweeper-keeper. I actually gave up on this one happening until the new year so the fact we went back in to negotiate shows us how important a player he is to aid the new template of player positioning, starting with man between the sticks. Upper body strength will need to be worked on.
Moutinho. The one that got away. I'm fixated on this. We’ve relied heavily on a play maker. Modric was special. Moutinho also has that edge, able to defend but also craft and create and attack the box. The player wants to leave Porto. We all thought he would if Hulk failed to move on. Neither have departed. Yet. Hoping this will be resurrected in four months time. We’ll have to sit back and watch how the side will set out to retain possession and attack from deep/counter attack. Either we’ll compensate or Villas-Boas has plans to mould Dembele into an emergency ‘playmaker’.
Talking of which, Dembele is a steal. Quality player who has gone from strength to strength under Jol at Fulham. He’s not in the same class at Luka and it’s unwise to expect the same type of movement and play from him but he brings something different. Dynamic, beastly, box to box. Strength and skill.
Dempsey might be perceived us some as a fall back plan but let’s think of this without the pressures of alternative signings. He’s Prem experienced. He’s cut throat in front of goal and scores a fair few. He can play in midfield, on the flanks and up front. He scores goals <-- hello. I mentioned that already but it’s worth repeating. If Bale steps up this season and improves his tally then playing with one striker might not impact us if the midfield are sharing the load. Rafa got a fair few for us in the past two seasons. We need to retain or improve on that form. Also, he’s another strong player. We’re turning into a very mobile, versatile side (on paper).
Remy was the player we got linked to a few times and had bids rejected for. I think at one point we were balls deep, but it didn’t happen. He’s not in the same class as some of our other prospective signings but then the other ones are Llorente and Leandro, to name just a couple. What player would sit in the tier below Remy? Seems our quest here for an out and out striker (which ironically is not what Remy is) will continue into yet another window.
Jenas. Turned down a move to Sunderland. Still with us. I guess along with Huddlestone (who doesn’t appear to fit into the mobile fit that VB is aiming for) we have a fair few options to cover us for the cup games. Midfield is looking very busy. What will be of interest here is how VB handles squad rotation. Redknapp didn’t. Our benchers we’re exactly that. Afterthoughts. Never called upon to do a job and when they were, they struggled.
dos santos has finally gone. I’m sure he’ll look good in La Liga. He looks good in anything other than a Lilywhite shirt.
Rose to Sunderland will allow him to develop and for us to see if he will ever get to the required level to return and play for us.
Kane to Norwich. As above. We'll see how he does coming up against Prem opposition from one week to the next.
Bentley hasn’t gone anywhere. It staggers me how his career has just disappeared like a ball landing in a skip with noone willing to recover from all the rubbish. Haven’t got a clue what kind of shape he’s in, physically or mentally. Would love for him to come good but not sure how he’ll fit into the team as he has no pace.
Gomes not moving on is surprising. Thought someone might come in for him. Seems to be a millions light years away from the first team.
Kaboul out for four months. So Dawson stays. Caulker is willing and able so centre-back wise we’re doing fine. Full-backs? Let’s hope for no injuries or loss of form.
Easy to forget Bale signed a new contract. His progression and new improve instructions on the left (and when to roam) in the hands of the coach. Could bring a completely new dimension to the side (or an old and working one if he stays on the flank).
Defoe’s contract is business, IMO. Say for example, we sign Leandro in January, we get to sell JD for extra pennies in the same window. Can't see him being anything more than an impact sub as he lacks the movement and patience to truly lead the line on his own.
Kranjcar, Corluka, Pienaar, Bassong also shifted on earlier in the window along with short-term players Saha and Nelsen and other lesser squad members with very little impact to our plans. None of them close to first team action.
Not too shabby for a team punching above its weight financially, signing (some) players good enough for CL and retaining strength in squad. Best to remember how far away we are from the likes of Man City and Chelsea in terms of finances and yet how close we are on the pitch. And without CL it makes it doubly hard to compete for certain signatures. Levy has shown he can work with the coach – although not disputing some of his methods and ideology isn’t always agreeable with some quarters. But then in a modern game plighted by over-spending, we continue to compete and plan for the future.
We've got better depth in squad but perhaps not quite a better first team although it’s unfair to discuss this until after we start winning games and seeing a visible distinction between this side and last seasons.
Also, some of the changes made were simply impossible to avoid. Ledley King retiring and Luka Modric wanting out. Selling Rafa van der Vaart is one of sadness, but sentiments aside, he was continually subbed off last season. Not fit enough under Redknapp so not a chance he could fit into VB’s plans. Not just about the fitness, but his style would see him relegated to the bench and Rafa is not productive out on the wings and shouldn't be wasted on the bench. A brilliant player, one that truly galvanised us. Had a winners mentality and will never be forgotten for his form against the scum. Was one of my favourite players before he signed for us, had to pinch myself when he did. Good luck back in Germany. I’ll be keen to see how often he plays and how many games he finishes on the pitch.
We’ve made more in transfers out then spent on transfers in. That will no doubt turn the chairman on. I’m fairly excited myself. But more so in getting behind the team (easy tiger) and watching us gradually transform into a new variant one that hopefully retains the beautiful football of recent years but with more guile and mental strength.
Levy might not be everyone's cup of tea and his ideas of what is best for the club differs from some of ours but by doing the best for himself he does actually do quite well for the club in the end. Opposing chairman crying their eyes out? Bless them. They probably expect to push us over and don't like it when they come up against someone that bites back. All fair in love and war. The work now shifts from boardroom to training pitch and the league.
A very good window. It could have been majestic with Joào. I will ignore the scenario that would play out if Adebayor picked up an injury. For now.