Remember the days when we hardly had any midfield players? Pretty sure we spent most of the 90s without any steel in the middle. Just dollops of jelly and the odd lump of wood that occasionally tripped up opposing players. These days Levy, Baldini and Villas-Boas are collecting them like stamps. It's intent, from Spurs. It's still far from complete, mainly because we can do with a touch here (full-backs) and a touch there (another winger, attacker) and a dreamy number 10. That would be a touch.
Obviously, I'm getting carried away. Another striker would be grand. Continued rumours relating to Real Madrid's Fábio Coentrão (with or without strings attached). And if 'the Welsh kid' does leave, does that winger/attacker/attacking midfielder once again become a vital addition? The roles of 'talisman' and 'locksmith' can easily be taken by any number of players we currently possess. Much like Bale came out of nowhere to claim his game-changing stature, the same can happen if AVB allows for expansive and expressive football to shine through once all pieces are slotted into place. We need to be more adventurous and urgent with play at White Hart Lane.
Capoue looks to have signed. He can double up as defensive mid and centre-back. Bale can play out wide or behind the striker in a far more central/offensive position. You could add Kaboul to emergency right-back and Vertonghen at left-back. Adaptable players, but not the perfect solution for long term injury issues, illustrated perfectly with Jan's lack of consistency last season thanks to the lack of positional consistency. Hence the necessity for genuine full-back cover/competition (or even a direct replacement).
With all this in mind, time for another summer review of how we're shaping up (not including all fringe players of the youth variety, as some already loaned out, others might follow).
Lloris Friedel Archer Gomes
Vertonghen Kaboul Dawson Capoue
Walker Assou-Ekotto Naughton Rose Fryers
Sandro Capoue Parker Huddlestone Livermore
Dembele Paulinho Holtby
Bale Lennon Chadli Townsend
Bale Soldado Adebayor Defoe
Lloris stands alone as first choice. Gomes is always in the perpetual
state of leaving Spurs (or standing next to another Brazilian in a photo
opp). Is Archer good enough to be 3rd choice? Do we need to invest in a keeper or commit to our academy? Friedel will no doubt play when the coach warrants the occasion acceptable rest-time for Lloris (so any given Europa League match). He can still do a job for us, but he's not the same fit as Lloris - which means we should be seeking an understudy that has the same traits as Hugo and can defend/keep in a high line (with all the responsibilities such a role undertakes). Big task there.
Vertonghen, Kaboul, Dawson, Capoue. Four centre-backs should do the job. All eyes on Kaboul's return and fitness. Which is why I wouldn't say no to another centre-back (and therefore question the sale of Caulker). Although if the player wasn't deemed good enough, then that answers my question. To refer back to the adaptability of players - it's all well and good, but if you get two key injuries then use players that are also key - out of position - then you're stuck with an imbalance that can't help with attaining consistency. Another centre-back would eradicate those fears.
Benny and Walker didn't have great seasons. The latter desperately needs competition and someone to cover him. He's played for two seasons solid. Not that I'm making this an excuse, but at times last season he needed to be benched, if anything for a rest and to allow him to comeback with more determination to improve. Has to work on his positioning.
Benny is still with us. At least I think he is. He's not been involved pre-season. A betting man would say he's on his way out. Hasn't become a bad player over night, but might not be in AVB's plans. Fábio Coentrão might or might not be fantasy. We'll have to wait a couple more weeks or so to see how this pans out. But again, as per the centre-back positions - we need to have complete faith in our first choice players. We don't have this with both full-backs currently.
Rose is getting plenty of pre-season game time, but this is simply a consequence of no one else being available. Again, not sure if BAE is on extended holiday or injured or just not fancied. Uncertain on Fryers. In pre-season, he's looked okay at times, but difficult to form an opinion when I've not seen enough of him (at any level for Spurs). Not heard great things about his performances at youth level.
Parker and Huddlestone might be surplus to requirements. Livermore probably fits the same label, but I can't see us moving all three on. They could all get more game time elsewhere. Capoue signing would suggest something is going to happen. I'd like to keep Huddlestone, simply because of what he can offer (when the game suits him). But not sure (if he harbours ambitions) he'll settle with being an impact player.
Sandro, the presser, the wall between defence and midfield. Dembele and Paulinho central. Dembele playing from deep, gliding into forward positions. Paulinho, able to mix it up much like Dembele in deeper positions but more suited box to box. We all know he likes an assist and a goal.
With Dembele, he spent far too much time deep last season due to Sandro's absence. He might be one of the players that is free to attack space, support attacks and attack. Capoue can help out with defensive duties in the middle. Sandro unlikely to start the season as first choice until he works towards 100% match fitness. Good to see him back in action.
Can't argue about our physicality. Our height. We have some proper muscle in the middle. Looks more like a UFC line-up than a traditional powder-puff Spurs side. Ideally, Dembele has to play more offensive - although Paulinho is box to box, so hopefully the shape of the team will allow for them to swap, mix it up - as I think Dembele has a lot to offer when bringing the ball forward. He could be elegantly destructive for us (if he works on his shooting).
Holtby's preference is deep midfield, but could possibly play higher up the pitch. So although I have him down a central mid above, he could fit alongside the likes of Sigurdsson in terms of offering something more potent in and around the box. Both players have plenty to prove this season.
Sigurdsson took a while to settle in, but displayed glimpses once confidence fuelled his performances. Needs to beef up a little, strengthen his resolve and consistency in a game when he starts and not fade away. Not quite a Luka or Rafa, but in this side, someone who can provide that something extra that perhaps our more physical direct players can't.
The same can be said for Holtby. As I've written about before, the frantic and urgent Holtby was hopefully not the cultured one we know exists and therefore the one we should be promoting when in the side. Holtby currently injured (knee). If the Sandro/Dembele/Paulinho middle three lacks craft and subtly, then Holtby could be the alternative in selection.
Carroll has bags of composure, looks good but is he quite good enough to break into this side? With all the cup competitions, I'd keep him. No guarantee he'd play all the time on loan. At least we're in control of his development at Spurs and playing alongside the players we have is probably better for him than out on loan to a newly promoted side. Caulker looked good on loan. Lost his way when he returned.
Alen Halilović? Steady now. We've already almost signed this teenager once already this window. I'll hold back from involving him in, even theoretically. Let's not jinx this again.
Chadli might or might not be first team. Actually, scrap this first team thing. All our players should be good enough for the first team, and we should rotate on form and if the player warrants inclusion, tactically. Elegant footballer, if Bale does go, he'll play. Lennon will play. Leaving Townsend another potentially good youth player that has to prove his grade at Spurs. Questions will be answered once the season proper starts. Dutch league not quite the same level as the Premier, so it's tricky to gauge whether Chadli can hit the ground running or needs time to settle.
Bale remaining would mean no need to seek a talismanic replacement. I hope it doesn't mean the entire side looks for him to win games in the final 10 minutes of a game, but somehow I think the responsibility has to be shared amongst a fair few first team players - such is the quality of improvement. It's not word class ground shaking improvement, but it is solid and it does allow for a lot more tenacity and guile across the field rather than all eyes on the single player.
If all four are available come the start of the season, then that is fantastic competition within the squad. Should inspire the players to fight for their place and not get too comfortable.
If Bale does go, do we need another winger? Are three enough? Is Townsend enough? Whether he stays or goes, Erik Lamela of Roma would potentially be a perfect signing. Gives us width, pace, can play up front. Gives as an edge we'd lose if we lost Bale.
Soldado, Adebayor, Defoe. The forward line-up. Until we sign another or move one of the two (that are not Soldado) on. If that was our striker list after the window shut, I wouldn't complain. Defoe is brilliant as an impact player and although he blows hot and cold, he can be the difference (sadly not as often as we'd like and not as consistent to warrant a first team place due to lack of compatible movement).
Adebayor always blows hot and cold. One season for one, the next for the other. If he regains his end of season bullish effort and avoids injuries/red cards/working the channels all of the time - then we might have a fiery player to rotate with Soldado.
Defoe (World Cup year) could equally raise his game. Adebayor - for all the time he spends on the channels - was probably instructed to do so but didn't do it convincingly and didn't attack the box enough when we shifted forward (although the space he made allowed others to attack, you know, like Bale).
Soldado gives us a traditional spearhead. A finished product, confidence in his abilities. Adebayor gives us something different if the occasion requires it. On paper, it looks good. Am I holding out for another striker? Yes. Why? Because I'm greedy for more. Have I mentioned Lamela?
Harry Kane? Same as Carroll and Townsend. We need to see more of him.
Depending on how you wish to quote (money spent on transfers this season) i.e. the full amount over X amount of years or the money paid up front - we've spent between £40M and £60M in this window to add onto the players we signed last summer. Levy backing AVB with the goods with Baldini supremely busy. No stop gaps, no over 30s. No cheap deals.
Compare these windows with the ones Harry Redknapp frequented with arms hanging out a car window.
Viva la revolución
Not much to report on with the Spurs v Espanyol game. I was in Block J for more 1882 antics. Good to see plenty of familiar faces in the Bricklayers before the game, and in the Shelf Side during it. Good atmosphere, but then, it's a friendly, so no pressures or stresses. Even got to see a Spurs penalty at the Lane. Non-competitive, but acceptable.
The first 30 mins we looked sharp, there was some good movement, but we lacked something extra in play. Some decent performances, just went a little flat after that. A typical pre-season non-event, although it was good to see Kaboul and Sandro on the pitch. Really good. Buzzing for the both of them. Kaboul has been out for a year, so he's obviously itching to get back into the team. Sandro is positively infectious to have around for team morale and pivotal to our midfield combativeness. Just have to hope they have fully recovered (no potential for recurrence or degradation of form), aside from retaining full match fitness.
Soldado (confident penalty), Paulinho (scored with his head, disallowed, not sure why) looked good, but no real insight to shape or tactics and general refinement of the high line, marking, set-piece defending. Just don't think application wise, you can read too much into these types of games.