Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Spurs squad still has question marks

Andre Villas-Boas is slowly trying to put his own mark on the Tottenham Hotspurs squad, getting rid of some players and attempting to sign some new players. Spurs fans must be hoping that the attempts translate to confirmed deals as the transfer deadline approaches ever so closer.

If the footballing intelligentsia were curious to know if Villas-Boas would continue playing with a higher defensive line at Spurs after what happened at Chelsea, then selling captain Michael Dawson to QPR is the definitive answer. Dawson is the stereotypical English defender, excellent in the air and a true blood and thunder personality. While most fans were caught by surprise with this transfer, Villas-Boas must have seen shades of John Terry in Dawson and decided to act ruthlessly.

It is now clear that for any centre-back to play under the Villas-Boas, he must have ball-playing skills as well as an excellent sense of positional play. The signing of Jan Verthonghen is crucial in this regard. Tottenham are aiming high this year, so just having the talented Belgian alone at the back won't suffice. With the sales of Dawson and Sebastian Bassong this week, it leaves only William Gallas as the other recognized centre back in the squad. While Gallas has always been an exceptional reader of the game, the former Arsenal captain doesn't have the speed he once had, and his displays have become more error-strewn over time. Unless Villas-Boas has some transfers already lined up, this is an area of the squad that will have to be addressed immediately.

Further up the field, the transfer saga involving Emmanuel Adebayor finally reached a conclusion with Spurs permanently signing the Togolese forward for a reported 5 million pounds. The move might come across as a sucker-punch to Jermaine Defoe, who showed in the game against Newcastle that the remit of a lone striker in a 4-5-1 is not beyond him. Adebayor undoubtedly delivered for the most part last year, but the management styles of Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas-Boas are completely different. Whether Adebayor will suit the tactical flexibility that Villas-Boas requires remains to be seen, especially because he can spend vast amounts of time being stationary up front, nullifying the movements of midfielders and wingers. Putting all the goalscoring eggs in a basket that consists only of Adebayor, Jermaine Defoe and the young Harry Kane represents a significant risk.

In the opening game of the season against Newcastle, Spurs put in a thoroughly decent performance and many would say they were a bit unlucky to lose. One got the sense that Tottenham just needed one playmaker who could truly grab the game by the scruff of the neck from midfield. Sandro and Jake Livermore are decent midfielders in their own right, but cannot be counted upon to retain possession and deliver defence-splitting passes. Rafael Van Der Vaart can certainly provide the assists, but he is better suited further up the pitch, as he doesn't not possess the defensive discipline to orchestrate play from a deeper role in midfield.

Of course there is one player in the Spurs squad who is a master playmaker, but the Luka Modric transfer saga looks like it will conclude with the player joining Real Madrid. Furthermore, it does seem like Villas-Boas has already planned to buy some other midfielders with funds from the Modric sale. It does seem to be a surprise that Tom Huddlestone has been allowed to join Stoke on loan. Huddlestone would suit Villas-Boas' style, the only plausible reason for his departure could be the manager not trusting his physical intensity. Whether Huddlestone's orchestrating skills are going to suit Stoke's tactical philosophy is another matter altogether.

This is definitely a Tottenham squad that is in transition in terms of personnel and style of play. Credit must be given to Villas-Boas for sticking to his principles and trying to shape the squad in his philosophy despite the disastrous consequences he faced at Stamford Bridge. As the deadline for the transfer window approaches, Villas-Boas will have to make some more signings to lend balance to the side. The wingers and full-backs are strong, but Spurs have to get address their centre. A new centre-back and central midfielder would be most welcome at White Hart Lane.