The draw at Queen’s Park Rangers again highlighted Tottenham’s short-comings when faced with a well organised defence. The lack of creativity has been a problem over the past few seasons and the departure of Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart in August has only added to the problem. As has happened before, when playing a team determined to deny Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale the space they need behind the defence, Spurs lack a creative player who can thread a pass through to the striker. The supporters ‘wish-list’ would include a creative midfield player and a striker. Many names are put forward during the transfer window and this January has been no different as Tottenham have been linked in the media with many players.
The likelihood, however, is that Daniel Levy will not get his cheque book out to spend ‘big’ on a top class player. Going on his past January transfer record, Levy has tended to sit with the players that are already at White Hart Lane and trust them. He is likely to follow a similar strategy this month with the expectation that this season’s objective of Champions League football will be achieved come next May.
In seasons past, fans have been hoping for a significant signing but it hasn’t happened over the past three seasons.
Last season Spurs were third in the Premier League during January, in a position to challenge for the title and well ahead of clubs looking to get into the Champions League. Fans wanted a top class signing to reinforce that challenge but were disappointed when the month’s business was restricted to a defender, Ryan Nelsen, and a striker, Louis Saha, both on free transfers. Not the players that dreams are made of and so it turned out as Spurs’ form slumped to eventually finish fourth and miss out on Champions League football as Chelsea won the trophy. Both players were released at the end of the season.
Tottenham were 5th in January, just outside a top 4 finish, but were in a strong position but the strikers, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko, were having a poor season. It was only the goals of Van der Vaart and Bale that was keeping the team in the top echelons of the League. Fans were hoping for a striker to strengthen the team but the only signings were Steven Pienaar from Everton and defender Bongani Khumalo. Tottenham’s loss of form from February resulted in a 5th place finish and Europa League football. Twelve months later, Pienaar returned to Goodison Park on loan and then signed permanently while Khumalo is currently on loan in Greece.
Spurs were again 5th and challenging for a Champions League finish. The January signings saw the return of Younes Kaboul from Portsmouth and Eidur Gudjohnsen was signed on loan. Spurs, with a late flourish, achieved their objective and beat Manchester City to fourth and so qualified for the Champions League. Kaboul remains at Spurs but Gudjohnsen was released at the end of the season.
Threat of Relegation
Over the past four seasons, it has only been the fear of relegation that has spurred Levy to spend lavishly on players during a January transfer window. By mid-January, 2009, “2 points from 8 games” had turned into “20 points from 21 games” under Redknapp but Spurs were still rooted to the bottom of the table. Worries about the club losing its Premier League status impelled the Chairman to make significant signings – Robbie Keane returned after six months at Liverpool, Jermain Defoe came back from Portsmouth, Wilson Palacios signed from Wigan and Pascal Chimbonda returned from Sunderland. Carlo Cudicini joined from Chelsea on a free transfer. In total, Tottenham spent £46 million during January, 2009 and they went on to avoid relegation and finish 8th. Of the players signed in 2008, only Defoe remains at Tottenham.
From this information, it is clearly evident that only a threat to Tottenham’s top flight status will encourage Daniel Levy to spend lavishly in January. He was prepared to spend to secure the club’s position but does not appear inclined to speculate and show ambition for a push to see what might be possible with a little more investment in the right positions. This year’s early January signings of Zeki Fryers and Lewis Holtby are obviously players for the future but the supporters and manager are looking for more.
Andre Villas-Boas has done exceptionally well with the players available to him during the past six months but he must long for the opportunity to work with the players on whom he has clearly set his sights rather than the low-cost version Daniel Levy tends to acquire on 31st January each year.