Tottenham’s new signing, Lewis Holtby, has been impressive in his two appearances as substitute against Norwich and West Brom. Originally, to sign from FC Schalke 04 in the summer after signing a pre-contract agreement, the German Under-21 captain was regarded as a young prospect for the future. The injury to Sandro, however, forced Tottenham to reconsider the situation and move the transfer forward to last month’s transfer window. Holtby’s permanent signing was completed early last weekend, making him available to play at Carrow Road. His cameo performance that evening and the hour that he played at the Hawthorns have certainly shown him to be a player for the present, fitting in perfectly to the current Tottenham set-up.
Lewis Holtby is a busy, little midfield player who wants to be involved in all areas of the pitch. In both games he played his part in the build up to the two goals scored by Gareth Bale. At Norwich, he laid off a ball played out of defence, to Jermain Defoe who set up Bale to go on a run to score the equaliser. Against Albion, he was in a patient passing movement to work space on the right, which was to create the opportunity for Bale’s goal. Holtby had moved forward, level with the Albion defence, but rather than take it on, he played the ball back to Kyle Walker who found Bale with room to strike for goal.
After Holtby’s performance at Norwich in mid-week, many Spurs’ supporters had been expecting him to start against Albion in place of Clint Dempsey. As it was, however, Andre Villas-Boas decided to keep Holtby on the bench and his extended involvement in the match was only due to Defoe going off injured ten minutes before half-time.
James Morgan, journalist, author of In Search of Alan Gilzean, and Tottenham fan tweeted,
This meritocracy thing is all very well but Holtby should be starting today.
— James Morgan (@jaydeemorgan) February 3, 2013
Holtby has stepped comfortably into the Tottenham team and is constantly looking for the ball. At the Hawthorns, he took up a central midfield role behind Dempsey who replaced Defoe as the lone striker. Holtby worked hard in midfield, dropping deeper to collect the ball but was also willing to get forward on goal, and after Benoit Assou-Ekotto played him into the area it took a good save from Ben Foster to prevent him from putting Spurs ahead early in the second half. He also showed a willingness to work back in defence when needed and in the second half took over the responsibility for the Tottenham corners.
Holtby has experienced Champions League football with Schalke so was not overawed by his introduction to the Premier League. That Albion were reduced to ten men early in the second half and then sat back to defend, aided Tottenham and provided more room in midfield for Holtby to work in. His performance was impressive and while there was the occasional misunderstanding , that’s only to be expected as he becomes accustomed to new players around him.
The signs from his initial appearances suggest Holtby will bring an added quality to the team which has been absent since the summer departure of Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart. While it is unfair to label a young player with comparisons with former players, Holtby has a hint of both Modric and Van der Vaart in his play.
- He has the ability to make a telling pass, to keep the play moving quickly and is prepared to run with the ball just like Modric but with a more athletic style.
- Like Van der Vaart he is constantly looking for the ball and wants to get forward into scoring positions but has shown a greater appetite to work for the team and has more pace than the Dutchman.
Holtby, a young prospect for Tottenham to develop for the future, has shown that he has the capabilities to deliver in the present as he presses for a place in the starting line-up against Newcastle next weekend. He provides Villas-Boas with options to provide variety in Tottenham’s game from midfield as he brings the enthusiasm of a young player to the team.