Spurs Were All Heart, City Were All Hart

August 15, 2010

In a rematch of last season’s most priceless game, Spurs were unlucky to drop two points in the opening game of the English Premier League. Manchester City were thrilled to leave White Hart Lane with a result, one that has been rare for the Eastlands outfit against Spurs in recent years.

It was almost unfathomable that Spurs did not get a goal in the first half, muchless three. Young English keeper Joe Hart got the shock nod over the vastly experienced and gifted Shay Given, a decision which may have lifted Roberto Mancini’s buffoon-like status. Hart’s performance had English fans reminiscing of Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton, and the media is eating up the story to proclaim their keeper issues have been solved for the next ten years. Great performance, but it’s a bit premature. Other goalkeepers who have turned in brilliant performances against Spurs in the last year include Marton Fulop, Boaz Myhill, Steve Simonsen and Marcus Hahnemann (twice). 

Point being, relax.

It has to be said that Spurs looked really impressive despite not getting on the board. A team that has made one signing this far in Brazilian Sandro (yet to move due to the Copa Libertadores), looked like they hadn’t skipped a beat from last year’s fourth-place form. You know the signings will be coming soon, but the question of who has become more and more mysterious. It’s become obvious that the main reservation to splash big cash is due to chairman Daniel Levy’s wanting to make sure we get through to the Champions League group stage. With Switzerland’s BSC Young Boys in the cards, Mr. Levy should atleast be able to rest a littlle easier.

Another proper CB, a striker can play up front by himself, and either a winger or box-to-box CM (depending on who leaves the Lane) would seem to be the three positions Harry has identified as needs. If these signings come to fruition, there is no reason that Spurs can’t be a strong contender in England and Europe with the depth in this squad and the massive potential of some of our youngsters.

While we still don’t know who will be coming in, it’s quite clear that they won’t come from Spurs opening day opponent and top-four rival in City. Manchester City must offload a number of players with the new 25-man squad rule, and for obvious reasons, they don’t want to strengthen a team that played them off the pitch.

Manchester City should (still a big if for me) only get better and better each week as this team gels. With each week they don’t, Roberto Mancini’s seat will only get warmer.

On the other side Spurs can feel very confident with what they have going on. With a very complete squad once again, it would be a mistake to discount their credentials to repeat last season’s league success. A very lofty run of fixtures face Spurs in England, and they have the opportunity to get out to the great start thst proved to be so crucial last season. A real test of character awaits on Tuesday in Bern, Switzerland as Spurs Champions League-metal will be seen. The game will be on Fox Sports Net at 1:45 CT.

Come On, You Spurs.


No Cole? No Problem

July 19, 2010

 

Don’t get me wrong, Joe Cole would be a welcome addition to almost any side, particularly on a free transfer.  I myself am an admirer of his style, which reminds Spurs fans of a modern-day Paul Gascoigne. Once Cole was out of contract with Chelsea, he was always going to be keen to stay in London with either Spurs or Arsenal with the prospect of Champions League football at both clubs. 

Spurs seemed the most likely fit, given manager Harry Redknapp gave him his first professional contract while at West Ham.  Not to mention five of his English teammates in South Africa ply their trade at the Lane, trying to convince Cole to join them.  Even Frank Lampard, ex-Chelsea teammate and nephew of Harry Redknapp, tried to convince Cole that Spurs were the right fit for him. 

In the last few weeks, it became evident that their was a three-horse race trying to secure the midfielders’ services. Word of his move to Spurs intensified within the Spurs grapevine, but nothing became official. 

To the surprise of many, Cole utlimately decided to join Liverpool in what he dubbed for, “footballing reasons”. When word of the wages the Merseyside club were set to offer Cole, it became fairly obvious where he was going.

To refer to his decision as a footballing one, and to follow it up by saying “it was not financial”, is diabolical at best.  If it were a footballing decision, he would playing at White Hart Lane or the Emirates next season.

As I said, Cole is a very talented player capable of playing on either wing, or as an attacking midfielder.  His seven seasons at Chelsea, however, were marred by injuries and maturity issues.  In those seven seasons, he was unable to command a starting place week in, week out at Stamford Bridge. 

Redknapp likely viewed Cole as a signing to booster the prospect of playing a 4-5-1 in the Champions League, a formation that is ever-popular in the competition.  Outside of him playing behind a target man in this formation, where would Cole fit in the 4-4-2?

Look at the positions Cole plays relative to this Spurs squad.  Assuming Gareth Bale on the left wing, Aaron Lennon on the right, and Luka Modric in that attacking midfield role, there is no place for him in our 11.  Not a chance Joe Cole displaces any of those three.  Redknapp has reiterated his desire to play Bale at left back, but he will certainly feature in both roles depending on our opponent, healthy players, ect..

If you look at the cover we have for those players, Spurs fans should really care less about missing out on the injury-ridden player. You could easily make the argument that another Croatian, Niko Kranjcar is a superior player. The long-awaited Giovani Dos Santos era in North London should take off this season. The young Mexican forward appears to have cut his attitude with Redknapp, and was rated by FIFA as one of this summer’s three best young technical players in South Africa. Given the chance, Giovani can and will shine in 2010-2011. 

David Bentley was markedly improved last season, and should have the chance this season to prove he was worth the pricy fee paid to Blackburn Rovers. There are youngsters aplenty on the wings and in the midfield for Spurs, with left winger Andros Townshend having been the most impressive on our first two friendlies this season. Single volley legend Danny Rose, along with midfielders John Bostock and Jake Livermore come with very high praise, and should get their chances sooner rather than later.

Point being, Joe Cole was never a necessary signing for Spurs. You can never have enough depth due to the physicality of English football, and the rigors that await in the Champions League. There is no shortage of creativity at White Hart Lane.  And for £90,000, well thank God we weren’t that inept. 

As for how he fits in with Liverpool is a different story. Assuming they don’t leave, (no safe assumptions at Anfield this summer) Cole, Gerrard, and Aquillani will all want to play the same position. That prospect spells nothing but trouble for the cash-strapped giants. Cash-strapped, and 90,000/ week for a player that does not fit their needs reaks in fiscal irresponsibility. Desperately scrapping up free transfers out there is only a short-term solution, for a looming potential crisis.


Transfer Talk at the Lane

June 3, 2010

The Champions League has been over for nearly two weeks now, but for one club, it has only just begun.  I could only be talking about Tottenham Hotspur, who will be in the competition for the first time in their illustrious history.

Spurs are typically linked with any and everyone when summer rolls around, no matter how outrageous or unlikely the rumors are.  This summer it’s different, as the club can dangle the most prestigous of all club competitions to perspective targets.  Let’s sift through most of the names being thrown out there, and try and decipher the realistic from the absurd.

One of the main points of contention fans and pundits alike held concerning Spurs chances last season was their depth.  Sure enough, this was the difference between them and Liverpool, Manchester City, and Aston Villa.  So who could make their mark at the Lane next season?

Micah Richards.  It wasn’t long ago that the young Manchester City starlet was being tipped as the right back of the future for England.  The versatile defender’s form in 2006-07 even saw him feature as a centre-halve at Eastlands.  He broke Rio Ferdinand’s record as the youngest player to step on the pitch for England, but has not played at the full level for his country in nearly three years.  Richards inability to establish himself as either a true fullback or a centre-halve led to a dip in form, and was not even a consideration to go to South Africa this summer.  I wouldn’t blame the player though.  Manchester City demanded entirely too much of the 21-year old, and their propsensity to play him all across the backline did not allow him to develop at either right back or centre-halve.  He is still a tremendously talented player, and could really develop under Harry Redknapp’s guidance.  The right back position is pretty solid for Spurs at the moment, but Richards could give them that attacking fullback that is necessary to compete with the best in Europe.  Vedran Corluka is very good defensively, but his pace and passing range leave much to be desired.  Youngsters Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker are ones for the future, but Richards would be a welcome addition for Spurs come August. 

Richards will almost certainly end up in North London next year, but for which team still remains to be seen.

Curtis Davies.  Very similar case to Richards here.  He experienced a meteoric rise while at Luton Town and then at West Brom.  However, he has yet to live up to his 9 million pound price tag that brought him to Villa Park.  He has battled shoulder and achilles problems since moving to Aston Villa, and has seen his place in the team disappear with the additions of Richard Dunne and James Collins.  Davies potential is undeniable, Fabio Capello even named him in his first provisional England team when he took over for the Three Lions.  He is still only 25, and Michael Dawson’s marked improvement since Redknapp took over serves as an example of what Davies could develop into at the Lane.  Competition for the player is not really an issue at the moment, so the right bid could certainly see Davies make the move.

Davies could be a great move long-term, but how he could help Spurs next season remains to be seen.  If Jonathan Woodgate regains fitness, then he would likely be 5th choice behind him, Ledley King, Michael Dawson, and Sebastien Bassong.

Tsepo Masilela.  An unknown commodity to many, but regardless of South Africa’s success you will know him after the tournament.  He plays left back for Israli side Maccabi Haifa, but and appears to be the real deal.  His ability has even drawn comparisons to Roberto Carlos from international team-mate Steven Pienaar.  He is an all-action fullback with expceptional pace and technical ability.  Expect him to be one of the many hot names from the World Cup that will appear in dozens of transfer rumors leading up to next season.

This is probably a moot topic for Spurs if Harry Redknapp is intent on playing Gareth Bale there full time.  Personally, I believe Bale’s ability is far too great not to play him as a left winger on a permanent basis.  Benoit Assou-Ekotto finished the season poorly, and it was evident he was the weak link in a strong English side last season.  Expect Masilela’s name to come up for many top clubs, but he could be the attacking left back Spurs desire in the Champions League.

Steven Pienaar.  A natural transition here to talk about the South African squarely on Spurs’ radar.  Pienaar is a versatile winger, capable of playing on either side though he is right-footed.  Pienaar was Everton’s player of the season last year, and it was well-deserved.  However, at 28, you can’t help but wonder if he can maintain or even build upon his current form.  He was far from convincing in Germany at Dortmund, and it took him a couple years to truly establish himself at the Merseyside club.  Pienaar may be a good Premier League winger, but I see him no more than that.  He would provide decent cover for either Aaron Lennon or Gareth Bale/ Luka Modric on the left, but really nothing more.

Spurs seem genuinely interested in him, but I am far from sold.  With their upcoming Champions League debut just two months away, does he make the squad any better?  I say no.  If the club bring in another winger, he should be capable of pushing either Bale or Lennon for those jobs, or atleast show the club they can survive if one of those two moves on in a big-money move.  Steven Pienaar is not this guy.

Michael Carrick.   The former Spurs central midfielder was an unsung hero for Manchester United’s three year run at the top of the Prem and a Champions League title in between.  At Spurs, he established himself as an excellent holding midfielder, who’s passing range was truly second to none.  This Michael Carrick is not the same player we saw in 2009-10, and it began in Rome as the Red Devils tried to repeat as Champions League winners in 2009.  Carrick stepped in for the suspended Darren Fletcher, and was invisible as Barcelona’s midfield passed him off the park.  He was the primary, of many culprits that evening, that failed to show up.  This performance clearly had a hangover on his confidence level for 2009-10, as he was flat-out poor at times.  Fergie seemed ready to unload him in January, but any move to Spurs suggested that Luka Modric come in the other direction (i.e. not happening you red-nosed twat).  Carrick’s performance against Bayern Munich likely cost them a spot in the CL semis, as he gave up the Olic goal at Old Trafford that unburied the Bavarian side. 

It would not shock me to see Carrick return to the Lane next season.  Redknapp brought him into professional football, signing him to a contract at West Ham.  He plays a similar holding position to Tom Huddlestone, who established himself as a rising star this past season.  If he were to sign, it would be interesting to see how that particular battle ensued.  With defensive midfielder Wilson Palacios and young Brazilian star Sandro set to debut next season, Carrick’s arrival would create a crowded midfield.

Joe Cole.  Joey Joey Cole is one of my favorite players in the world, and Iwould love to see him at the Lane.  His talent is undeniable, and is somewhat reminiscent of this generations’ Paul Gascoigne for England.  He can be employed as an attacking midfielder or a winger on each side, and looks certain to be headed for a Chelsea exit.  The West London side are not prepared to offer him a new contract, which opens the door for a likely move to Spurs, Arsenal, or Liverpool. 

Arsenal will be stiff competition for the star, but I can’t see him moving to Liverpool this summer.  Like Carrick, Joe Cole was discovered by and has a strong relationship with Harry Redknapp.  This along with CL football would make it an attractive move for Cole.  The real problem, amazingly, is where would he fit in?  If Bale is on the left, with Lennon on the right, and Modric as an attacking mid, there is no starting spot for him unless Redknapp is intent on switching to a 4-5-1.  If Bale is plays at LB though, he would be a perfect addition with he and Modric playing on the left and in that attacking role.  He would have an easier time breaking into Arsenal’s team, once again, amazingly.  That could be the biggest challenge in bringing him to the Lane.

Arda Turan.  Turan has been touted as the “next big thing” as a world-class winger for some time now.  By all signs, he is just that.  He possesses all the necessary qualities to be a world-class winger, but just needs a bigger stage than Turkey to show it.  He appeared set to move to Liverpool before the 2007-08 season, but turned them down in the end.  The primary suitors for Turan are the same that are in for Cole, but it looks more and more like he will be at Galatasaray for one more season.  He turned down Liverpool coming off of a CL final appearance, so It is hard to imagine him making the move this time around.  Arsenal again will be tough competition for his signature.

The rumors concerning Giovani Dos Santos and cash to Galatasaray for Turan have died down, but still keep an eye out.  Dos Santos recent negative publicity with his brother’s national team situation don’t do anything to help a potential stay for him with Spurs.  Frank Rijkaard has a long history with the player, and it would seem their relationship might be the strongest bid towards a Turan exit this summer.  Turan’s arrival would definitely move Bale to LB, and would give Spurs that world-class player they lack going into Europe next season.

Edin Dzeko.  Spurs are intent on bringing in a big-money striker, and Dzeko would fit the bill.  Though he is still relatively unknown in world football at-large, the big target man seems destined for a wonderful career.  He is a big, strong target man, with great technical ability and control, and happens to be a clinical finisher also.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Since moving to Wolfsburg in a 4 million euro move for Czech side Teplice in 2007, he led the German outfit to their first league title.  He has since seen his price tag grow about 30 millions euros in that time, which could prove to be the biggest hurdle in Spurs’ effort to sign him.  Spurs and Manchester City seem to be the only teams in the running right now, with City likely to win because of their ability to buy out his ridiculously high clause, and obviously their ability to offer him wages that can not be mactched by the North London side.

As I said, this would be a fantastic signing for Spurs, and he would fit the bill for the target man they desperately crave.  At the moment it seems Manchester City have outpriced them in a move for the Bosnian star,  and it’s starting to look likely Spurs will miss out on him.

Luis Fabiano.  As with Dzeko, it is looking more likely that we can kiss this one goodbye.  The physical Brazilian seems set for a move to either Manchester United or Real Madrid, but they could get cold feet if he is anything but spectacular at the World Cup.  Fabiano is not your typical Brazilian striker, but he just goes about his business.  He is strong target man, who is the antethesis of the great Brazilian frontmen that come to mind.  He just scores goals.  He’s not the flashiest, nor the fastest player you’ll find, but his hard work up front translates into a highly successful scoring rate.  Sevilla have qulaified for this year’s Champions League, so he has no real competitive incentive to leave just yet.

It remains to be seen if he wants to move on from the Spanish outfit or not.  Brazil are counting on him mightily this summer, and expect his performance to translate into a move to a bigger side.  He would be a great addition to the Spurs frontline, but whether or not he would move their at Sevilla’s expense remains to be seen.  It is likely he will end up at say Manchester United, but all hope is not lost with this cause.

Klass-Jan Huntelaar.  The Dutch target man has faced a lot of criticism in the last two season in his respective moves to Real Madrid and AC Milan, but is the criticism warranted?  I would say no.  He scored 8 goals in 20 appearances for Madrid, and 7 in 21 for Milan.  Both situations he walked in on were anything but stable.  His first exit he was part of the mass Dutch exodus at the Bernebeau (Sneijder and Robben too) which were all primarily made to bring in the likes of Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema, and Xabi Alonso (you could well argue all three Dutchmen were far better than the latter three Madrid brought in this season).   He settled in at Milan much better in the second half of the campaign, but there are still questions about his future there.  For the right price, Huntelaar appears to be available.  His technical ability, control, and finishing can not be questioned.  There are few better finishers in the box world-wide right now.  Huntelaar would likely adapt fine to the physical nature of the Prem, he just needs the chance.  He would be a gread addition to any of the top clubs in England, but can be had for a cut price this summer.

I would welcome this move, particularly with Dzeko and Fabiano outside possibilities.  As I said, KJH is still one of the best finishers in the world, and has been on the recieving end of some unjustified criticism this season.  If the price is right, he would be the clinical finisher we need in Europe.

Craig Bellamy.  There are many that think Craig Bellamy’s fiery attitude can do nothing but hurt a rising club like Spurs right now, but I disagree.  He is a pill, and he is the kind of guy you hate unless he is on your squad.  He is a great team-mate though, he is the anti-Berbatov.  Bellamy never hides his feelings about things, but it never effects his play or makes him go at it half-assed.  Where as a player like Berbatov, who seems genuinely disinterested all the time, acts like a 7-year old out there when the attack doesn’t go through him.  That’s where I believe there is a misconception about Bellamy.  His exceptional pace makes him versatile, as he can be emplyed wide also.  The Welshman is a great finisher, and is the kind of player who can contribute for any side. 

If we can land Bellamy cheap, than go for it.  This entirely depends on what happens with the other strikers though.  Pav and Keane are both likely gone, but if not, is there a place for Bellamy?  Particularly when comparing Keane and Bellamy, I would like us to have one or the other on next season’s squad.  They are both leaders, with Champions League experience, so one or the other would be valuable for Spurs next season.

These are the main names out there right now, but expect to see many more come and go.  The World Cup will have huge implications on all transfer targets this summer, so expect most of these moves to go down in the latter stages of July.

In ‘Arry I trust.