This time last year Tottenham were gearing up for their Champions League qualifier with Young Boys of Switzerland and the excitement and anticipation around White Hart Lane were palpable. This year’s build up to the start of the Premier League and European competition is a more low-key affair for Spurs fans.
By the end of August last year, Spurs were looking forward to entertaining the likes of Inter Milan and Werder Bremen at White Hart Lane in Europe’s premier club competition while this year their Europa League qualifier has drawn the slightly more underwhelming prospect of Hearts in Scotland.
The ongoing saga of Luka Modric’s proposed move to Chelsea has dominated the back pages and perhaps overshadowed the lack of activity and new arrivals at Tottenham. Last summer Harry Redknapp’s “wheeler-dealer” reputation and Chairman Daniel Levy’s shrewd business sense in the transfer market were praised after their last minute capture of Dutch playmaker Rafael van der Vaart but their eleventh hour transfer tactics did not pay off in January when a striker was badly needed but not delivered.
Tottenham have been crying out for a consistent goal scorer since the 2007/2008 season when Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane scored 46 goals between them in all competitions but then went on to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively that summer.
Spurs have been linked with La Liga players Diego Forlan and Guiseppe Rossi but the price tag for both of these players, along with their wages, may dissuade the club from following their interest all the way.
While there are still four recognised strikers at the club (Jermaine Defoe, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Robbie Keane and Peter Crouch), Tottenham are still missing a big striker they can rely on to push them to the next level in terms of consistently challenging for a Champions League place or even the League title.
Last year’s top-scorer was van der Vaart with 15 goals in total while Pavlyuchenko, Defoe and Crouch could only muster 18 goals between them in the Premier League; a tally well short of a top four team.
Spurs are crying out for a different type of striker however. Defoe’s goalscoring abilities are valuable but his place in a high placed Premier League team is questionable. Like Pavlyuchenko, he lacks the consistency required of a top class striker for a team to pin their hopes on.
Harry Redknapp’s lack of confidence in Pavlyuchenko is not the world’s best kept secret by any means and it seems he lacks faith in the Russian to do it on a regular basis.
Peter Crouch’s place in the team will perhaps go down to his honesty and effort but his Champions League securing goal against City in 2010 is nearly as likely to be a calamitous own goal such as in the same fixture against City in May of this year; both Defoe and Crouch’s league tallies of four goals each just doesn’t measure up.
If the pinnacle of Spurs’ attack is an area of concern, their defence is one area that has been bolstered in the shape of 40 year-old American goalkeeper Brad Friedel on a free transfer from Aston Villa.
Tottenham have been through their fair share of keepers and Heurelho Gomes’ unpredictable behaviour and uncertainty on set pieces have forced Redknapp and Levy to sign a Premier League goalkeeper of proven quality. The move is reminiscent of Man United’s capture of Van der Sar from Fulham; both keepers seemed to be at the end of their careers but still had, and in Friedel’s case, have something to offer.
Although Jonathon Woodgate reached the end of his contract and was released by the club, Brazilian midfielder Sandro looks like an exciting prospect and will help Spurs keep clean sheets with his dominance in breaking up opponents’ attacking play.
Modric’s situation will drag on and until it is resolved Tottenham’s transfer activity will remain up in the air. If the Croatian midfielder is sold then there will be money for Spurs to splash and a big name signing may be on the cards. Gareth Bale’s relative absence from the gossip columns of the newspapers must also be seen as a success for Redknapp and Spurs.
Harry Redknapp was quick to point out how difficult it was to fight for a Champions League place against teams like Manchester City with their financial clout but Spurs must try to build on their season competing and challenging the European elite. While the north London club have not been on par with the teams around them in the transfer market, their squad still has enough quality to challenge for a top four place with names like Bale and van der Vaart and with one or two more names before the end of August, Tottenham should be aiming high.
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