Is it me or is it slightly ridiculous that Tottenham are suffering from something of a defensive crisis despite the fact that Harry Redknapp has just spent a reported £10m or £11m on two new defenders, the two Kyles, Naughton and Walker from Sheffield United? I’m not saying it’s false, they are facing a shortage in that Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Dawson all look set to miss the start of the season. What is ridiculous though, is that Redknapp has done nothing about it.
Because everyone in the world knows that Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate are two of the most injury prone English players in recent times, and it is also common knowledge that Spurs already have a wealth of right-backs on their books. Thus just why Redknapp felt the need to splash £11m on two more right backs instead of trying to sign a centre back is simply mystifying. Redknapp has always had the reputation of a bit of a whizz in the transfer market, but I must say I think he’s losing his touch.
He’s been known as a wheeler-dealer for many years now, and in fact, his managerial reputation is built on pretty much nothing more that that transfer manner and a good, friendly working relationship that gets the best out of those players. However, since taking over at Tottenham and finding himself suddenly able to splash some real cash about, you have to say it’s gone a little bit to his head.
He immediately bought back Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe from Liverpool and Portsmouth respectively for a combined total of over £30m, and while few would question the wisdom of signing strikers (after Berbatov and keane’s departures had left them short), the wisdom of bringing back Keane in particular was questionable. Having earned the club a ridiculous transfer fee when leaving for Liverpool, Redknapp could have spent the money on a younger player with far more to prove rather than spending an equally ridiculous sum on a player who returned to the safety of White Hart Lane with little to prove.
He also spent a further £3m on right-back Pascal Chimbonda from Sunderland despite the fact that Vedran Corluka and Alan Hutton had cost the club a combined total of about £17m and been there less than a year. Both of these players are good enough to get into most sides in the Premier League, yet for some reason Redknapp felt it necessary to but Chimbonda, who in my opinion isn’t as good as the other two, rather than investing in a good centre back, an investment that would have made much more sense given Ledley King’s inability to train or play two matches in a week for most of last season.
And now he has gone and spent another £11m on another two right-backs, and is looking at paying about £18m to bring in Huntelaar from Real Madrid. I don’t debate the quality of Naughton, Walker and Huntelaar, but if I was a Spurs fan I’d be becoming worried that the squad was being filled with nothing but right-backs and strikers. The one really good signing he has made since joining Spurs was that of Wilson Palacios for £12m, but having spent about £57m in total, you’d really be asking for a bit more from the famed wheeler dealer wouldn’t you?
Now I’m not doubting Redknapp’s ability as a manager. Last season he came in with Spurs rooted to the bottom of the table and the laughing stock of the nation, and ended up finishing eighth with a points return that over the course of a full season would have had them in the top four. However, for many years now Spurs have been spending a lot of money and they have constantly been tipped to be the team to break into the big four, but seem consistently to underachieve.
Indeed, looking at their signings in recent years the amount of money spent on the team is probably about equal to the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal – they’ve spent some serious money, and yet barring a few UEFA Cup runs and the Carling Cup they’ve very little to show for it. That comes down largely to an almost complete lack of stability, particularly in a managerial sense, but given that Redknapp’s position seems solid and that he did so well last season, the pressure will now be on him to deliver Europa League qualification at the very least.
However, that goal will be far from easy to achieve. With Manchester City’s wealth they must be considered serious contenders for one of the Europa spots, and Everton and Aston Villa will be strong once again, while other teams like Fulham and West Ham will fancy their chances. And while Spurs will spend more money than most of those clubs (all except City really) then there will be more pressure on them to succeed.
It also goes to show that just because Man City are splashing a good deal of cash around at present, they are by no means guaranteed to qualify for Europe, never mind breaking the top four or challenging for the title. Spurs have been spending reasonably big bucks for years and it’s not got them very far, while Everton spend very little relatively speaking, and have come closest to upsetting the top four monopoly since they were the last to do so a few seasons back.
What I’m saying here then, is that it takes more than money to succeed. It takes careful planning and a balanced, stable squad. And though Redknapp is undoubtedly a good manager, I feel he’s going about establishing his Spurs squad in the wrong way. He already had two excellent right backs (and some other pretty good ones) but having brought in Naughton will disrupt those current squad members. Bringing in Huntelaar will upset Keane, Defoe, Bent and Pavlyuchenko, who all will feel they deserve a starting role.
It really does seem to me that ‘Arry has let the money go to his head a little bit, and he’s indulging in whims that in the past he hasn’t been able to indulge, such as buying promising youngsters and luxury players he doesn’t need. That’s worrying for Spurs though, because his real strength as a manager is getting the best out of players, but when trying to juggle a squad with five or six right-backs and five or six strikers, even Redknapp won’t keep everyone happy.
So while Tottenham do have a bit of a central defensive crisis developing and he does need to invest in some central defensive talent, I think the real crisis developing at White Hart Lane is that Redknapp is spending money on players he doesn’t need, creating a squad completely lacking in balance and that will lack the harmony needed to be successful. What is happening, in short, is that Harry’s having a mid-life crisis, and whereas most men go out and buy cheap Porsche’s, Redknapp’s buying luxury players.
If Tottenham are to live up to the expectations of their board and of their fans, not to mention begin to justify the huge amount of money that they’ve payed out in recent years, they’ll have to hope that Redknapp sorts himself out pretty soon. They need to have a big clear out of their large squad and he needs to start investing in the areas that actually need strengthening, rather than buying luxury players for the sake of it, and denying Everton the chance to sign a good young right-back, the bastard.
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