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By Henry Tribe
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Tottenham blogger Henry Tribe casts his eye over the club’s summer recruits and discusses their progress - or lack of it.
On Sunday, against Southampton, it finally happened. Two of our summer signings clicked, and not before time.
It’s widely acknowledged that Roberto Soldado had his best game in a Spurs shirt to date. Industrious, with some lovely touches that brought other players into the game, it’s exactly what we’d all hoped for when we bust the bank to bring him from Valencia last summer.
Meanwhile, Christian Eriksen showed exactly what he can do with some excellent movement and an eye for goal to boot. So why hasn’t he done that more consistently?
Come to think of it, why haven’t any of our summer signings lived up to the pre-season hype?
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Gareth Bale deal, we had £100million to spend and after a solid start to the season much of the narrative was that we’d spent it well, and created a stronger overall team than last season.
I think with the benefit of hindsight that hasn’t been the case and we’ve been left with a decent enough squad, but one lacking any real match winners.
We bought only one defender, spending £8.5m on Vlad Chiriches, and I’ve been impressed with him when he’s played. He’s only 24 and will only improve as a player – he’s comfortable on the ball, if a little cocky, and isn’t afraid to get stuck in.
Then there was £9m for Etienne Capoue. You can argue whether we needed another player in that position but, with the departures of Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore, I think we probably did.
Again, when he’s played I’ve been reasonably impressed, although Tim Sherwood clearly isn’t a fan. With all the injuries he’s had, and the fact that Nabil Benteleb is in front of him in the pecking order, it’s hard to know how good he really is and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go in the summer.
Paulinho initially looked good but it’s fair to say he’s lost his way in recent weeks, culminating in the first leg of the Benfica game when he was truly awful. I think there’s a good box-to-box player in there but to get the best out of him he’s got to be played further forward, and released from the shackles of defensive midfield duties.
Nacer Chadli was £10m cheaper than Paulinho at £7m, but has been no more of a bargain. With a total lack of pace, he’s looked out of place playing on the wing in a predominantly counter-attacking side.
Against Arsenal he looked far more comfortable playing through the middle, and was rewarded with a couple of goals against Benfica. I think this is probably his best position - but is he better than Eriksen or Paulinho playing in the hole? No, I don’t think so.
I think Eriksen has been the most successful of the summer signings. Let’s play him week in, week out, in the position off the striker and I think he can make it his own.
Soldado has been a huge disappointment, although it’s not for a lack of effort on his part. He’s just not quite good enough and, rather than spending £26m on an unproven (in the Premier League) 28-year-old, I think we should have spent the £20m on Christian Benteke. He’s five years Soldado’s junior, and has all the attributes we’re looking for - but Levy went for the bigger name.
And then there’s Erik Lamela, who also cost £26m. The result? Just nine Premier League appearances to date and no goals.
Obviously he’s had massive injury problems, and clearly AVB didn’t want him. He might turn out to be an excellent player but Franco Baldini has a lot to answer for if he doesn’t.
Lamela’s fee could have bought you players of the calibre of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata or Santi Cazorla, and it is that sort of player that we needed last summer - a match winner, someone to get the crowd on their feet and truly scare the opposition. The search for the heir to Bale goes on.
Follow me on Twitter @TribalSpurs