May 20 2013 Latest news:
By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Tottenham have hastened Lewis Holtby’s arrival from Schalke, paying £1.5million after originally capturing him on a free transfer.
As one Spurs fan tweeted, “who knew buying our own player would be so problematic?”
Tottenham had started the January transfer window with a major coup, agreeing to sign Schalke’s Lewis Holtby on a free transfer when his contract expired in the summer.
However, as the month has worn on, it has gradually become clear that the Spurs squad needed strengthening, and that the Lilywhites would probably benefit from having the 22-year-old in their ranks in the coming months.
That brought Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy and his counterpart, Schalke’s sporting director Horst Heldt, to the negotiating table as they attempted to agree a cut-price fee for the Germany Under-21 captain – and they eventually reached an agreement over a £1.5million transfer on Monday.
It may have irked Levy to write that cheque, given that he could have had the player for free just six months down the line.
However, last week’s Deloitte Football Finance report underlined the cost of failure in the battle for the top four – and the rewards for success.
Spurs banked 31.1m euros in broadcasting from their Champions League campaign in 2010-11 and received less than 10 per cent of that (3m euros) for their efforts in the Europa League last season.
At £1.5m, Holtby is still a steal. And, in recruiting him now, Tottenham have killed two birds with one stone, bringing in a versatile player who can play behind the striker in the No10 role or in central midfield – two positions which were problematic in the defeat at Leeds on Sunday.
While Tottenham’s rearguard must take a lot of the blame for the FA Cup exit at Elland Road, there was also not enough creativity or quality at the heart of Andre Villas-Boas’ side.
As the head coach reflected after that game: “It wasn’t because we missed a lot of attacking opportunities, that we missed a striker. It’s just that we couldn’t create so many clear-cut chances.”
Tom Huddlestone came into the team in place of Mousa Dembele, while Gylfi Sigurdsson replaced the injured Jermain Defoe in a support role behind Clint Dempsey, and neither advanced their causes. Indeed, they were hauled off together in the 59th minute.
Tottenham have plenty of central midfielders but most of them share the same qualities – and weaknesses. Scott Parker and Jake Livermore are able ball-winners in the absence of Sandro, but questions remain about their use of possession.
Meanwhile, Tom Huddlestone has fallen so far from his pomp in 2009/10 that it has become unclear what his speciality is, and what he is currently adding to the squad.
Any combination of Parker, Huddlestone and Livermore will leave Spurs looking pedestrian and predictable in the centre, as the Parker-Huddlestone axis did on Sunday – and that is particularly problematic for a side who generally find themselves attempting to break down defensively-minded teams, both home and away.
None of that trio offer the flair and guile of Mousa Dembele – the ability to ghost past a man and make the first incision – and his importance was once again underlined by his absence for the first 60 minutes at Elland Road.
Spurs have been heavily reliant on the Belgian’s creativity all season and, while Villas-Boas has a few options alongside him, there has been no-one capable of matching the Belgian’s creativity in the centre – either through injury or rotation – until now, with Holtby’s arrival.
Of course, a note of caution is needed. At 22 years old, Holtby is a year younger than Gyfli Sigurdsson, who has struggled to find his feet at Tottenham so far and has been unable to replicate the form that he showed at Swansea. In the same way, patience may be needed with the latest signing.
Sigurdsson again struggled in the No10 role at Leeds – a position which has troubled the Lilywhites for much of the season following the departure of Rafael van der Vaart.
The Dutchman was an effective link man and also represented a big goal threat, but Sigurdsson’s apparent lack of confidence has undermined his quality on the ball and in front of goal – as he showed again at Elland Road.
Fortunately, Spurs have Clint Dempsey. After a slow start, the American has learned to play the No10 role and he is also now proving to be a viable option as an emergency striker after scoring his fifth goal in five games in Yorkshire on Sunday.
However, the former Fulham man is also the best candidate to replace Gareth Bale on the left flank if necessary, having played in that position during his time at Craven Cottage.
Such versatility is immensely useful to Villas-Boas, and Dempsey has turned into a superb signing, but Spurs’ tactical chameleon can only play in one position at a time.
At the very least, Holtby can now give his boss another creative option, sharing the responsibilities in a deeper-lying role like Dembele’s or as a No10, adding competition, further rotation and cover in case of emergencies.
As a notorious bargain hunter and a businessman who carefully counts every penny, Levy may generally agree with the old adage that ‘the best things in life are free’.
But, if Holtby can make an instant impact and help Spurs into the Champions League, with all of its financial rewards, then Levy will probably have made one of his best ever investments.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs