May 18 2013 Latest news:
By Daniel Grigg, London24’s Tottenham blogger
Monday, January 7, 2013
Our Spurs blogger takes a look at how Lewis Holtby could slot into the team when he arrives in north London.
Despite Andre Villas-Boas’ claims that Spurs would be inactive in January, the club have made a blistering start in the transfer window.
First up, Spurs confirmed the signing of former Manchester United left back Zeki Fryers from Standard Liege. Maybe not a direct replacement for Danny Rose, but another option at the back should Spurs suffer more injury misfortune.
Then we have 22-year-old midfielder Lewis Holtby. The German, who has an English father, was brought to the attention of many top clubs, especially once news emerged that he’d been unable to agree a new contract with present side Schalke, unlike team-mate Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. He is expected to join the club for free at the end of the season but reports suggest he could even arrive for a reduced fee this month.
His contract scenario is similar to the one Theo Walcott could find himself in, if he decides to turn down a new contract offer from Arsenal and state his intentions to leave with just 6 months left on his current deal.
Three-times capped German international Holtby was too good an opportunity to miss, particularly for a club who’ve almost made picking up and developing young talent from across Europe into an art-form.
A look at some of the players Spurs have let go cheaply, let alone the ones they’ve held onto or sold for huge money, shows their intentions. Reto Ziegler, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Adel Taarabt, are all good examples but cautionary tales at the same time that talent needs matching up with the right club if it’s to find success.
Few players of Holtby’s potential and age are ever actually allowed to run their contracts down to nothing, and those that do often have excessive wage expectations or bad attitudes. So to capitalise ahead of clubs like Arsenal and Liverpool when one becomes available is another big win for Daniel Levy.
There is almost no risk involved on Spurs’ part as, even if he fails to develop, he could still be sold for a good fee in a couple of years, which would be enough to cover the considerable wages he’d have been earning in the intervening time.
But it is not just a good deal in a financial sense. Assuming Jermain Defoe stays on as Tottenham’s main striker next season, Holtby would seem the ideal sort of attacking midfielder to play behind him, playing excellent defence-splitting through balls and short little passes when they need to be played.
He also has the experience of playing behind Huntelaar, which would help him adapt to linking up with a more traditional, tall centre forward, like Emmanuel Adebayor or hopefully even Leandro Damiao.
He has been in impressive form in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League this season, with three goals and eight assist. He has even outshone Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay, two players who’ve been linked with Spurs in the past but for a lot more money and with a lot more years on the clock.
Another possibility for Holtby would be to start him in a 4-5-1 formation, given Gylfi Sigurdsson’s unremarkable first season and Dempsey being yet to find his Fulham form the way Mousa Dembele has.
At the moment I would still opt for the American, given his superior goal record, but Holtby would run him close.
Holtby’s left-footedness, positional instincts, change of pace and willingness to drift out wide, however, are potentially useful assets. He could combine well with Gareth Bale’s constant desire to keep cutting in-field to pick up the available space behind the striker.
Spurs have been crying out for quality delivery from the left in 2012-13, when Bale has vacated that area and there hasn’t been an Assou-Ekotto, or sometimes even a Jan Vertonghen, to send in the crosses with their left foot.
Instead, players like Kyle Naughton have to keep cutting back onto their right to float the ball in, narrowing the pitch.
Holtby’s a good crosser. Indeed, in Bale and Assou-Ekotto’s absence, he would be Spurs’ only useful crosser with his left foot. He is not a natural winger though and certainly not either a replacement for Bale. Nor is he evidence that Levy is looking to prepare for a Bale-less Tottenham next season, thankfully.