Is Spurs' first team actually any better now?

AFTER the end of the transfer window, Spurs fans may be scratching their heads, pondering one question – is the first team any better than it was back in May? The answer, in fact, is no. Strange as it may seem, Harry Redknapp...

By Ben Pearce

AFTER the end of the transfer window, Spurs fans may be scratching their heads, pondering one question - is the first team any better than it was back in May?

The answer, in fact, is no. Strange as it may seem, Harry Redknapp has spent just over �30million on five new players, and none of them would be sure to start if Spurs were to reach a cup final.

In fact, Kyle Naughton appears to be the third choice right-back after his �2.5m switch from Sheffield United, appearing for a total of four minutes in the Premier League, as a substitute against West Ham.

And left-back Kyle Walker, who made the same move from Sheffield to Spurs for �1.5m on the same day, was instantly loaned back to United.

Of course, Sebastien Bassong has started all five of Tottenham's games this season, but his future prospects are in reality no better than Naughton's.

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Bassong was an �8m emergency signing necessitated by injuries to Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Dawson, but he could very feasibly be replaced the moment they return.

Indeed, if Woodgate and Dawson return to their best, the ex-Newcastle centre-back could quite conceivably find himself fourth in the pecking order before Christmas.

At the other end of the pitch, Peter Crouch was Spurs' grandstand signing, but it doesn't take a genius to see that the �9m striker also faces a real fight for first-team action.

The 6ft 7ins target man is yet to start in the league, and already seems to be behind Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane in the queue.

With a perfect record from the opening four league fixtures, pragmatic Redknapp has no reason to change things up top, and Crouch's breakthrough goal against Birmingham merely proves that he is a perfect impact substitute.

That leaves �2.5m deadline-day signing Kranjcar, who is sure to walk into the team against Manchester United and hold down the left-wing spot in the coming weeks.

But here's a question... When Modric is fit, where will Kranjcar play? Exactly. Like Bassong, Kranjcar is an emergency recruit who is keeping the spot warm for an injured colleague.

Spurs' third Croatian international therefore completes a quintet of summer signings who would probably not make the starting XI if Tottenham's entire squad was fit.

However, the recent transfer window should not be viewed as a dirty smear on Redknapp's reputation as a recruitment expert.

Quite simply, the boss has not signed 'first-team players' because he did not need any. The manager corrected his issues with the starting XI in January by bringing in Wilson Palacios, Defoe and then - when Defoe got injured - Keane.

Having seen Spurs then shoot up the league, out of the relegation fight and into European contention in the second half of the season, Redknapp knew he already had a team that could make waves at the re-start in August.

This summer has therefore been about building a squad that can cope with injuries and suspensions, maintaining momentum on the field by replacing international players with international players - a hall-mark of the top four.

Redknapp may not have improved the first-team since May, but he has given himself tactical options, and ensured that the season is not ruined by a horror tackle on a pivotal player.

Indeed, Tottenham's ability to simply add luxury players to an unchanged first team will be a source of envy for their rivals in the chase for the top four.

Manchester United have been forced to sign first-team players, 'replacing' Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez with Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen.

And Liverpool are clearly missing Xabi Alonso - all the while waiting for �20m replacement Alberto Aquilani to start the always-difficult transition to life in the Premier League.

Both Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez would dearly love to have spent the summer tinkering with their reserve players, safe in the knowledge that their A-team was totally intact.

And the net cost of Spurs' squad-strenghtening exercise, when sales are taken into account? A paltry �5m.

Some fans may still be underwhelmed, having drooled over the likes of Ashley Young, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben.

But, on the field, in the dressing-room and in the bank, it really has been a sensational summer for Spurs.