It has come to the time of the year that raises the hopes of many a Spurs fan – talk of a world class striker or a cultured playmaker, a European powerhouse’s key man or a wonderkid from South America. However recent years under the guidance of Harry Redknapp more often saw a journeyman or an unknown join the squad at a crucial part of the season.
Last January (2012) Tottenham were positioned in the extremely promising position of 3rd, 7 points clear of Chelsea in 4th and only 5 behind the two Manchester clubs. However this was ultimately the calm before the storm that was Tottenham’s poor run of form towards the end of season, leading them to fail in their attempt at Champions League Qualification and finish a full 20 points behind 2nd place. Although the saga surrounding Harry Redknapp and the England manager’s job undoubtedly had a negative impact upon the team’s performances, it seems certain that had a couple of shrewd acquisitions been made in the January Transfer Window then the squad would have contained more strength in depth; something that was arguably a major factor in Tottenham fading away as the season reached its climax. No one can deny that quality players are more difficult and expensive to sign in January; clubs do not want to lose a central component of their team halfway through a season. However it has been displayed on many occasions that through in-depth scouting and realistic ambitions, signings can be made that have a very positive impact on a squad. Take Papiss Cisse as an example; Newcastle signed him from SC Freiburg for the reasonable fee of around £8 million – a figure which should not be out of the reach of a club like Tottenham – and Cissse presently went on to have a fantastic half a season, nearly catapulting Newcastle into the Champions League positions.
No one can deny that quality players are more difficult and expensive to sign in January; clubs do not want to lose a central component of their team halfway through a season.
Another example is Cisse’s former Newcastle team-mate Demba Ba; after he signed for West Ham United during 2011’s January Transfer Window his goals very nearly ensured West Ham’s Premier League status. Although it seems clear to most that a squad that is blending together and performing well in the league should be overthrown and completely altered halfway through a season, it seems equally evident that one or two additions can often give a squad an extra buzz and the necessary boost to push on in the second half of the season.
In January 2012 Tottenham’s signings had little impact on the performance of the team. The signings of Ryan Nelsen and Louis Saha, two players undoubtedly in the twilight of their careers, were far from what a potential Champions League team needed in order to provide any sort of positive impact. There was often an argument that the first team could not be improved without the club breaking the bank on a world star, however this neglects the fundamental notion of modern football being much more a squad rather than team game. There is a reason why the Premier League allows each club to have a 25 man squad and as such this should be used to its full impact. Signings in January do not have to necessarily be players that are going to start every game they are fit and become a focal point of the team, an equally effective method can be signing a player who provides good-quality backup or competition for a player already in the starting eleven. For example last season Spurs could have undoubtedly been helped by the acquisition of a wide-midfielder to provide cover for Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, and equally a defensive midfielder who could have allowed Scott Parker a rest from time-to-time. However this was not done and the ensuing results reflected this.
It is now January 2013 and once again Tottenham are in a potentially strong position; vying for a 3rd or 4th place finish with much the same challengers as they faced in the previous seasons. However the major difference this time is of course Tottenham’s manager. In order for Villas-Boas to have more successful season than Harry Redknapp’s last at the club, he needs to have a long think about the depth and composition of his squad and act accordingly. With Emmanuel Adebayor’s seemingly imminent departure to the African Cup of Nations and the lack of other attacking options at his disposal, it seems clear that a striker has to be signed. This striker does not necessarily have to be one that will instantly come into the first team, and as such the options should be wide and definitely adequate. Furthermore the young Portuguese manager faces a new dilemma which was unseen by Harry Redknapp in last season’s window; he is still in charge of a team trying to fill the gap left by the loss of arguably its three best players from last season; Luka Modric, Rafael Van der Vaart, and Ledley King. No one can deny that Villas-Boas has done a good job of covering for the loss of these so far, and exceedingly well in keeping an undeniably weakened squad of players in a similar position of that seen in last season’s campaign. However as the season comes to a crucial point, one that will make or break the fortunes of more clubs than just Tottenham, Villas-Boas must look back at the decisions made by his predecessor and the club, and make sure that the actions are not repeated.