Tottenham Have Sold Luka Modric but Need to Find His Passing Replacement
With the rumor mill expected to explode into life soon, it is worth noting that Spurs, in two matches, have been lackluster in attacking through the middle of the park.
While there are other places that need strengthening, if Tottenham do not get a passer of great quality into their ranks, it will mean that they must have a certain type of strikeforce to match their wing play.
That may be at odds with Andre Villas-Boas' message that the club is not planning on bringing in another forward, but they might have to backtrack if no midfield options meet their criteria.
First, it might be worth noting what position needs to be modified for Tottenham to have the same impetus in the middle of the park as they do down the wings.
It needs to be one of the two deep midfield players that is replaced by a passer of some quality, which is likely to be Jake Livermore’s spot.
Sandro has the ability to hold the middle of the park on his own or in tandem with another defensive midfielder.
Livermore, however, might not be as a capable in that role and is likely to become the substitute in matches where Sandro is lagging, already cautioned, or whenever a lead needs to be secured.
Having said that, any potential passer needs to be able to track back and not be a defensive liability in the middle of the park.
Modric, while not a destroyer by any stretch, was able to hold his own in the middle or out towards the wing when played on the left.
This means that whoever fills the role can’t be a simple, swashbuckling type that might help out on defense every once and a while.
That’s why rumored moves for Willian, with a bid already rejected according to the ESPNFC, is something of a surprise, considering the Brazilian is not a deep midfielder of any sort.
A winger and second striker, Willian might be a more forward-playing contemporary of Hatem Ben Arfa, but that’s a position Spurs are already stockpiled in.
The passing aspect of the player is the biggest asset Tottenham are currently lacking.
Playing down the flanks is the easiest option for Spurs because of the players they have. With Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker down the right, matched by Gareth Bale and Benoit Assou-Ekotto down the left, the club is formidable down the wings.
That, however, has not carried over into the middle of the park yet.
The level of isolation that Rafael van der Vaart often found himself in trying to bridge the midfield gap was painful at times.
Part of this is because neither feared anything coming through the middle of the park that did not start from the wings.
One of the best looks in the match against Newcastle was a great one-two between Livermore and Jermain Defoe that the latter crashed off the post.
It was a complete surprise to Newcastle because it came straight down the pipe.
Spurs are not threatening enough down the middle for their opponents so far. Because of this, the club is relying heavily on shear skill and athleticism to beat opponents down the flanks.
It’s not easy, however, because both Newcastle and West Brom have been pushing their defenses closer to the flanks rather than the middle of the park.
While there were varying levels of success using that tract, it’s noticeable in the lack of clear cut chances that Tottenham have created near the box in two matches.
This is why finding a passer who can thread a ball through the defense is a necessary find.
Pjanic, who is adept in many central midfield slots, has the ability and wherewithal to pick passes from deep positions, move forward to suck in defenders and play the killer pass from up close.
Joao Moutinho, while maybe not the deep passer Pjanic can be, is also another player with the ability to pick passes and hit the through ball that would spring the forward line on.
This is easily the biggest hole that Tottenham have not addressed, unless they plan on being a team that is based on flank play, which seems at odds with Villas-Boas’ desires.
The next five days will be a mind-boggling rush of player rumors and speculation swirl.
Tottenham, after claiming a solitary point in two matches, need to pick up the right pieces for Villas-Boas’ system to work.
Slamming a square peg into a round hole is going to get old in a hurry should they miss their chance.
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