Tottenham Hotspur: 5 Biggest Summer Transfer Objectives for Andre Villas-Boas
Following on from last week’s general look at Tottenham Hotspur’s transfer activity in the coming months, we now take a look at what might be Andre Villas-Boas’ biggest objectives in the market this summer.
There is a lot still to happen this season that may have implications here, especially pertaining to the quality of signings Tottenham might make. Whatever happens, there are areas in the squad that already can be described as needing attention.
Competition for Places on the Wings
Gareth Bale’s future is to be an issue for some time, and with plenty written and spoken about it already, that matter will not be rehashed here. It is pretty obvious Tottenham will not be keen to sell him, especially if they qualify for the Champions League.
Whether Bale stays or not, Villas-Boas might be keen to bring in some added competition out wide in midfield, with Spurs relying so heavily on the Welshman and Aaron Lennon.
Bale’s deployment in central positions has meant he is no longer regarded primarily as a winger. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey are among those at the club who have covered out left in his absence there and given steady to good service. But none can quite replicate the speedy threat provided by Bale and Lennon down the flanks, nor the balance it gives the team.
Andros Townsend—currently on loan at Queens Park Rangers—could very well see his game time upped next season on the back of his form with the Hoops. Increased involvement for the 21-year-old would add to the depth in the position, something that Spurs are paying for with Lennon's current injury (less we forget, he has had problems in successive seasons too).
However, Villas-Boas might still like to bring in more pace for the position, especially in left wing if he intends to persist with Bale centrally. Even if Spurs' style changes, their speed has proven such an effective feature of their game, it would be a shame for them to move away from this.
A Replacement for Friedel as Potential Backup for Lloris
Hugo Lloris has cemented his status as Tottenham’s first-choice goalkeeper. The club confirmed their intention to keep Brad Friedel as his backup into next season by giving him a contract extension.
With the veteran keeper almost certainly to retire after the 2013-14 campaign, it is important Villas-Boas begins thinking about who will replace him as the next challenger for Lloris.
Scotland Under-21 international Jordan Archer, currently on loan at Wycombe Wanderers, may be deemed good enough to succeed Friedel. If not, there will be some interesting considerations as to who will come in.
Goalkeeping fundamentals like shot-stopping and a general command of the penalty area will be a necessity. With so much being made of Lloris’ ability to act as a sweeper when Spurs’ defense are caught out too far forward, similar quickness and alertness may also be on the list of attributes required.
Depth at Left-Back
Left-back is a position where the extent of the issue may not even be clear to Villas-Boas. If he is happy with Benoit Assou-Ekotto as his starter there, then it is mostly a case of the depth behind the Cameroon international.
Jan Vertonghen is a fine full-back, but Tottenham would rather him play in his preferred position of central defense. Kyle Naughton has covered out left too, and while he has improved on his weaker side, he is also better served competing on his natural flank out right.
Danny Rose may be open to coming back and competing with Assou-Ekotto when his loan at Sunderland expires. However, having gotten use to more regular starts, the converted midfielder might not want to miss out any minutes any longer.
Then there is January signing Zeki Fryers. The versatile defender has been receiving generally positive reviews for performances in Spurs’ Under-21 squad. By August, Fryers might be ready to contend for a first-team spot.
If he is not, and Rose moves on, Villas-Boas has a few things to consider in the position. Does he buy young, in search of someone who might become good? Or does he chance a more experienced player to immediately challenge Assou-Ekotto?
Perhaps this is not so much an objective as something for Villas-Boas to think about.
Tottenham have players in midfield who can pass the ball and get the team going in the right direction. Mousa Dembele has been a standout here. Others like Sigurdsson and Lewis Holtby have an eye for a pass, and given more regular opportunities might become greater creative contributors in the team.
Tom Carroll has caught the eye with his vision and the accompanying movement he uses to get his team ticking (playing similarly to a younger version of Luka Modric). Villas-Boas might decide Carroll, along with the others mentioned, might have enough between them to go alongside the more creatively direct work of his wingers and (hopefully more so again soon) his strikers.
He might also deem his team as lacking that fulcrum at its heart, someone to pull the strings and through whom so much of their play will go.
Players of genuine quality here are few and far between, but are generally a common denominator in some of the best sides around (someone like Wesley Sneijder in Inter Milan's treble season or David Silva at Manchester City).
Spurs have been linked with players of that ilk this season—Sneijder and Joao Moutinho's names having frequently cropped up. They have got by fairly well without them, but undoubtedly there have been occasions when Villas-Boas' team might have done with someone with a special understanding of how to unlock stubborn opposition defenses.
Tottenham's lack of goals of late from Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor has been heavily discussed already, and just like the Bale situation, it is a subject that has grown most tiring.
Keeping it simple, Tottenham need a goalscorer (or two) this summer.
Regardless of what the aforementioned forwards do before the year is out, if Villas-Boas is serious about pushing on he needs someone who can guarantee around 20 goals a season. As for who can bring that, well, that is not so certain.
Upfront is an area Spurs have struggled for consistency in since the days of the Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane partnership. With decent backup from Defoe and then Darren Bent, they not only provided goals, but a clear identity of how the team would work in the final third.
In other positions there has been an idea of what works best, but up top that has not been the case.
What Villas-Boas decides here probably ranks as his most important decision in the transfer market this summer. Spurs might get by okay with the contributions of others in the team, but without guaranteed goals (or as near as possible) their greater ambitions may struggle to be fulfilled.