Tottenham Hotspur: Checking in on Last Summer's Signings
Tottenham Hotspur's summer 2013 signings are entering the home stretch of their first season in England.
Each of them—Nacer Chadli, Vlad Chiriches, Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue, Paulinho and Roberto Soldado—will have had hopes and expectations about how their respective moves would work out.
Particularly, given the change in management that has since occurred at White Hart Lane, 2013-14 is likely to have transpired differently than they all would have imagined.
The differing fortunes of each player has made for fascinating viewing since the turn of the year. Over the following few pages, we look at how things stand for each of these expensive recruits three months into 2014.
Up first: Mr. Soldado.
"Strikers always go through difficult moments and he has been through that," Emmanuel Adebayor told Tottenham's official website in reference to Soldado.
"You start doubting yourself and you think ‘when am I going to score again?’ A striker playing with confidence and without confidence is a very different thing, believe me."
Up until last weekend, Soldado had decidedly been playing without confidence in 2014—or to be more exact, finishing without confidence.
The elegance of touch and coolness he displayed in finishing past Cardiff City's David Marshall was in stark contrast to the inelegant efforts that had marked frustrating displays vs. Norwich City and Dnipro.
Soldado's all-round performances have varied in the time since Tim Sherwood's appointment as manager.
An assist for the restored Adebayor in his new boss' first league game against Southampton hinted at the potential of the two as a partnership going forward. A calf injury and lethargic, uninspired outings against Arsenal and Crystal Palace in January served to undermine its immediate chances.
Soldado's own restoration to Sherwood's starting XI in recent games speaks to a preference from the manager for the use of two strikers, though. If the Spaniard can truly hit goalscoring form now, it might become the only option in his manager's mind.
Chadli's 25 minutes against Cardiff City was the latest exciting cameo appearance from the Belgian. He tore through the Bluebirds with speed and panache. But for Harry Kane's hesitant finishing on one occasion, Chadli might have had an assist to his name for the day.
Along with his excellent, curled effort to seal Tottenham's 4-0 win against Newcastle, it was further evidence of the talent Chadli possesses. But as this writer noted following Spurs' loss to Norwich City, it is appearing all too infrequently.
Had he not been starting any games, he might have had reason to feel frustrated at a lack of opportunities. As it is, Sherwood drafted him in against Swansea City and away at Dnipro, but the winger only fleetingly contributed with any conviction.
Chadli is a welcome alternative for Spurs coming off the bench. For the time being, that is all he is going to be unless he starts making things happen for himself.
Eriksen's stock at Tottenham went up in his absence in recent weeks.
After resting the Dane for Newcastle away, Sherwood stuck with the midfield that beat the Magpies 4-0 for the following couple of games. Understandable in the respect of wanting to stick to a winning team, it was a decision that failed to acknowledge the need for a different approach against different opposition (not to mention the need to rest others now).
In fairness to the manager, he brought Eriksen back for the second leg of Spurs' Europa League match with Dnipro in the round of 32.
It paid off. The attacking midfielder's creativity helped turn the tide in a tie going against them.
Forced out for Cardiff with a back injury, Eriksen was again missed.
Since returning from an ankle injury in December, Eriksen has relished the more involved role handed him by Sherwood. He was playing plenty under Andre Villas-Boas, too, but in the hole behind the striker, games had a tendency of passing Eriksen by.
Eriksen has played in central midfield proper and has been deployed from the left since then. A sense that defensive duties were not quite his style have seen him largely moved away from the former. The influence the 22-year-old wields in the pitch's busier areas—in a similar fashion to former-Spur Luka Modric—might warrant giving him another look there.
Wherever he plays, it is becoming increasingly clear that Tottenham are generally better off with Eriksen in their line-up than not.
Just prior to the turn of the year, Paulinho played his first game under Sherwood's management against Stoke City. In the Brazilian's most eye-catching outing since moving to England, he combined delightful skill with purposeful passing in an hour that enthralled White Hart Lane.
It was with cruel luck an encounter with Charlie Adam that saw the Brazilian subsequently sidelined for the entirety of January.
Since returning, Paulinho has not yet been able to influence proceedings in quite the same entertaining and effective manner.
His ability to get forward and grab himself a goal makes it difficult not to include him. The clinically taken equaliser against Hull was followed up a couple of weeks later with a goal that helped put Newcastle away.
Since then, even that threat has diminished.
It was no coincidence he was substituted against Norwich and Cardiff. In both games, he was so quiet as to barely registering on either side of the ball. That much was reflected in very low numbers in all measure of statistics in Squawka.com's tallies for the game (each of which can be found by clicking the aforementioned team's name).
Paulinho is not expected to direct Tottenham's play in quite the same prominent manner as Mousa Dembele or Eriksen. Against Stoke, though, he showed what he is capable of when he comes in from the periphery.
The hope at Tottenham will be that is the next phase of his development at the club.
Currently out with a back injury, Chiriches will be desperate to get back in action for Tottenham. His last appearance came in the 5-1 loss to Manchester City. For that to be the Romanian's last competitive action will undoubtedly be gnawing at him.
When he does return, Chiriches will have to battle to regain his place in the team. Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul have since come back into contention, with the former in particular relishing being back in central defence.
Prior to getting injured, Chiriches had established a solid looking, centre-back partnership with Michael Dawson. The Man City defeat was only the second loss they had suffered playing together in the league, and it was the first since early November.
Outstanding at Manchester United on New Year's Day, the Romania captain was proving to be pretty consistent overall.
Save for drifting off on occasion (something that cost Spurs two points against West Bromwich Albion) his grit and endeavour were marking him out as the most successful of his club's summer signings. More than his fellow new teammates, Chiriches had taken to English football well.
Capoue getting injured against Norwich City came at the worst possible time for the Frenchman.
It had been his third start in a row. Having seen Nabil Bentaleb move ahead of him in the pecking order, he had taken advantage of Tottenham's move to using an extra man in midfield.
Capoue had been unable to replicate his efficiency in the Newcastle win against Dnipro a week later. Having only seen time off the bench in the weeks prior to that, it was something he could work on now that he was playing again.
The 25-year-old featuring again was not a given in late January. According to The Guardian's David Hytner, Spurs turned down an £8.25 million bid from Napoli but were open to selling Capoue if more money came in.
A somewhat sloppy showing from him against Man United at the beginning of January had seemingly convinced Sherwood that Bentaleb's better use of the ball was more suitable for his team.
The change in strategy last month offered Capoue another opportunity to prove his worth.
Alas, injury has now denied him his chance to push on—for the time being at least. With Sandro now back to full fitness, Capoue could be on the outside looking in once more.
The last time Lamela was seen in a Tottenham shirt was in their 3-0 win over Stoke City at the end of 2013.
The Argentinian's 15 minutes on the pitch were not especially noteworthy. He could, though, be pleased with having featured for Spurs for the third time in a row.
Lamela's chance to make headway under his new manager Sherwood were put on the backburner soon after. Thigh and back problems have combined to turn a frustrating debut Premier League campaign into a nightmarish one.
The London Evening Standard's Tom Collomosse reported on Friday that doubts remain over his fitness. Lamela "was due to return to Tottenham today after the latest stage of his rehabilitation but the coaching staff were unsure about when he would be fit to play again."
There is still time for Lamela to find his feet and help Spurs this season, but while he is out of sight and largely out of mind, it is difficult to predict what is in store for the 22-year-old's future.
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