Spurs Have Paid the Price for Failing to Replace Bale with Quality in Midfield

Glenn HoddleFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2014

AP Images

Tottenham spent £110 million replacing Gareth Bale and Tom Huddlestone with a deluge of new signings in the summer. Good players, but not great ones.

The club have bought the wrong type of players, proving that throwing money at new signings is not always the answer.

From watching the team, it is a question of style, and the missing ingredient is finding a settled team which has the midfield creativity and vision to link with the strikers and produce a potent attacking force.

A lot of experienced players have been left on the bench too long, and the team has lacked continuity through constant changes in the team.

When Tim Sherwood took over, he played two up front. That was fine against average teams but, against the best, he realised you have to fill the midfield.

Systems are fine to a point, but you need the right kind of players. I talked about this from the very first home game of the season against Swansea, when Spurs looked too predictable and too slow in getting the ball forward. In the second half against Arsenal on Sunday, they moved the ball quicker, and that was a good sign.

The team just lacks vision, and far too often we see the ball moved sideways or back rather than someone able to spot the right pass going forward.

In the opening six games, Roberto Soldado was running into spaces and channels, but he soon stopped, as the ball was never delivered when he made those moves, and therein lies the crux of the problem.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Whenever I watch the team, I don’t see the pass that is going to hurt the opposition. It's all square and back, and Arsenal played a bank of four across the back and midfield and played really deep, which is something you don’t often to see from the Gunners. It was a simple tactical device to ensure Spurs didn’t get very far.

So are Spurs' summer buys any better than Huddlestone?  No, they are not.  Of course, you cannot find anyone better than Bale, so they have lost two class players and not brought in better ones. Let's hope that some of those newcomers set the team alight next season.

Sometimes you can find a player in your own academy who is better than the ones you are spending many millions on, and while Sherwood has promoted one to midfield, maybe it's now time to give him a rest.

Nabil Bentaleb has made an impressive start, but he doesn’t see the bigger picture quickly enough and, like the rest of the midfield, doesn’t get the ball into the front players quickly enough.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

I’m afraid that I am going to go for a 2-0 defeat in the Estadio da Luz, with Spurs going out of Europe.

I didn’t see the first leg, but I was at White Hart Lane for the derby on Sunday and spoke with Alan Mullery, who told me Benfica were as good a team as any he has seen there this season.

I would think that Benfica have every chance of winning 2-0, as I cannot see Tottenham at the moment turning it around.

If Spurs are to pull off a shock result, they will have to score in the first 15 minutes to throw a touch of doubt into Benfica’s mind and let them become tense about the outcome.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 13:  Tim Sherwood manager of Tottenham Hotspur argues with Jorge Jesus manager of Benfica during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 first leg match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and SL Benfica at White Hart Lane on March 13, 2014 in
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Spurs deserved to beat Arsenal on Sunday, so their reaction on Thursday night will be fascinating. The team are currently on a downward turn, with players lacking confidence in front of goal and the whole team generally out of sorts. For that reason, it might be a bridge too far to expect to progress in the Europa League.

The club have had limited success in recent years, and I cannot put my finger on why, but it is an issue that needs addressing.

Throwing money at signings and changing managers isn’t always the answer, and there needs to be a better strategy going forward to provide more stability.

Spending money doesn’t mean you are going to get better players or the right ones. The issue is building a team with the right blend, the right style, and that hasn’t happened yet.


Glenn Hoddle will appear at the ELITE LEGENDS CUP, taking place at Leyton Orient's Brisbane Road on May 18. It will feature the greatest legends from Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, West Ham—including Ossie Ardiles, Gianfranco Zola and Martin Keown.