Tottenham Hotspur: Looking at the Moves Spurs Need to Make for 2014-15
With just two matches left of the current season, Tottenham Hotspur will soon focus their attentions firmly on 2014-15.
The situation may soon change, but uncertainty over who will be managing the club means much about the team moving forward is up in the air.
Tim Sherwood's decisions and words of the past five months give us some idea of what he would have in mind for Tottenham next season. A change in manager would obviously make some of those interpretations moot.
Regardless of who is in charge, there are clearly positions within the Spurs squad that need addressing.
Over the following pages those areas will be examined, looking at their current state and what moves—both in general terms and in relation to specific players—need to be made as Spurs look to improve.
Friedel Could Need Replacing
"He is one of the top goalies and unless someone is going to spend £100million on him—and keepers do not get bought for that money—I don't think he will leave."
So said Tim Sherwood of Hugo Lloris, via Sky Sports, earlier this month. Barring the Frenchman demanding a move over the next few months, Tottenham will not be anticipating any drama over who their first-choice goalkeeper is next season.
The identity of who Lloris' back-up will be, however, does need clarifying.
Brad Friedel's contract—extended back in December 2012—expires this summer. The American, who turns 43 in May, has provided solid cover for Lloris in his nine appearances this season.
He helped Spurs to a penalty shootout win over Hull City in the Capital One Cup last October, and in the Europa League he was responsible for keeping his team in the game away at Dnipro.
In an interview with the Daily Mail's Dan Ripley in January, Friedel appeared unsure as to his prospects beyond 2013-14, though was eager to stay on in some capacity:
Yeah it would be great if I could. We just have to wait and see. At my age it’s more of a month to month thing instead of year to year. On that side of things [coaching], I think most people would love to be at a club like this. There would have to be jobs available and there would have to be conversations and they would have to want me.
A player as motivated and reliable as Friedel has been this season would probably be viewed as worth keeping around for a further year.
If he did move on, more veteran cover for Lloris would be no bad thing. Bringing someone in there depends on the standard of who is available, and if he is willing to step into the shadows. A Friedel or a Carlo Cudicini does not come free every season.
Spurs might decide this is the ideal opportunity to look at a younger keeper to provide competition for Lloris, one who might be capable of replacing him in the future if necessary.
Scotland under-21 goalkeeper Jordan Archer spent time on loan with Wycombe Wanderers last season and has been on the Spurs bench several times this campaign. Whether he is regarded by the club as a genuine option here is unclear, though Academy manager John McDermott spoke highly of him to Spurs' official website in February.
An outside recruit might be deemed the best solution. We will not know Spurs' exact intentions until Friedel's situation becomes clear.
Putting Faith in Youth at Left-Back
Left-back has been a problematic position for Tottenham since the latter years of the last decade. A first-choice option for the role has always been in place, adequate cover not so much.
This summer is an intriguing time on both counts for Spurs.
Danny Rose has had an up-and-down year in his first proper crack at the job in North London. His performances have been encouraging enough that—considering he only turns 24 in July—another year to continue his development is justified.
While it became increasingly apparent this year the purely right-footed Kyle Naughton is far better suited to his natural side, Zeki Fryers has looked comfortable deputising on the left.
The idea of him learning it as his primary job has been confused slightly by Sherwood telling the Tottenham & Wood Green Journal's Tom Moore and Ben Pearce he envisioned Fryers "as a centre-half, a left-sided centre-back."
It leaves Spurs with genuine options in the position. Just not necessarily—perhaps besides Rose—with those they want competing for the position moving forward.
One target who has continued to be linked with Spurs is Luke Shaw.
Giuseppe Muro of the London Evening Standard reported last month the club's hierarchy had "identified" the 18-year-old as a player of interest. The same story also points out interest from Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Southampton director Les Reed denied any negotiations for Shaw had taken place, via BBC Sport. If Spurs have intentions of making him their next left-back, they are facing an uphill task in convincing Saints and the player White Hart Lane would be the ideal move for him.
Placing their faith in Rose and establishing preferred cover appears, at least, to be the more financially sensible option.
Will Changes Be Made at Centre-Back?
On paper, Tottenham already have things covered at centre-back.
In Michael Dawson, Vlad Chiriches, Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen, there is a mix of substantial Premier League and European experience, as well as international pedigree.
Add Fryers to the group and numbers-wise things look fine too.
On the pitch, things have not gone quite so smoothly this season, with hammerings by Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City damaging the reputations of the aforementioned defenders.
There is little accounting for the mistakes that contributed to the most recent defeats to Chelsea and Liverpool. Changes—unnecessary and then enforced—for the losses to Man City and the Reds prior to the turn of the year were more culpable, as unsettled back lines were summarily exposed by gleeful attackers.
It is easier said than done, but it is not hard to imagine more focus on the players' part, and more consistency in selection from their manager helping to stabilise and get the best out of this group.
Chiriches and Dawson worked very well together from mid-autumn to January when the former got injured, losing only two league games. Kaboul is playing well now, too, benefiting from his first run in the team for a couple of seasons.
Kaboul's contract set to expire this summer, though, while Vertonghen—his injury-hit second season in England less successful than his first—is, according to The Mirror's John Cross and Darren Lewis, interesting Barcelona and Roma.
It would be surprising to see Spurs leave themselves needing to replace two centre-backs. One leaving, less so.
Former Spur and current Cardiff City centre-back Steven Caulker has been linked with a possible return, his stock having risen despite the relegation-battling Bluebirds' struggles. Further afield, The Mirror's Lewis linked Ajax's Joel Veltman as a target for Louis van Gaal if he became manager.
Just who Spurs target depends on who leaves and what works balance-wise. Caulker coming in for Kaboul makes some sense, Vertonghen not so much.
Making the Numbers Work in Midfield
One of the more interesting speculative pieces written about Tottenham of late came from Matt Law in the Daily Telegraph.
"Tottenham Hotspur will target three key signings who can make an immediate impact on the first team as part of a summer transfer strategy that will focus on quality over quantity," Law led with.
Missing out on Champions League football again is a blow for chairman Daniel Levy and the club's hierarchy. But it appears they might have learned this season that spending big and bringing in several new players is not a solution.
Making the numbers work certainly applies to Tottenham's crowded midfield.
There is room for an addition or two—some would say change—on the wings. Erik Lamela, Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend have each had decidedly mixed campaigns, while Christian Eriksen's future could again lay in a central role—whether Yago Falque, currently at Rayo Vallecano, has a future at Spurs remains to be seen.
Dnipro winger Yevhen Konoplyanka was regularly linked with Spurs earlier this year, including in the aforementioned article. He would give them a more natural presence on the left if he would a consider a transfer. The Independent's Ian Herbert believes Liverpool are more likely to make him part of their Champions League-boosted spending.
In central midfield, it will be about establishing satisfactory combinations that will not need to be almost constantly tweaked every couple of games to find what works best.
Eight players at Spurs are capable of playing centrally, which doesn't even include Tom Carroll, Lewis Holtby and Jake Livermore, who are all out on loan.
The creativity of Eriksen, the forward instincts of Paulinho and Gylfi Sigurdsson, all-round work from Mousa Dembele and Nabil Bentaleb, the defensive ability of Etienne Capoue and Sandro—there is plenty to work with there.
Yet Andre Villas-Boas was unable to settled on a preferred two or three, and Sherwood has rotated too—at least up until going with Nacer Chadli and Paulinho for the last four matches.
Law's article mentioned Manchester City's James Milner as a possible midfield target. He would certainly fit in with Sherwood's liking for players with desire, quality and ample industry.
But that comes back to the crux of the matter right now. With no concrete idea of who will be Spurs manager come August, it is difficult to figure out the shape and style of the team, and the midfielders who will be charged with making it all click.
Stick or Twist with Soldado and Co?
Law's Daily Telegraph article on the previous page mentioned Javier Hernandez. The same writer reported on Tottenham interest in Romelu Lukaku earlier this month. On Sunday, the Daily Express' Ben Jefferson suggested Mario Balotelli might even be on Spurs' agenda.
The North London club being linked with strikers is a bi-annual occurrence no matter what their situation.
The troublemaker Balotelli—it still beggars belief he was not more severely punished for trying to stamp on Scott Parker's head back in 2012—should be avoided like the plague, but Hernandez and Lukaku are players most clubs would be wise to give due consideration to signing.
Influencing any Spurs signings in attack will be their plans for their current forward crop.
Emmanuel Adebayor has enjoyed a fruitful 2014 and would seem a good bet to stick around under Sherwood. Roberto Soldado has had a tough first year in England, but in his better moments—chiefly coming in his 11 goals and five assists—has shown the kind of quality Spurs signed him for. Given the £26 million they paid for him, seeing what he can do with a year's Premier League experience is justified.
Harry Kane's good form that has brought three goals in four games over the last month has firmly pushed him into the first-team equation too.
There are strong arguments to be made for keeping all three, and that any striker brought in should be signed to complement them.
Yet, someone like Lukaku becoming available—who has proved his worth in the Premier League over a couple of seasons and will only be 21 come August—would be hard to pass up on.
Spurs have had issues in the past accommodating four top-class strikers. Finding a happy balance within a preferred system has not always been easy either—on both counts, it often seemed to revolve around either/or Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane.
Whatever is decided, the main focus will be ensuring goals are forthcoming throughout next season. Not just for half of it.