Grading Tottenham's Transfer Window Signings
With the transfer window now shut, Tottenham Hotspur have the squad they will be working with until January in place.
Over the following five pages, each of Spurs' summer signings for this season will be graded. The emphasis in each verdict is on just how necessary each recruitment was to the team in both the short and long term.
Ben Davies and Eric Dier have already made their Tottenham debuts. Federico Fazio, Benjamin Stambouli and Michel Vorm should all follow in the coming weeks.
Omitted for the time being is Seattle Sounders' DeAndre Yedlin. A deal for the defender may have been agreed already, but he will not arrive in north London until well into 2015, by which time plenty could have changed.
In the present, we begin the evaluations with a certain Welsh left-back.
Ben Davies: A+
Depending on your views on Danny Rose, Tottenham either desperately needed a new left-back this summer or at least required more depth in the position.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto was—and is—still listed as a Spurs player but had already fallen out of favour last season. Zeki Fryers looked decent enough at left-back, yet even had he been kept on (which he has not), adding a more proven player was not going to go amiss.
Mauricio Pochettino's assessment of Ben Davies as having "a wealth of experience", via Spurs' official website, is a little exaggerated. Two seasons in the first team with Swansea had seen him come along nicely enough, though, so much so that he was one of the very first players to be linked with Spurs following his new boss' late-May appointment.
A piece in The Guardian by Stuart James was glowing about the signing, concluding "Spurs will have an accomplished player on their hands for years to come." Aged just 21, there is ample time for that to come to fruition.
For now, Davies has begun the season starting in cup games, with Rose getting the nod in the Premier League. With the latter signing a new contract this summer, Pochettino has made no secret of his intentions for the two: "We now have two outstanding, internationals vying for the left-back position. I’m sure they will be motivated to improve each other."
Davies has looked steady enough in his few outings so far. It may take him a while, or he could get his chance within weeks; either way the hope that the Wales full-back will be an integral part of the Spurs' squad for years to come does not seem too far-fetched.
Michel Vorm: B
Michel Vorm has been denied the chance to feature for Tottenham so far because of ongoing fitness issues.
A blow for him individually, it has not been so concerning for the club. This signing is one whose remit extends beyond the coming weeks.
In Hugo Lloris and Brad Friedel, Spurs already had two top goalkeepers. Despite signing a new one-year deal in June, at 43 the latter could not be relied upon forever to provide reliable backup as he has for the last two seasons.
Spurs' signing of Vorm sensibly adds an experienced and talented shot-stopper to the ranks ahead of Friedel's likely impending retirement. It simultaneously also added the club to the list of European teams retaining two top-class goalies.
Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois at Chelsea, Manuel Neuer and Pepe Reina at Bayern Munich, Iker Casillas and Keylor Navas at Real Madrid—Spurs may not be competing in the Champions League like those clubs, but Lloris and Vorm are certainly of that standard.
The downside of that is there may come a point when one of the two become unhappy. Given the great job Lloris has done for Spurs since joining in 2012, the current likelihood is Vorm would be the first to become disillusioned with a lack of first-team opportunities.
The Holland international only turns 31 in October. He obviously intends to make his mark at Tottenham. The reality might not match his expectations.
Eric Dier: A-
Eric Dier's signing is one that proves there is no strict formula to what does and does not work with players. In this case, it is seen in Tottenham's use of young, well-regarded English defenders.
Steven Caulker was rated by many Spurs fans as someone who could become a regular in the club's defence for years to come. Instead, he was moved on to Cardiff City last year and has since joined Queens Park Rangers.
The arrival of Dier, 20, has partly led to the departure of the similarly versatile Fryers to Crystal Palace. While Fryers had and now Dier is getting first-team opportunities, 22-year-old Grant Hall is spending another season away on loan (this year with Birmingham City).
Hall is an unknown when it comes to top-flight football. Based on what we have seen so far, however, Dier seems like he might have the aptitude to make it with Spurs in the Premier League.
Used at both right-back and centre-back already this season, where he might excel long-term will only become apparent with time, though Pochettino made sure to mention his versatility in his reflections on Spurs' summer signings.
Dier still has work to do learning the tricks of the trade that will stand him in good stead (such as not pulling the shirt of one of Liverpool's many contact-phobic players in the penalty area, as seen in the penalty he gave away last Sunday). Already, however, he has shown good timing in the tackle, decent positional sense and a helpful burst of speed.
Of Spurs' centre-back options heading into this season, only Vlad Chiriches was under 25. Age was not a pressing concern in the position, but getting an idea of what Spurs' future there might look like now in the form of Dier was not a bad idea.
Federico Fazio: B+
If Dier is Tottenham's long-term future in defence, Federico Fazio's arrival is intended to help improve things in the position a lot sooner.
Viewed by Pochettino as "a positive influence both on and off the field", any leadership Sevilla's former captain could provide would be welcome with Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen remaining unconvincing in that department.
With Michael Dawson gone and Kaboul an inconsistent presence here too, Fazio will certainly be required to instill a much-needed physicality and toughness in the Spurs back four.
It is with the Frenchman that the Argentinian would likely be competing for the right-sided berth in central defence. At 6'4" he would ensure Kaboul's height of 6'3" would not be missed. Described as "aggressive" by Pochettino, "strong" by Bleacher Report's Guillem Balague, the hope is he is someone who will not let Premier League strikers have it all their own way.
Spurs have had mixed success with importing central defenders from abroad over the last decade. Some, like Noureddine Naybet and Vertonghen settled relatively quickly, while others either took their time (Kaboul) or were ultimately not up to much (Ricardo Rocha).
Over eight seasons in Spain, the 27-year-old developed into a notable part of the Sevilla side, as seen by the fact he appeared in more games in his last three years (107) than the previous five combined (80).
It appears that the feeling is the imposing, classy Fazio is in the midst of his peak as a player. Spurs will just need that to translate to the frenetic pace of English football sooner rather than later.
Benjamin Stambouli: A
Similarly to Dier, "versatility" appears to be the buzzword when it comes to Benjamin Stambouli too. However, Pochettino also made another interesting comment about Tottenham's latest recruit:
Mauricio: "@BenjiStambouli offers us versatility as well as quality. He knows what it takes to win and will prove a tremendous addition.”— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) September 2, 2014
The reference to Stambouli knowing "what it takes to win" is perhaps an acknowledgement from Pochettino that this is a quality lacking from those already at the club, particularly in the midfield position, where the Frenchman seems most likely to get his chance.
Spurs were certainly not lacking for midfielders. Despite the varying form of those players over the last year or so, there is still plenty of quality there.
But if Pochettino believes there is not enough urgency, not enough of a will to win, perhaps he views Stambouli as the defensive-midfield presence capable of providing that necessary grit. It would certainly be in keeping with former Spurs boss Tim Sherwood's criticism of a "lack of characters" in the squad.
"You need to show a bit more gut and not want to be someone's mate all the time, and it can't always be me having a pop, " Sherwood told Sky Sports after Spurs' 4-0 loss to Chelsea last season. "They have to drag it out of each other."
In a piece by Sky Sports' Adam Bate, Stambouli himself was quoted making direct reference to this aspect of his personality as a player: "I like to talk in the locker room, it's a pleasure for me. You have to manage when it goes wrong, and I'm glad to have responsibilities. I think I'm a more mature player now. I still have that desire to learn and improve."
The Premier League is a step up from the French league, certainly in respect to pace. If Stambouli can adjust to that well enough, he could in the process become the heartbeat of the Spurs midfield and the team in general.