If one thing has been made clear by Spurs’ late-season drama, it’s that Tottenham’s impressive starting XI is being propped up by a group of squad players that leaves a lot to be desired.
Now don’t get me wrong: the likes of Defoe, Kranjčar, Rose, Livermore and company have performed admirably this season — and at times, even outstandingly. But you’d be pretty hard pressed to find a Spurs supporter out there that wouldn’t at least let out a quiet groan in frustration if he saw any of their names in the first eleven.
It’s clear we’ve needed additional depth at a number of positions this season. But when we’re forced to go with one of the current crop of available players to replace an injured starter, we almost always lose something vital. Lennon’s on-and-off availability this season illustrates this point well: either you place Niko out on the wing and sacrifice pace/width, or you have to play one or two other starters out of position (such as playing Bale on the right or Modrić on either wing) and bring on a weaker player on another portion of the field. Because of their qualities, or lack thereof, it forces us to utilize tactics and formations that make us far less potent offensively.
As I’ve said many times before, if we can recruit in some higher-caliber replacements, the benefits will be two-fold. Splurging some of Levy’s cash stash on a star player not only eliminates the drop in talent when we’re forced to use a squad player, but theoretically it should also cause our current starters to raise their game due to increased competition for places. If the new guy ends up supplanting the current starter, we still end up with better cover.
So the question becomes, who should Spurs focus their efforts on in the summer transfer window to address this issue?
The name that seems to be on everyone lips these days is Lille’s 20-year-old Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard. Rightfully so, as the lad has oodles of potential spilling from his boots. He can play on the left, right and even through the middle. And thanks to Hazard’s recent announcement that he intends to head to England this summer, it seems like our odds in landing have already improved. If nothing else, that announcement has narrowed the field of potential destinations by at least temporarily ruling out the usual continental giants.
[typography font=”PT Sans” size=”20″ size_format=”px” color=”#222222[/linequote]Honestly though, getting a player like Eden Hazard to sign for Tottenham Hotspur isn’t that tall of a task. All we have to do is give him is enough reasons to come.[/typography]
Spurs have made their interest clear, with Harry even making a trip across the Channel to watch him in person. However, some other notable names, such as City’s Mancini and United’s sleepy Sir Alex, have made similar trips to get their own firsthand accounts of the youngster’s brilliance. Let’s not forget that Hazard is also a prototypical Arsene Wenger signing, and he’s long been linked with a move to the Gooners. And even though Chelsea have reportedly dropped their interest in Hazard, I’m not convinced we can rule them out yet either.
Three of those four clubs can offer substantially higher wages than Spurs, and the Woolrich seem to be contemplating finally offering the same. We’d only be kidding ourselves if we thought a young player in today’s world wouldn’t be interested in becoming a kazillionaire. So how could Tottenham Hotspur ever be expected to nip them all to his — or any other player of his pedigree’s — signature?
Honestly though, getting a player like Eden Hazard to sign for Tottenham Hotspur isn’t that tall of a task. All we have to do is give him is enough reasons to come.
The first and probably most obvious reason: making sure we’re playing Champions League football next season. Nothing is more crucial to our ability to sign a top player than our ability to offer him top football. Let’s not forget that Hazard’s already tasted Champions League football with Lille. I highly doubt he’d be content with Europa League after that. If we’re lucky, Chelski will continue on with their abysmal domestic form and fail to win this year’s tournament, thus eliminating themselves from the Hazard Sweepstakes.
So assuming we don’t drop the ball and slip out of the top four, what else could potentially sway Hazard to choose White Hart Lane as his next home over the other so-called “illustrious grounds”?
Two words: playing time.
If I were Hazard, I wouldn’t want to make my long-awaited and much heralded move to England… only to ride the bench. Competition is key to developing as a player, but too much of it can be just as harmful. And while one that’s one of the main reasons for a potential transfer to the Premier League, if he never sees the pitch, his progress will undoubtedly stall. Just look at the way Adam Johnson’s career has sputtered at City.
You also have to think that the young Belgian is acclimated to being “the man” at Lille. He’s the first name on the team sheet and the first to receive plaudits. But if Hazard moves to one of the other clubs chasing him, he’ll be just another pawn in the puzzle. At Woolwich he’ll face competition from Rosický, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho and Walcott. As a Citizen, he would have to beat out one of Nasri, Silva, Agüero, Johnson or Milner. And at Old Trafford, he’d be facing up against Valencia, Young, Nani and Park.
However, if Hazard comes to Tottenham? Only Bale and van der Vaart offer true competition, and assuming that he settles quickly, he could probably push Lennon to the bench. As a player, I’d certainly prefer those odds. But, it’s not my decision to make, nor do I have bags of money on offer to lure me elsewhere.
So, Champions League football? Almost a check.
A legitimate chance at becoming a decisive role player in a team on the rise? Check.
The opportunity to play under a manager who’s known for his ability to develop a player’s game and help him reach the next level? Well, um…….. shit.
Because there is no definitive answer to who will be managing Spurs next season, we can’t really answer that question yet. Redknapp obviously knows where he wants to be working come the summer, but if for some reason he stays, he might have just enough of a reputation to persuade a world-class talent to take a risk and pass up said bags of money. Harry’s already guided this team to the Champions League, not to mention that several players have become stars during his time in North London, so he’s proven himself. Whether he’s staying though, is another post altogether.
So what happens if Harry goes? Personally, I think our ability to sign a player of Hazard’s quality is highly dependent on whomever Levy and Co. bring in as our next manager.
For example, if José Mourinho somehow deems us worthy of employing him (which I’m not holding my breath over, by the way), I think the chances of Hazard choosing to follow suit increases dramatically. The Special One’s track record for success speaks for itself, and good players want to be a part of that and will follow him wherever he goes. Let’s not forget that to even consider this a realistic outcome, we’ll still need to guarantee Champions League football to convince him, too.
But if we end up with someone with a less proven history, which is likely to be the case if we fail to secure a Champions League place, I think Hazard will go somewhere else and cash in. While I would be fine to certain degree with Levy lining up Swansea’s Brendan Rodgers (my personal Dan-Levy’s-a-cheap-ass preference) or bookmaker’s favorite, David Moyes, neither really has the reputation and results to his name to convince a Hazard, a Leandro Damião or Fernando Llorente that Tottenham is just as worthy destination. And the sooner we straighten that business out in the summer, the better. If it takes us until August to nail down a manager, will that really be enough time to snare a big capture or two? Probably not.
Ok, so maybe recruiting Hazard won’t be that easy of a task. But I also don’t think it’s an impossible one, either. While there are some large hurdles that need to be cleared, if the cards fall the right way, we could still pip the big boys to a legitimate star once again.
Just remember that if the stars do align and we land Hazard or any other big name signing, getting that player to live up to the hype is another matter entirely.