Labeling Spurs’ close to the season as a disaster — which has involved pissing away a sizable third-place gap and free-falling all the way to our current position of fifth — would be a massive understatement.
What a difference a few months of bad form can make. Back in January, I was filling this space with ideas on how Spurs should bolster their ranks in the summer to strengthen the squad ahead of our next Champions League campaign. Now, we’re staring headlong into another season in the perpetual wasteland that is the Europa League and facing the prospects of having to sell off our best players. At least that’s what everyone suspects will happen if the boys continue on as they have in the second half of the season. And describing it as a “worst case scenario” seems apt, though I admittedly understand there are those facing an even more horrible fate.
How it’s gone down isn’t worth rehashing in detail since Tottenham’s demise has been well documented, and because I’m trying to spare myself from reliving the nightmares. That said, I will continue to give Harry Redknapp a dirty look from across the room, just in case you need a hint at who I’d like to blame.
So assuming the cookie completely crumbles, where do we go from here? If we take on some optimism — something that’s become increasingly rare at White Hart Lane and in Spurs forums over the last few months — it would leave you to believe that things can only go up from here. But considering this was the season formerly hailed as the “best for Spurs in a generation”, common sense tells me things could potentially get much, much worse. Therefore, if we do end up on the outside looking in of the Champions League, the question becomes, “How do we stop the slide and get things back on track?”
To answer that, it’s time to be honest with ourselves about the situation: we’re going to lose players we’d rather not, we’re need a new manager, and we potentially need to explode things and start fresh.
First, let’s tackle the Redknapp situation. Plainly put: he needs to leave in one way or another. While his lack of tactical awareness has always been concerning, watching him effectively twiddle his thumbs he and await his England appointment as Spurs season crumbles due to basic tactical mistakes has likely caused me to developed an ulcer. Which is stupid, because I should have expected him to do as much after he did the same damn thing to both Southampton and Portsmouth before us. With a bigger job off in the distance, ‘Arry clearly lacks the professionalism to stay focused on his current responsibilities.
However, it’s important to remember that Redknapp getting the England job is far from a given. The gaffer seems to be ignoring that Tottenham’s slide could potentially train wreck his not-so-secret desire for the job, and I doubt the FA haven’t taken notice.
This presents a conundrum for the Lillywhite management team. Before this terrible run of form, Spurs were in line to receive a sizable payoff from the FA acquire Harry’s services. But if you were the FA, would you fork out £10 million (plus salary) for a manager whose team sits third from bottom in the league table over the last eight matches, can’t write and is increasingly known for his lack of tactical awareness? I wouldn’t. That means Spurs could be left with a manager they don’t want, and if they want a change in direction they’ll have to buy him out to fire him. That’s a difficult spot for Daniel Levy: he can’t look too eager to get rid of him, or the FA won’t want to pony up. But to be honest, if I were Levy, I would be ringing up FA Chairman David Bernstein daily and offering to exchange Redknapp for 100 quid and bag of crisps just to make sure we get something out of the situation.
Again, we know Redknapp’s departure won’t be the only one, especially if we’re not able to guarantee Champions League football. Without it, we no longer have a carrot to dangle in front of Modrić to persuade him to stay, so it’s safe to assume he’s off. Which is fine, because he’s looked completely disinterested during the poor stretch, and I’d be willing to part ways for anything in the £40 million plus range… or £50 million if City are really interested. And Bale, who’s finally managed to find some consistency in between his previous flashes of brilliance, appears to have all the big fish circling him again. Though I think he’s loyal enough to the club to stick it out for another year, it would be a folly to bank on anything. Let’s assume he forces his way out, I’d say we could deal survive if a Real Madrid or Barcelona offered up £30 million.
If those two depart, that leaves a hollowed out side that is short on world class talent. In order to back fill appropriately, Levy and the new manager will have to do four things to keep us from slipping back into mid-table purgatory:
1. Some of the more senior players in the squad — no matter their history or influence — will need to be nudged toward the exit door. While Cudicini, Gallas, Nelsen and Saha will be easier to do this with, someone like the legendary Ledley will be tricky to handle. We know he’s fading, but his stature at the club will make it difficult to say “take a hike” or “retire”.
2. Recalling certain on-loan players will be crucial to reinforce problem areas in the squad, as it costs far less than buying new ones. The most obvious of the loanees to recall is Steven Caulker, who’s had an excellent season as one of Swansea’s starting center back. Kyle Naughton has also performed well for Norwich, and would ideally provide cover for Walker/BAE. And lastly, Steven Pienaar would be a great recall if Bale leaves (bonus if Moyes is named the new manager).
3. We’re going to have quickly accept below desired value for a few squad players to cut the fat from the squad and build up the funds to invest in new players. Giovanni, Jenas, Bassong, and Bentley all come to mind, but offers for Huddlestone, Kranjčar and Defoe should be at least heard if adequate replacements can be found.
4. Lastly, Levy’s going to have to finally spend a good chunk of his transfer war chest that he’s been sitting on for so long. Bare minimum, we’ll need at least two new strikers (one to replace too-expensive-to-keep-without-UCL Adebayor, another because we need one), a new central creator to replace the departing Modrić, at least one proven winger to replace Bale, and a younger-yet-proven center back.
Who gets brought in to remake this Tottenham Hotspur side anew, as I’ve said before, is highly dependent on the manager appointed and the team’s place in the Champions League. Obviously, finishing outside the top four means we can kiss our chances goodbye of landing a big name like Eden Hazard. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t values — cue Levy’s ears perking — available in the market.
Starting in the back, the name most frequently “linked” with Spurs in the rumor mill is Ajax captain Jan Vertonghen. The big Dutchman is generally accepted to be one of the most well rounded young center backs in the game, though the Gooners look to be in pole position for his signature. Other targets could include Swansea’s Ashley Williams (experience) or Douglas of FC Twente (cheap).
On the wings, it’s pretty much a given that Blackburn’s Junior Hoilett is a summer target and should be cheap enough with Rovers looking destined for the drop. Juventus outcast Miloš Krasić is also a frequent link, but I’m not sure I want him if the bianconerri don’t. Maybe Villareal’s Santi Cazorla or Parma’s Sebastian Giovinco could do the trick? Either way, should Bale leave, we’ll need to bring in at least two wingers.
As for strikers, any two of Fernando Llorente, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Leandro Damião, Loïc Rémy, or Ricky van Wolfswinkel — in that order — would make me content. But of them, I really really really want Llorente, and my concerns would be at least partially dashed if Levy showed some ambition and forked out £30 million to get him. I know I’m asking a lot here, but it’s time the club shows us they’re not just hoarding the last few year’s profits.
As for who could replace a departing Modders, that one is a bit trickier. Class central creators are a rarity, so unearthing a diamond in the rough is about as easy as saying the alphabet backwards, maybe harder.., I’m no genius. So we’ll either have to pay out the nose, or take a risk. My first choice options would be the pricier duo of Souchaux’s Marvin Martin or Sunderland’s Stéphane Sessègnon, both of whom are dynamic, attacking-oriented midfielders. But cheaper options might include Swansea’s Joe Allen or Real Madrid’s Sergio Canales, who’s currently on loan at Valencia.
Look, I don’t know if any of this would work, these are all just ideas. Probably poor ones, so feel free to skewer them in the comments.
Maybe if Spurs pull their heads from their nether-regions and remember there’s something to play for even if Harry is leaving, we won’t even have to worry about any of this! Well, except for trimming the fat, finding a new manager, a new center back, two new strikers and recalling some loaned players for depth.
It seems our worst-case scenario isn’t all that different from our best case. And either way, I’m preparing myself for it.