June 19 2013 Latest news:
By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Daniel Levy’s negotiating tactics have left Andre Villas-Boas with an incomplete squad ahead of Saturday’s Premier League opener at Newcastle.
When Andre Villas-Boas was introduced as Tottenham’s new head coach, he could not have imagined that he would go into his first competitive game in this shape.
The start of the new season is now just three days away and, while Spurs are well stocked in some positions – particularly at centre-back – there are also gaping holes in the squad.
There may be plenty of time in terms of the transfer window, which closes on August 31, but the start of the campaign is already here - there is no more time to experiment, to integrate new signings and forge relationships on the pitch in warm-up games.
As Villas-Boas ponders his starting line-up at Newcastle, Luka Modric is still sitting in the departure lounge waiting for his move to Real Madrid and there is still only one senior striker on the books – Jermain Defoe, who is ill-suited to the 4-2-3-1 system which Spurs are expected to employ.
It is hardly the first time that the Lilywhites have gone into the campaign as a work in progress, and it has rarely benefited them.
In 2008 they suffered from Dimitar Berbatov’s protracted move to Manchester United, which was eventually completed in the final hours of deadline day.
Roman Pavlyuchenko arrived late in the window and Spurs were still desperately scrabbling around for another striker on August 31, eventually loaning Fraizer Campbell from United.
Few will need to be reminded how the Lilywhites began that season – they took two points from their first eight games and Juande Ramos was sacked.
It was a similar story last campaign as Spurs waited until the season had begun before sealing the deals for Emmanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker, who had been expected to join Tottenham all summer but did not actually arrive until deadline day.
By the time Adebayor and Parker made their debuts on September 10 Tottenham were bottom of the league, having lost 3-0 at Old Trafford and 5-1 at home against Manchester City in their opening two games.
Even then Harry Redknapp was able to choose between Defoe, Peter Crouch and Pavlyuchenko up front – but Villas-Boas only has Defoe and Harry Kane, who has never played in the Premier League.
Of course, if Adebayor does agree a permanent move he will slide seamlessly back into the team alongside some familiar faces.
However, the new £8million signing Gylfi Sigurdsson also likes to play behind the striker and would be less familiar with Tottenham’s point man.
And, if negotiations with Adebayor break down, Tottenham will have to look elsewhere for their top forward, forcing everyone to adapt to each other’s styles from scratch. The same issue applies to whoever replaces the outgoing Modric in the creative hub of the midfield.
Villas-Boas will certainly be aware of this – and so will Levy, who was praised for being “a person of great football understanding” by his new head coach at his first press conference.
If Villas-Boas is now changing his mind in that respect then he isn’t showing it. He continues to tow the party line that Levy is “defending the club’s interests” by delaying Modric’s move - which is probably one of the reasons why he has replaced the more outspoken Redknapp.
However, the Portuguese boss probably hoped to rebuild his reputation in the Premier League with at least one striker who is taller than 5ft 6ins Defoe, and is physically capable of holding the ball up with some degree of regularity.
So, having taken the brave decision to sack the successful Redknapp and replace him with Chelsea’s cast-off, is Levy now undermining his own fresh start by continuing to barter over the deals for Modric and Adebayor?
The answer is yes – the lack of activity since the arrivals of Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen has left Spurs in limbo just days before the kick-off, with key players from last season’s team missing and no replacements.
However, that doesn’t make Levy a villain, or an idiot. In fact, it is debateable whether he is actually making a mistake.
Like it or not, football is a business as well as a sport and Levy is a formidable businessman and a tough negotiator.
The fans have hailed their brilliant chairman for banking £5million for Jamie O’Hara, a combined £18m for Crouch and Palacios (on deadline day last year) and recently £5.5m for Niko Kranjcar.
They should now remember that praise when they criticise him for the uncertainty that surrounds the squad going into the first game of the season - however unhelpful it is.
Ask Levy if he would be happy to drop five points in order to secure or save an extra £5m from the Modric and Adebayor deals and he may well say yes.
Football fans would probably disagree – but then Levy might point out that he got an incredible deal for Adebayor last August and, despite Spurs’ dismal start, they went on to finish fourth.
Indeed, how many fans blame Levy for the start to the 2008-09 season, or Spurs’ failure to qualify for the Champions League last season?
How many are questioning whether Tottenham might have finished above Arsenal in May and qualified for the Champions League if Adebayor and Parker had been available for the opening two games against the Manchester clubs (even if Adebayor would have been unable to face City at the Lane)?
Not many. In both instances the blame has fallen on the managers – and understandably so. Spurs proved last campaign that the first two games do not define a season, and the same applies this time around.
Of course Villas-Boas will be keen to make a positive start - to silence his critics as much as anything - but he will also be aware of the bigger picture.
After all, this was the man who recently described Levy as “a person who knows what he’s doing, who approaches the market in a different way”.
That ‘different approach’ tends to involve a fair amount of brinkmanship, which will hardly make him popular with the fans – and the chairman will be even less popular if there is no movement in the next few days and Spurs then struggle at Newcastle.
However, one thing is for sure – there will be changes before the home clash against Norwich on September 1. There simply have to be.
Levy remains intent on securing top dollar for Modric and delivering his new head coach’s top targets, and giving him a squad in his own image.
It may not happen before the big kick-off at 5.30pm on Saturday, but sometimes good things come to those who wait.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs