The Premier League is becoming increasingly difficult for Tottenham Hotspurs. The team that finished fourth and reached the Champions League two seasons ago will now consider a top-six finish an achievement unless they are able to strengthen their squad. Like many other clubs, financially they have been ‘blown out of the water’, as manager Harry Redknapp likes to put it, by Manchester City, Chelsea and in the last year Liverpool, too. Tottenham’s stadium holds only 36,000 fans, and plans for a new, bigger, revenue-maximizing ground have not been well received by the area’s local council. Combine this with the fact that they finished outside the Champions League places last season, and recruitment this summer has been complicated. Players of the calibre that could improve the side want to be playing in the Europe’s finest club competition, while their wages have proved too high for Tottenham’s salary structure, reportedly somewhere between 60-80,000 GBP per week at the top end.
Fortunately, the current squad is good enough that slipping into mid-table mediocrity is unlikely. Despite the 3-0 loss to Manchester United at the weekend, Brad Friedel has already proved a wise addition in goal. He was Tottenham’s best player on his competitive debut. Likewise, in Kyle Walker the club has an extremely promising right-back, and Younes Kaboul is underrated in central defence. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon will be ever threatening on either wing, and although midfielder Luka Modric’s future with the club remains uncertain, Tom Huddlestone, Sandro and Rafael Van der Vaart will provide quality through the middle. In addition, it looks as though French defensive midfielder Lassana Diarra has agreed to join Spurs from Real Madrid, in a deal believed to be worth around 10m GBP. It’s possible that he simply wants to join a club where the name on the back of his shirt will no longer be ‘Lass’, as it is in Spain.
Where the side falls short is up front. That Tottenham have long needed a world-class striker is common knowledge, but efforts on their part to sign the likes of Diego Forlan, Guiseppe Rossi, Andy Carrol or Fernando Llorente have all gone awry. Their attention has now turned to the loan signing of Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor, and even then the deal will go through only if City agree to pay a substantial amount of his 170,000 GBP per week wages. Spurs cannot afford the whole package.
Since his days at Arsenal, there have been questions about Adebayor’s attitude and work rate, but he excelled on loan at Real Madrid last season, and would be a wonderful signing for Tottenham. Unlike any of their current strikers, he has all the attributes necessary to play up front on his own. Since signing Rafael Van Der Vaart at the start of the 2010/2011 season, Harry Redknapp has used a 4-4-1-1 system, with the Dutch playmaker roaming free in the hole behind a central striker. Yet the team has struggled to score goals, largely because while their strikers are all useful in some way, none have been able to play the target man role that Redknapp’s system requires. Peter Crouch can win headers due to his height, but is fairly immobile and his finishing leaves much to be desired. Roman Pavlyuchenko can finish well, but lacks any real pace and often flits in and out of games. Jermain Defoe has pace but struggles to be a target man due to both his lack of height and lack of the tactical intelligence needed to be both the team’s chief goal threat as well as someone that will bring others into the game. Too often he runs with his head down, thinking only of how to make space for a shot.
However, combine the positive attributes of these players together (and a bit more) and you have Emmanuel Adebayor. Tall, fast, strong, fantastic in the air, able to link the play and with real finishing ability, the Togolese is exactly what Tottenham need, and may just be the catalyst in their bid to get back into the Champions League. Last season Tottenham were guilty of creating chance after chance and failing to convert them. If Adebayor can capitalize on the service he would get from wide positions and link up well with Van der Vaart, one could see him reaching 20 goals in the Premiership - something no Spurs striker has achieved since Jurgen Klinsmann in 1994/1995.
Assuming that the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea will occupy the top three positions in the table, Spurs are left to compete for fourth with Arsenal and Liverpool. Having now lost Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Arsenal will be weaker than last season unless they make dramatic signings before the end of August. Liverpool will be somewhat stronger this year due to their aggression in the transfer market, but both clubs are likely to be fallible at various points in the season. Of the three sides, the one that is most consistent will be rewarded with a place in the Champions League qualifiers. If Tottenham complete the signing of Adebayor and are able to put together a run of form similar to that of the 2009/2010 season, they might just have a chance.