Tottenham Focus – The need for a creative midfielder
Perhaps this pre-season Spurs fans thought the transfer window might be different. There was a burst of activity in July, when in the space of a week Gareth Bale extended his contract, André Villas-Boas was announced as manager and Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson were signed - since then nothing apart from rumours has surfaced.
Tottenham proceeded into their opening day fixture at Newcastle with an incomplete squad for a second consecutive season, meaning Villas-Boas has a lot of work to do before the transfer window closes in just over a week.
Spurs played well, despite a narrow loss and could have got more from the game. Playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Tottenham pressed high, created chances and were well organised for the most part. You did however, get an impression that Spurs lack depth and creativity in midfield. In the holding role, Sandro lined up alongside Jake Livermore, with the Brazilian in his customary defensive midfield role.
The importance of a player like Modric is that he forms the fulcrum of the team, especially in the formation Villas-Boas has recently adopted. The playmaker controls the rhythm and tempo of the team, taking and receiving passes, keeping momentum and possession with the mobility and creativity to create space for themselves but with the ability to pick that key pass as well as fulfilling their share of defensive duties. Arguably neither Livermore [or Huddlestone] have the all-round game of Modric, whilst Sigurdsson and Rafael van der Vaart look genuine attacking midfielders and do not have the approach to play the Modric role. Perhaps the nearest Spurs have is the young Thomas Carroll, but whilst extremely promising, did his loan spell at Derby last season show he is not quite ready for the step up yet?
With Spurs claiming they have been priced out of a move for Moutinho and Santi Cazorla moving to Arsenal, the question has been raised about who fill replace Modric, the Croatia international last season enjoyed a 87% pass accuracy on over 70 passes per game [including 2.7 key passes per game], whilst winning 1.6 tackles and 2.3 interceptions per game.
The Argentine Ever Banega has all the capabilities but has not played since February having run himself over in his car. At Borussia Dortmund, the 21-year-old Ilkay Gűndogan had a strong season as Nuri Sahin’s replacement, but in ending an integral part of a title winning team could he be enticed to the Villas-Boas project?
Surprisingly, one midfielder that came close to Modric statistically was West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison – he may well have improved on Modric, were it not for injury. At 26-years-old and playing for a team which is not considered to be on a par with Spurs, Morrison could well represent a viable late signing for AVB.
Perhaps, as with the striker situation, Daniel Levy has to compromise on his tough stance and support his manager. Moutinho has expressed how much he enjoyed and would relish working with Villas-Boas again. The Portuguese may break Spurs transfer record, may demand a high salary – but without that creative midfielder, fundamental to the Spurs midfield, can Spurs or Villas-Boas mount a serious top four challenge this season?
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Everton v Man Utd