Tottenham Club Focus – Where does the future lie for Tom Huddlestone?

Tottenham Hotspur’s run as one of the form teams of the Premier League continued on Saturday with a 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers. The run, taking 31 points from a possible 33 has been built on a first choice team that has hardly changed in personnel during the last eleven matches.

There is certainly a benefit to a settled side, the consistency allowing perhaps an almost intuitive knowledge to where team mates will be on the pitch, trust in each other and allowing the new players to settle quickly. Spurs may have one of the strongest first teams in the league, to the extent where talk is building not just of a top four finish but a tilt at the title.

However, a league these days is not won by a team but by a squad. Here Spurs also have some strength in depth. Jermain Defoe, Sandro, William Gallas, Vedran Corluka and Michael Dawson – when recovered from injury can all push for a starting place. One name though has been absent – Tom Huddlestone.

After a malleolar injury that has restricted him to two substitute appearances in the league, and curtailed his season last year, Huddlestone should be recovered soon. The question is, what then? The defensive midfielder, having established himself as a regular under Redknapp, arguably will now find himself behind Parker, Sandro and perhaps Jake Livermore for the central midfield role alongside Luka Modric. This may be harsh for Huddlestone. In the 2009/10 season that ended in Champions League qualification, he started more games in the Premier League than any other Spurs player and was an integral part of that team. His form continued into the following season and he captained the side in the 3-1 win over Inter Milan in the Champions League.

At the age of 24, Huddlestone should be looking for regular first team action. Perhaps a loan would be beneficial for both him and Spurs to improve his fitness. Huddlestone may seek a permanent move if he thinks his chances limited, and there could be plenty of takers. However, a fit Huddlestone would be a vital squad member in Spurs’ push to consolidate a top four finish.

Maybe one area that could also be considered is a move to centre back, already tried with midfielder Livermore this season. Huddlestone’s statistics for 2009/10 arguably show a centre back in the making. The Englishman made 123 tackles and blocked 36 shots, more than any other Spurs player, 74 interceptions – third highest in the squad and 89 clearances, the most of anyone outside the defence. Coupled with this is a player with an exquisite passing ability. An accuracy of around 80%, 55 passes a match but perhaps more importantly, accuracy with a long ball pass; in 2009/10 Huddlestone completed 293 long balls. This may suit Spurs’ style. Going forward, the team has a fluid pass and movement style and at times devastating speed. Having a defender who can not only win the ball but start the counter attack with his passing ability if needed, could add another dimension for the team.

If Huddlestone’s future does lie as a centre back, with Ledley King and Gallas, he certainly has the right people to learn from.

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