The January transfer deadline passed without Spurs making the marquee signing that had been hoped for since the Summer. Whether for the want of trying or not, Tottenham go into what may be a title challenging last four months of the season without Roman Pavlyuchenko, Steven Pienaar, Vedran Corluka and Sebastien Bassong, and with new signings Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen. But are we really any better off than we were on Tuesday morning?
A Steven Pienaar loan to Everton makes good sense, with the South African struggling for first-team opportunities, and is a deal that both sides will benefit from. Louis Saha’s move to Spurs however did come as a surprise. While many fans may have been dreaming of seeing Fernando Llorente arrive at White Hart Lane, they will have to make do with 33-year-old Saha. Despite some immediate claims that he is not at the same level as the departing Roman Pavlyuchenko, this is surely (hopefully) not the intention here. Tottenham have been holding out for a significant fee for the Russian – now that it has been offered, cover is needed on a short-term basis, hence the initial 6-month deal Saha has been offered. In the summer, the long-term replacement for Pavlyuchenko should be sought, when prices are less inflated.
The Russian is a talented player, but does not perform often enough. Many watchers of the game rate him highly, but in truth he flatters to decieve. Watch Match of the Day regularly, and if Pav has been getting opportunities, every now and then, usually against a smaller club, he will deliver a thumping shot into the top corner, with perfect technique. He has that ability. But he rarely shows it. That is why Daniel Levy is surely right to take the first good money offer for the Russian who has netted 20 goals in 78 league appearances for Spurs.
In the meantime, what can we expect from his short-term replacement, the former Manchester United title winning striker, who has netted just one goal this season?
A Different League’s Everton correspondent Andrew Tuft gave us his view: “He hasn’t looked like scoring all season, and hasn’t looked comfortable playing up front on his own, which was a big problem because that’s Moyes’ preferred formation. Much of that is down to a lack of support from midfield though, I don’t think he’ll have that problem at Spurs. But he wasn’t justifying his wages anymore, the fans were starting to turn on him and it was looking less likely he’d be given a new contract this summer after his current one expired, so it was best for everyone that he moved on.”
It’s not a glowing report for a striker who has netted just once this season, but in Tottenham’s system, with Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon creating chances, he can’t do much worse than Pav, and as we discussed earlier, it is for Tottenham’s benefit in the long-term that the change happens now.
Ryan Nelsen’s move to Tottenham, which will be confirmed in the next day or two, is a simpler one still. Many football commentators have said how they do not see how this is an improvement. They have not been watching Sebastien Bassong in the last year or two. They remember him as the player of a couple of years ago, but just like Corluka, he is a different player now. Error-prone, the opposite of imposing, Redknapp has been trying to offload the Cameroon international since the early summer. His replacement is Ryan Nelsen, the 34-year-old New Zealand international. Here is a player who comes with a positive reference from his ex-employers.
Rovers blog, The Wild Blackburn Rover revealed the affection they felt for Nelsen: “At Ewood Park he was Mr.Consistency and a fantastic influence on everybody around him. During his hey day at the back he was often the Robin to Chris Samba’s Batman but he very rarely had a bad game and his leadership skills were there for all to see… I’m just devastated we never got to say goodbye properly.” Not words that will be uttered by Spurs fans in reference to Bassong today. For the short-term, squad depth nature of this signing, it can only be positive.
All in all, Tottenham may not be much stronger on the pitch, but these deals set the club up to bring in the ‘big’ signings in the summer, when they may well have Champions League football as an incentive to any prospective player, and if Tottenham fans have learnt anything over the past few seasons, it is to trust Harry Redknapp’s transfer market instincts.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Liverpool v Tottenham