A solitary Jermain Defoe strike wasn't enough for Tottenham Hotspur to avoid defeat in their opening Premier League encounter for the new season. As it is; the club need to invest heavily to ease the burden on the England international before the close of the transfer window. Here is what we learnt from the 2-1 defeat to Newcastle United...
1) Spurs need to sign a front-man
Head coach Andre Villas-Boas confirmed after the 2-1 defeat to Newcastle United that he and chairman Daniel Levy are working hard to secure a new striker before the close of the transfer window. If Tottenham Hotspur learnt anything from the opening day loss, it’s that a new front-man is a priority.
Jermain Defoe may have netted the equaliser in the encounter, but as the lead marksmen, he isn’t the right man for the role. He was isolated on his own and his physical frailty means he cannot dominate opposition defenders like Emmanuel Adebayor did last season, for example. The Togolese front-man has been linked with a permanent return to White Hart Lane, despite any deal stalling.
Fernando Llorente and Leandro Damiao are two others to have seen their names mooted as a possible arrival and either, or both, would be ideal. Both offer the physical threat and know where the back of the net is. Spurs are reported to have offered €30m for Valencia’s Roberto Soldado; he would be a shrewd acquisition. What is pivotal is that a new striker who can play with a partner and, more importantly, on his own, especially with Villas-Boas opting for a 4-2-3-1.
2) Get Tom Huddlestone involved
A major exclusion from the travelling Spurs squad was Tom Huddlestone. The powerful midfielder may have only returned from an ankle injury recently, but his creativity in the middle of the park was desperately lacking on Saturday evening. Sandro and Jake Livermore may have provided the steel defensively, but offer little going forward.
If Tottenham Hotspur learnt anything from the opening day loss, it’s that a new front-man is a priority
Huddlestone could’ve provided the link between the defence and the midfield that was needed in the tough trip to St. James’ Park. However, a lack of match fitness would’ve hindered his input, having missed last season with the aforementioned ankle injury. However, with the ongoing saga surrounding Luka Modric, his deep lying inventive style of play can be a real asset.
On the other hand, he will need to up his work-rate if he is to be included in Villas-Boas’ plans. It is something that has regularly dogged Huddlestone in the past and would likely hinder his input for the coming season. Nevertheless, the creativity he would’ve provided could have been an asset for the encounter.
3) No Vertonghen? No problem
A shock start from the bench, many had anticipated Jan Vertonghen making his Premier League debut against Newcastle. A long running saga that seemed like it would never end; Spurs fans breathed a huge sigh of relief when the deal was concluded. His arrival saw supporters salivating at the thought of the Belgian forming a dynamic defensive partnership with Younes Kaboul.
So imagine the confusion when it was revealed that William Gallas was confirmed to partner his counterpart at St. James’ Park? The Frenchman captained Spurs for the evening encounter, with his experience a real asset following the retirement of Ledley King. However, it made sense for Villas-Boas to not include the 25-year-old in the starting XI.
His arrival saw supporters salivating at the thought of the Belgian forming a dynamic defensive partnership with Younes Kaboul
Newcastle is never an easy place to travel to and every move he made would’ve been scrutinised, especially if it wasn’t the best debut performance. It is best for Vertonghen to make his first appearance in a home encounter, when the fans are behind him not continuously on his back. As such, you can expect to see his first start made against either West Bromwich Albion or Norwich City.
4) Don’t jump on Andre Villas-Boas’ back
Following his appointment last month, Villas-Boas was heavily scrutinised by the media and a number of pundits. The sacking of media darling Harry Redknapp didn’t go down well and for him to be replaced by a manager who ‘failed’ with Chelsea was almost unheard of. However, his tactics and team selection can’t be frowned upon.
As previously mentioned, Newcastle away isn’t the easiest of games and the defeat proved that. Yet, formation wise, he was spot on, in the opinion of Spurs fans. Two holding midfielders to counter-act the creativity of Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye was pivotal if the North London side were to come away with a positive result.
Sandro and Livermore did their utmost to stifle the duo, but in the end it wasn’t enough. Furthermore, he has little to work with up front, with only Defoe and Kane to pick from. It is important the fans don’t jump on his back as a result of the defeat. There is still a long way to go between now and May, so judging him after one game would have an adverse effect on the squad, especially when he got his selections right on Saturday evening.
The sacking of media darling Harry Redknapp didn’t go down well and for him to be replaced by a manager who ‘failed’ with Chelsea
5) Get the Modric saga sorted
The ongoing transfer saga surrounding Luka Modric has hardly been ideal, in regards to pre-season preparations. As soon as Didier Drogba’s penalty hit the back of the net in May, speculation was likely to be rife that the Croatia international was to leave Spurs in the summer. Chelsea were mooted as a possible destination last summer, a club which has since altered their transfer targets.
Real Madrid are now the front-runners for Modric as they look to strengthen this summer; a move that may not have had such an adverse effect on the squad, but is likely to have altered potential transfer targets for Spurs. Villas-Boas has regularly been questioned on the furore surround the 26-year-old, when his focus would have, preferably, been on planning for the season ahead.
To put it simply; Spurs need to rid of Modric sooner rather than later. The ongoing saga isn’t as detrimental as that of Dimitar Berbatov in 2008, but the continuous speculation linking him with a move to Los Blancos is clearly playing a part, as witnessed in the loss to Newcastle. Spurs, as mentioned, could’ve utilised the creative capabilities of the diminutive schemer at St. James’ Park, and it has been rumoured that his sale will quicken the movements of Spurs in the transfer market before the window slams shut, with the club looking to bring anything in upwards of £30m for his signature.
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