Harry’s Christmas Wish List

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This evening, as I pushed my trolley around Sainsbury’s, its shelves already heaving with festive produce, I was surprised to be confronted with lengthy queues.  News reports have been claiming for months that this will be a Christmas of parsimony and yet the economic climate seems to have done little to quell the public appetite for spending.  While it may be business as usual for supermarkets, can the same be said for our football clubs?

Taking into account the ‘new days of austerity’ we are entering, this transfer window is likely to be typified by caution and, in spite of posting record pre-tax profits this financial year, Spurs are likely to be no exception. Among the other ‘t’rific’ gifts under his tree this Christmas, Harry will be unlikely to find a sizeable cheque from chairman Daniel Levy, in fact he will most likely have to sell before he can buy.  This, though, shouldn’t faze a legendary wheeler-dealer like old ‘arry.

Given the budgetary constraints, what will the manager be looking for if he is to strengthen his team to mount a genuine challenge on the hegemony of the Big Four?

On paper, at least, we have a reasonably well-balanced squad, with quality cover in most positions.  However, a handful of injuries have exposed areas where we are deficient.

The loss of Aaron Lennon and particularly Luka Modric have left us looking short on creativity and in the absence of Defoe we failed to score or pick up a solitary point (albeit against challenging opposition).  Therefore, a creative player will be high on the list of priorities.  While I am optimistic about Niko Krancjar’s impact, I’m not convinced he can orchestrate the team in the way a top playmaker can .  By the same token, Huddlestone possesses exquisite technique and vision, but lacks mobility.  I have been impressed by our youngsters such as John Bostock and Dean Parrett and even the want-away enigma and ‘next Zidane’ Adel Taarabt, but an experienced international may be of greater benefit to our cause in the short-term.  Man. City’s Martin Petrov and Vicente of Valencia and even Joe Cole have been touted as potential targets, to give genuine width on the left, but as Modric tends to operate best on that side of midfield, Harry would perhaps be reluctant to disrupt our style of play.

With regard to our defence, sure as night follows day, transfer rumour columns will be awash with reports linking Spurs to just about every English-born centre-back with a full complement of limbs (£20m for Gary Cahill anyone?!).  Irritating though this is, it is perhaps indicative of our obvious defensive frailties.  While shipping seventeen goals and keeping only two clean sheets in our opening dozen fixtures could be blamed on the disruption to our back-four caused by a succession of injuries, the issue runs deeper than that.

The tireless shifts put in by Wilson Palacios and the profligacy of our opponents has perhaps papered over the cracks of our defensive problems, but they exist nonetheless.  Our right-back position is far from assured.  Many fans are yet to be convinced by Corluka, less so by the alternatives.  Harry seems as yet unwilling to unleash Kyle Naughton, perhaps he is not ready, but I, for one, would like to see him given a run in the side.  Meanwhile, on the left, though much improved, Assou Ekotto has at times looked vulnerable against pacier, more physical opposition.

The most contentious of decisions facing Harry though, lies at the centre of our defence.

This is always an emotive issue, and by way of a caveat, I would like to state at this point that I adore Ledley King and will always defend him regardless.  He has been a great servant to our club and justifies his inclusion and peerless reputation in the eyes of most fans every time he pulls on the white shirt.  However, injuries have been increasing in frequency and age is beginning to erode his natural athleticism, he has undoubtedly lost a yard or two of his phenomenal pace.  When he plays, he is clearly our top defender and one of the best around, but for how long can he maintain this standard of performance?  Though it pains me to even consider it, should his condition worsen, Harry will have no option but to seek out a  long-term replacement.  Some see Bassong as his natural heir, but with Woodgate’s fragility, we are still only ever a couple of injuries away from a shaky central pairing of Dawson and Huddlestone.  Perhaps Mr Redknapp will have to use all of his nous to seek out a quality central defender at a knockdown price.

Goals have rarely been a problem for Tottenham sides of late and the current team appears no exception.  Against Burnley we had the unique distinction of having, at one point, an outfield 10 who were all goal scorers this season.  However, unlike the traditional Big Four we have yet to acquire a goal-scoring midfielder who can be relied upon to reach double figures.  If we are to break the stranglehold on the Champions League spots, perhaps this is a requisite.  This will prove a test of Harry’s powers as there is a paucity of such players in Europe, still fewer who would be available, fewer still at a price we could afford.

With Pavlyuchenko shuffling towards the exit, I wonder will he be replaced? Should he be replaced? For all Harry’s claims that a top-four side needs four top strikers vying for places, he seems content to rotate his favoured three, barring injury or suspension.  Perhaps instead of splashing out on an experienced international that will expect to start every game he should blood one of our academy products, perhaps recall Andros Townsend or Jon Obika?  The idea of producing rather than buying talent may have seemed anachronistic in past years, but even the wealthiest clubs now see it as a financial necessity.

Finally, and perhaps most pressing of all, is the goalkeeping position.  While I am a fan of Gomes (despite his erratic performances), the unfortunate injuries to Cudicini have left us woefully short of quality and competition for the number one jersey (not intentionally wishing to denigrate the talents of Jimmy Walker or Ben Alnwick).  Ben Foster has been linked in recent days and given that 2010 is a World Cup year and his pitch-time is likely to be limited by the return of Van der Sar, a switch to North London may be mutually beneficial, perhaps initially on loan, though Sir Alex is unlikely to countenance this.  David James is an obvious alternative, but would only be a temporary stop-gap, given his age.

Whatever happens in the ‘window, top of Harry’s Christmas wish list will undoubtedly be a decent points haul in what has all-too-often been a time of unilateral generosity on our behalf.  I, for one, hope Harry’s been a good boy this year, though if not, I would settle for some (Joe) Cole instead ;-)

By Robert Ainley

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