Have Tottenham Hotspur really had a great window?

Michael Regan

Tottenham Hotspur have been widely praised for their handling of the transfer window, but is it really deserved?

On the face of it, it seems like a good strategy: Spend the money from a big sale before you get it, so nobody knows you're walking around with the GDP of Namibia burning a hole in your pocket, get decent prices for all your targets, then wave ahead the big sale to retroactively finance it all. It's been the blueprint for Tottenham Hotspur this window for spending their Gareth Bale money, and it's won them plenty of plaudits.

Of course, there may be something in the fact that the Bale transfer has dragged on, with Tottenham running around hawking him to Manchester United before the rumoured fee from Real Madrid dwindled with every press report - Real may have put two and two together after all, and realized that now Spurs have blown the life insurance, someone's gotta die - but let's refrain from commenting on that eventuality until it happens.

Let's look at the acquisitions one by one, and the roles they'll be performing in the team. Roberto Soldado - main striker. Paulinho - midfield general. Etienne Capoue - backup to Sandro and defensive cover. Vlad Chiriches - direct replacement for the strangely-outgoing Steven Caulker. Erik Lamela - a talented wonderkid who'll provide some of Bale's magic in his stead. Christian Eriksen - a talented playmaker who is at a crucial stage of his career after appearing to stall. Nacer Chadli - another option on the wings.

This may not be quite the exceptional haul that it at first appears. Paulinho is a fine player, and of course he'll need time to settle in, but he looks a bit too close to a box-to-box type rather than the playmaker Spurs have suffered without since Luka Modric's departure. Roberto Soldado's status as a top four striker is questionable. Etienne Capoue is very similar to a lot of players Spurs already had. Christian Eriksen is a long way from a sure thing, ditto Nacer Chadli, and Erik Lamela is an excellent player but one who is young and will have to adapt very quickly.

It's hard to see exactly what Spurs are going for here. They had a good team, but not a great one, and buying a lot of good players is not the most obvious way of making that leap into the next tier. Can Soldado really guarantee the important and difficult goals that are the hallmark of a top-level striker? Will Paulinho provide enough creativity for their midfield? Can they rely on a young Argentinian from the Serie A to settle in quickly enough with no pre-season? These are all important questions.

We've seen time and time again that teams built around key players will succeed where others fail, and this applies at pretty much every level. Crystal Palace got promoted and Watford didn't, because Palace had Mile Jedinak and Wilfried Zaha, and built the team around them. Manchester United won the league and Manchester City didn't, because United had Robin van Persie and built the team around him. Swansea won a cup because they had Michu. Aston Villa stayed up because they had Christian Benteke. United, whose success last year was achieved off the back of about four players, really is the ultimate example, but it's a common theme.

At the elite level, which Spurs will probably hope to break into, it tends to take the form of elite units. Manchester United's recent success was also built around an indomitable defence. Chelsea are looking to propel themselves to new heights with their Eden Hazard-Oscar-Juan Mata trio (José Mourinho's tastes notwithstanding.) Spurs don't appear to have either of these things. And when the going gets tough, it's hard to see what they're going to fall back on. They may end up with the most well-stocked squad in the league of players who aren't quite good enough.

By contrast, their rivals Arsenal, who have a squad with many more flaws and holes, seem determined to blow their money on two or three players better than anything they have. It seems as if both sides have got each others plans mixed up, but if it ends up being a straight battle between the two philosophies, it wouldn't be a shock to see Arséne Wenger the victor again.

* * *

A belated shout out to Hellas Verona, victorious over AC Milan on the opening day of the Serie A season with a pair of goals from Luca Toni (there is perhaps something to be said for the notion of key players here again, but this is a different point.) Hellas are, of course, fascism's prime representatives in the Serie A, with Lazio having the more correct aesthetic but the Veronese having had the time in the lower leagues to get more in touch with their right-wing leanings.

That puts them ahead of Livorno, our communist delegates, for the time being, but that's not where the action ends. Thanks to the appointment of Paolo di Canio we can also witness this classic Old-Europe rivalry take place in England, where the generously-eyebrowed Italian's Sunderland will do battle against the great proletarian forces of Norwich City, as helmed by famous ex-Trotskyist Chris Hughton. It's nice to know that some traditions are still being kept alive, huh?

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