Tottenham, as ‘Appy ‘Arry Redknapp hasn’t been shy of telling us over the course of this term, have been competitive at the right end of the Premier League table this season. However, despite the impressive run to the Champions League quarter-finals and the ongoing battle for 4th place in the Premier League, you can’t help but feel that Spurs are just one or two players away from actually putting up a genuine fight for the league title.
Nobody could deny that Tottenham have acquitted themselves admirably in the Champions League, in the club’s first foray into Europe’s premier club competition since 1961/2, they have surprised everyone by not only topping a group that included reigning European champions, Inter, but by then knocking out current leaders of Serie A, AC Milan in the second round. The problem for Spurs has been maintaining momentum in the Premier League.
Redknapp’s men are currently in 5th place, just 4 points behind Manchester City, with a game in hand, and it seems the battle for 4th between the Londoners and the Mancunians will go to the wire as it did last season. But Tottenham could, and perhaps should at this stage, have been comfortably in the Champions League places and looking ahead to the battle for 1st, if they had earned better results in recent games against Wolves (Draw), Blackpool (Loss) and West Ham (Draw).
Another 4th placed finish will be great for Spurs, especially considering money-bags Man City’s superior resources, but to make that next step to becoming title contenders, Spurs need to tweak their squad slightly, with a couple of choice additions. It’s well established that Spurs’ strikers have, in the Premier League, under-performed this season, with just 11 goals between them and while the signing of creative maestro Rafael Van der Vaart has, in its own way, perhaps made things more difficult for the strikers, with Redknapp adopting a 4-5-1 system earlier in the season, this is no real excuse for the forwards’ profligacy.
Equally, there have been overt problems at centre-back for Tottenham this season. Spurs have, for large parts of this season, seen an inconsistent selection in the centre-half pairing. On paper, Spurs have great options in central defense, with Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate, William Gallas, Michael Dawson, Sebastien Bassong and Younes Kaboul to call on; but in practice, injuries to Woodgate, King, Kaboul and Dawson, and Redknapp’s lack of confidence in Bassong have made centre-back something of a problem position for Tottenham. As Spurs cannot rely on the fitness of a large proportion of their central defenders, it must be a priority to bring in a top quality centre-back to try and add reliability and consistency to the back line.
So, here they are, the two players I think could give Tottenham that extra edge and push Spurs towards a genuine attack on the Premier League title in 2011/12.
Edinson Cavani – Striker – Palermo (on loan at Napoli) – 24 years of age – 23 caps for Uruguay
Cavani is a Uruguayan goal-scoring machine who has notched 22 goals in 30 Serie A appearances this season. Blessed with shooting ability in both feet and a keen eye for goal, Cavani is also a mobile striker whose positional sense would fit perfectly with the flowing, precise football that Tottenham play (when Crouch isn’t in the team).
At 24, Cavani has the right blend of youth and experience and the thought of a natural goal-scorer like him playing off passes from Tottenham’s creative and attacking midfield is one that most Spurs fans would relish. Tottenham have already made clear that for the right striker, they are willing to pay big money (the bid for Rossi in January was for over £20m), so the high fee, expected to be around £20million, should not be a stumbling block.
Per Mertesacker – Centre-Back – Werder Bremen – 26 years of age – 73 caps for Germany
Mertesacker’s contract with Bremen is up in 2012, so the German outfit are looking to cash in on the giant centre-back this summer while they can still command a decent transfer fee. Spurs would have to pay around £8.5million, but this would certainly not be a problem for ‘Dynamite’ Daniel Levy.
The commanding centre-back, who at just 26 has already won 73 caps for Germany since making his debut in 2004, has been with Bremen for 5 years. He is a solid, dependable and assured centre-half, with an excellent goal-scoring record for a defender (around 1 goal every 10/11 games) and a great deal of experience on the highest stage (he has played in the Champions League, as well as World Cups 2006 and 2010 and the 2008 European Championships).
I appreciate that some people will be suspect of the fact that neither of these players has played in England before, and this is a valid concern, such signings always carry that element of risk, but to me, the quality and experience of these players suggests, at the very least, that will not be over-awed by the Premier League or its fast and physical style. Equally, Cavani does not have Champions League experience, but his performances (49 goals in 99 games in the last 3 seasons) in one of the best leagues in the world against teams considered to be experts in defensive play are surely proof enough of his quality.
Other options are, of course, available from England and abroad and it may well turn out that Harry Redknapp doesn’t consider either of these players as suitable recruits for Spurs, but in my opinion the addition of these two internationals to Tottenham’s starting line-up would provide them with an added guile and all-round quality in the shape of Cavani and an assured, reliable and experienced defender in Mertesacker, who together could help the club move forward in 2012.