There is a reason why long winning streaks are rare in soccer – stuff can easily go wrong! This was evident against Costa Rica. Michael Bradley is without a doubt the most important Yank and his injury before the game clearly unsettled the team. While the US should have expected an early onslaught, they looked totally shocked and were in some ways fortunate not to give up a third goal. All looked lost.
It has been largely assumed that Spurs would have to sell Bale and would not be able to resist an 85 million pound offer from Real Madrid. Daniel Levy is now seen as just holding out to get a better deal from Madrid. But when analyzing Spurs past transfer history and the current dynamics of the market, it becomes clear that Spurs are most likely not bluffing. They want to keep Bale and have no intention of selling Bale this summer for anything less than an absurd 100+ million pounds. And Spurs are exactly right in their approach. Bale is worth more to Spurs in 2013-14 than 85 million pounds.
Importantly, this doesn’t mean Bale is worth more than 85 million pounds. Bale is an asset. And just like any property, just because someone offers you a huge amount for your house doesn’t mean it makes sense to sell. Timing matters and the timing doesn’t make sense here.
But what about Spurs spending?
One reason to think Bale is on his way is that Spurs are spending likely drunken sailors – only Manchester City in the EPL has spent more this season. The logic goes that poor Spurs can’t afford this, so they must already be using the money they plan to get for Bale now. But there are reasons to doubt this.
As the transfer history shows, Spurs have money. But until this summer, Spurs haven’t really spent considerably since Harry Redknapp’s first two years. Look at the last 8-9 years of transfer activity:
- 2013-14 (-47 mil euros net): Spurs have spent 69 million euros (Paulinho, Soldaldo, Capoue, Chadli) and sold 22 million
- 2012-13 (-4 mil): Spurs last year spent 72 mil euros and sold 68 million euros
- 2011-12 (+36 mil): (Redknapp’s last season), Spurs spent just 6 mill euros (Scott Parker) and sold 42 million euros.
- 2010-2011 (-23 mil): spent 26 million, and sold just 3 million.
- 09-10 (-9 mil): spent 40 and sold 31.
- 08-09 (-50 mil): This was the year Spurs sold Berbatov and Keane (2 pts, 8 games) and then got Redknapp and had to panic buy in the January window, Spurs spent 140 mill and sold 90 mil
- 07-08 (-72 mil): 94 spent (Bent, Bale), 22 mil sold
- 06-07 (-23 mil): 61 spent (Berbatov), 38 mil sold
- 05-06 (-14 mil): 36 spent, 22 mil sold.
Over the last 8 years (excluding this summer), Spurs have spent an average of 20 million euros more per season than they have sold. But if you don’t count the last two seasons Spurs were spending 30 million euros more per season than selling for the 6 seasons between 2005 and 2011. But the past two seasons Spurs have been a selling club netting 32 million euros. So if Spurs could maintain spending at 30 million per season for the six years prior to 2011-2012 than Tottenham have likely been banking revenue the past two seasons.
This means that not only do Spurs have the 32 million euros they have netted the past two seasons, but likely are capable of spending an additional 60 million from a lack of spending. In other words, Spurs have not spent their transfer allotment the past two years. That would equate to Spurs being able to afford to spend about 90 million euros net. Hence, despite already having a net outflow of 47 million euros this window, Spurs should have about an additional 30-40 million euros more they could spend, given the lack of spending the past two years. This is what makes Tottenham’s bid for Willan and others financially viable. Furthermore, if Spurs plan on selling Bale next season, they can count on likely being in the black in terms of spending, likely making them more willing to push their spending limit.
Lastly, my guess is that part of the agreement in keeping AVB at Spurs (he turned down Real and PSG) is that he will be given the resources to compete. This current rate of spending is probably part of that deal. So Spurs spending could easily be disconnected from any Bale sale.
Second, it is harder to replace Bale now because you don’t have the attraction of CL. Next year, if Spurs make the CL they can actually use the funds to lure current CL quality players. Right now Spurs have to speculate more in the transfer market, as they have to find players that they think will be of that calibre.
Third, you gain global market share by keeping Bale. Bale is the best player in the Premier League and a human highlight reel. There’s a reason why Spurs ranked top in NBC’s chose your club promotion and its Bale. He’s on the Time’s Square billboard for god sakes. In politics this is called “earned media” – ie free publicity. Spurs will never be able to get this sort of free publicity again. This could hugely impact the potential earnings of the club, as new markets, with a growing fan base have thousands of people looking for a team to cheer for, for jersey’s to buy.
Fourth, Spurs actually have a shot at winning the league with Bale. Yes, with Bale (and with AVB and new signings), Spurs can win the title. The top 3 EPL clubs have new managers this season and while Mourinho isn’t exactly “new” he has to reshape the squad and could face a couple hiccups. The winning point totals the past four seasons have been 89, 86, 80, and 86 points. There are reasons to believe that it will be less this year, due to competitive balance and new coaches. Let’s say 82-86 points wins this year. With Bale likely playing as a striker/attacking midfield from the get go and with Soldaldo and other new signings, Spurs will likely improve on the 72 points last year when they had no strikers scoring more than a handful of goals and had a new manager. It is by no means unreasonable to think Spurs could potentially be about 10 points better than they were last year. And at around 82 points they are fully in the title race.
Lost in Stoke’s controversial win on Sunday, in which referee Chris Foy failed to award Spurs two clear penalties and a legitimate goal, was Harry Redknapp’s magnificent tactical switch to a 3-5-2 at halftime.
Redknapp is frequently described in the UK as an old school football manager that doesn’t really do tactics. He is credited with being popular among the players and of having restored solidity to Spurs (an expected trait of English managers), but overall he is widely considered a rather simplistic thinker when it comes to tactics and strategies. During Spurs Champions’ League run last year, UK journalists often expressed doubt that Redknapp had the tactical nous to cut it against the Europe’s best tacticians. With victories over Inter Milan and AC Milan that should have been put to rest. But the notion that Redknapp is more of a working class meat and potatoes football coach that is good for some great quotes in the press but lacks the intellectual sophistication to ever be elite – continues to hang around Redknapp. Some of this is that he has a Joe Bidenesque ability to provide the blue collar sound bite – exhibit A was Redknapp’s fantastic zinger this weekend at Mr. Foy, “But he’ll look at it tonight on TV when his wife’s making him a bacon sandwich and he’ll think ‘**** me, what have I done there’.” Interestingly, many of Spurs fans buy into this line of thinking and are only just now realizing that Redknapp is an internationally elite manager and can cut it tactically with the best of them.
What is different about Redknapp is that he is a pragmatist. He is not dogmatic about how his team plays. He doesn’t care if he plays route one or plays tiki-tak or plays narrow or with width. He is about finding what works with the players that he has. But just because he doesn’t have a style like Arsene Wenger or Barcelona, or is tactically obsessive like a Rafa Benitez does not mean he isn’t a master tactician.
The news that Lucas Leiva has been lost for the season with a torn ACL (something with which I can empathize as I am five weeks out from surgery to repair my own torn ACL, it sucks - best wishes to Lucas) will really test Liverpool’s squad as there is not a natural replacement for the Brazilian. The importance of the defense midfielder is one of the tactical evolutions of the last fifteen years. Charlie Adam is too slow, Jordan Henderson and the also injured Steven Gerrard are too attack minded, and Jay Spearing (who will probably get the job) has yet to prove himself. But Liverpool have a player with all the qualities you want in a defensive midfielder – quickness, energy, endeavor, discipline, and the willingness to put in tackle after tackle – he just isn’t thought of for this position because he’s nominally a striker: Dirk Kuyt.
It’s hard for me to say this, as I have long been down on Lucas - even last season when he was named the team’s player of the year, but Lucas has really come into his own and is one of the main reasons that Liverpool enter this weekend as the joint best-defense in the Premier League. He learned from a master when Javier Mascherano was at the club, and Lucas can now be seen breaking up play from sideline to sideline. He still struggles with his distribution, especially going forward, and he at times can get caught ahead of the ball. But there is no question that Lucas has emerged as one of the top defensive midfielders in the league and his presence in the Liverpool XI will be missed. Continue reading
When Jermaine Defoe is on he scores goals and right now he is on. He has five premier league goals this season, despite getting limited minutes off the bench. Against West Brom on Saturday, Defoe scored a fantastic goal that gave Spurs a late lead. This seems to create a real managerial problem for Harry Redknapp over who to start. Past attempts to start Rafael Van Der Vaart out wide have exposed his defensive weaknesses and Adebayor isn’t going to be benched. So tactically there just isn’t room for both Defoe and Rafael Van Der Vaart. So who to start?
While the English press have made this seem a real dilemma, it isn’t. The fact is that it is hard to imagine Defoe starting for any of the other top 6 sides (City, United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool). This is because, besides scoring an occasional goal, Defoe does little else when on the pitch. One only has to look at the Guardian chalkboards. Against West Brom Defoe attempted just 22 passes, lowest of all the Spurs starters. Adebayor attempted 52. In just 70 minutes against Aston Villa and 66 minutes against Fulham Van Der Vaart attempted 62 and 42 passes respectively. As a substitute Defoe completed just 1 pass in 20+ minutes against Villa and just 4 passes in 25+ minutes against Fulham. The plain fact is that when Spurs play Defoe they are playing with a specialist – a goal poacher – who adds little to the team except when in the goal mouth area.
Manchester City have looked like Champions-elect since their strong start to the season was capped with the 6-1 destruction of the holders Manchester United at Old Trafford. But with Liverpool giving City their first real domestic contest after another disapointing outing in the Champions League, a Spurs team which has quietly taken 28 from its last 30 available points must keep their amazing run going as City deal with adversity for the first time. The Premier League title may not just be a Manchester preserve this season.
City had dropped only two points all year, an improbable give-away at Craven Cottage after dominating the game and even going two ahead against Fulham. But their form in Europe has been indifferent–two wins, two losses, and a draw–and they look likely to drop out of the Champions League at the group stage. But earlier European disappointments, even when coupled with controversy in the shape of Carlos Tevez, had not spilled over into their league form. Yet Liverpool really took it to City at Anfield on Sunday, capitalizing on a tiring City squad that hardly threatened in attack and can thank Joe Hart for several world class saves to keep it level. Continue reading
Scoring more goals in one half than the team had in Jurgen Klinsmann’s first six games in charge combined was a welcome change, as was the resulting 3-2 victory, only the German’s second as manager. For the first time in his tenure, Klinsmann set out two dedicated strikers and the change in tactics certainly contributed to the increase in chances and goals. Getting the win ended a three-year drought for the US squad in Europe and sends the national team into its January training camp on a high note.
The news wasn’t all good from the Ljubljana, however, as the defense reverted the worst of the Bob Bradley era, poorly organized and conceding chances and goals at an unsustainable rate. A tactical shift also was a factor here, as Klinsmann deployed just one defensive midfielder to screen the back line. But the problems that plagued the U.S. defense in the past, which Klinsmann appeared to have left in the past, returned with a vengeance. The defenders struggled to keep a consistent line and the spacing was terrible, leaving huge gaps which were frequently exploited by the Slovenes. Continue reading