Are Tottenham overloaded in midfield?

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Mousa Dembele

It would be difficult for even the staunchest Arsenal fan to argue against the fact that Tottenham possess one of the best midfields in the Premier League. However, with an increasingly bloated squad of players to choose from have Tottenham overloaded themselves in the middle of the park?

The capture of Paulinho for a fee reported to be around £17m marked the beginning of Spurs’ foray into the transfer market this summer. Many have speculated that such a move means that Villas-Boas will look to favour a 4-3-3 formation next term. Indeed a midfield 3 of Dembele, Sandro and Paulinho would be enough to spark fear amongst any of the visiting teams to White Hart Lane.

My current fear is that the midfielders Spurs posses deny the manager any degree of flexibility tactically. Whilst the options available are hardly all carbon copies of one another, the majority are defensive minded midfielders or in the case of Dembele more box-to-box. Spurs may consider themselves overloaded in midfield, but they are overloaded with much the same style of footballer. Many still yearn for the playmaker to fill the boots of Modric and the current squad is very much devoid of this kind of footballer. Similarly, aside from Huddlestone there is really no long range distributor in central midfield. Many are highly adept at 5-yard passes, Parker probably the most infamous, but there really are no options aside from Huddlestone in a ‘quarter back’ role. His lack of mobility makes it a difficult selection for Villas-Boas to make. The closest Spurs have to a Modric replacement is probably Tom Carroll, who has shown glimpses of potential this year but remains very much one for the future.

The midfield partnership I outlined earlier is likely to be first choice. Aside from that there really isn’t much of a hierarchy in terms of the remaining players.  This could potentially be problematic for Villas-Boas as he juggles the amount of game-time he gives to his squad players. The likes of Holtby, Dempsey, Huddlestone, Livermore, Parker and Sigurdsson are all at stages in their careers where they ought to be getting first team action. Where other teams may balance themselves with a couple of experienced backups and youthful talent for the future, Spurs have entered a situation where they have a collection of too many good players to choose from instead a few excellent ones.

A situation with too many decent players expecting to play will be to the detriment of squad harmony. This is something that could be crucial when it comes to Spurs chasing for honours next year. At times last year you could be forgiven for thinking that Villas-Boas selected players to this end, with rotation being central to his team selections. At the time he may have casually passed it off as rotation, but he no doubt had realised the imbalance he possessed in midfield.

It is unsurprising therefore that a host of Spurs midfielders have been linked with moves away this Summer, with relatively few believed to be coming in. The Sun reported this month that the clear out might begin as part of the Christian Benteke deal:

‘Tottenham are to offer Aston Villa the choice of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, 29, Scott Parker, 32, Jake Livermore, 23, or Tom Huddlestone, 26, along with £20m in exchange for their 22-year-old Belgium international striker Christian Benteke.’

With a huge amount of money as well as wage budget tied up on these midfielders it is of paramount importance that Spurs can offload them soon. Levy is unlikely to spend big this summer until he has the necessary wage and transfer budgets freed up. If the situation cannot be remedied soon there is a definite chance of an untimely transfer limbo being created at the club.

Being overloaded in one area invariably means being light in another. In terms of attacking options there really isn’t much else apart from Adebayor, Defoe, Lennon and Bale to choose from. These 4 are pretty much guaranteed starts because of the small pool of options that Villas Boas has at his disposal. It is hardly a front 3 or 4 to get depressed about as a Spurs fan, but it does lack a degree of depth to it. You only have to consider the worst with a Bale injury to realise there is not ready-made talent waiting in the wings.

The midfield situation is not sustainable if Spurs wish to develop further as a team. The sale of players like Huddlestone and Livermore is possibly more urgent than buying a striker simply because it will enable the club to be in a financial position to accommodate a new frontman. Players like Holtby, Sigurdsson and Carroll all have definite first team futures at the club. They may not be guaranteed starters but they are the sorts of players that add real depth to Spurs. All three are able to offer something a little bit different when they come on and give Villas-Boas more tactical flexibility.

If Spurs want to land that dream striker they may need to sell first. Who would you be offloading this window?

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