[Ed. A quality effort on his Fanpost debut]
January 31, 2012. Looking back, many Tottenham Hotspur fans see this as the day we gave up third place. However, when one looks a little deeper, that day actually made a lot of sense for the club at the time. At that point, Tottenham had played 23 games (one of them on that day) and had earned 49 points. The next closest competitor was Chelsea who had also played 23 but sat 7 points behind on 42, and Arsenal had played 22 games and had 36 points. We were flying high in third place and there was no England speculation to distract the gaffer. The only thing that could put a damper on our season was Harry's tax trial going south, but the odds of that were slim at best. It was very unlikely that Tottenham were going to be able to sustain their title challenge given the fact that we had lost to Manchester City and had a very difficult schedule remaining. This is why the January business Tottenham did made a lot of sense at the time.We had heard the rumors linking us to players such as Loic Remy of Marseille and Jan Vertonghen of Ajax, but that was pretty much it. Their clubs were unwilling to sell for less than ludicrous money, and Levy just wasn't going to do that. There was no indication that Daniel Levy was going to sanction the purchase of any major signings that window. There is one very good reason for that: Harry Redknapp was never expected to be our manager at the start of next season. It is my belief that Levy refused to purchase players for a manager that was never going to be in the frame for any significant amount of time.
The signings we made in January were merely meant to be part of a holding pattern for the rest of the season. The goal was to stay in the top 4 and consolidate 3rd if at all possible. That looked incredibly likely until John Terry butterfly effected our season and Fabio Capello quit. Fatigue surely was a problem for the latter half of the season, but it's no excuse for a collapse that spectacular. In my opinion it can only be down to poor management.
I digress. The signings were short term because really that's all Levy could plan for. It certainly would have helped to make significant signings in January, but Levy probably wanted as many funds available as possible for the new manager that was surely going to be arriving in the summer. Why waste money backing someone who won't be around in six months?
There is a general consensus that the squad was weakened in January. I disagree with this statement. Some of the departures during the January transfer window seemed really strange and poorly thought out. However, most of them still made sense at the time. We loaned Charlie to Leverkusen, Pienaar to Everton, Bassong to Wolves, and sold Roman Pavlyuchenko to Lokomotiv Moscow (I won't be discussing the youth loans because they were never in the frame to be part of the first team this year). We brought in Louis Saha for free and Ryan Nelsen for free, and both are on short term contracts. At this point, Niko Kranjcar was healthy, Michael Dawson was still healthy, and Ledley King's form had remained quite solid (bar one lapse in the Manchester City game). So at the time, our squad still looked pretty solid and maintaining third didn't look like it was going to be a problem.
Now let's look at the departures individually, and why they were the right moves for the club (except maybe Charlie).
There is one key thing that must be considered when discussing this: Harry Redknapp refuses to rotate his squad under any circumstances. So I ask you to have that in the back of your mind when reading the rest of this article.
1. Steven Pienaar had been used in the Premier League twice as a sub up to that point, and he had started two FA Cup games. That's it. Suffice to say, he was well and truly out of favor with harry Redknapp, and we had options ahead of him in Niko and Johnny Two Saints. He's been a hit back at Everton and surely they will want to keep him, and could potentially buy him for more than we paid for him considering the time left on his contract.
2. Super Pav was a substitute on five occasions in the premier league and had scored one goal. Louis Saha has started 5 and been subbed on in 5 PL games and has managed 3 goals and 1 assist. That's probably a neutral swap as far as the club is concerned. Pav was always going to be sold this summer anyway, but we probably got a bit more than we would have considering Russian clubs' needs for Russian players in the second half of their season. A good bit of business from Levy as far as I'm concerned
3. Sebastien Bassong was our 5th choice CB and had managed 1 start and 4 sub appearances in the first half of the season. He was replaced by Ryan Nelsen who has made 4 sub appearances in the league. Considering Dawson was still healthy and King still looked good, probably another neutral decision. The hope was that Wolves would buy him permanently, but that won't happen now that they are relegated, so who knows what the future holds for Seb.
4. Now we reach what many consider the one truly indefensible decision from the January transfer window: the loan of Vedran Corluka to Bayer Leverkusen. Well, it might not have been the most intelligent decision, but it did sort of kind of make sense. Charlie had started one game this year (I'm pretty sure it was one of the Manchester teams at home, but don't know which one) and made 2 sub appearances. Walker had shown that he can play multiple games in a very short span of time and not let it affect him significantly. Also, Younes Kaboul is a more than competent replacement and at the time we still had very solid CB cover. The only reason this move was so silly, is because Charlie is regarded as a superior right back to Walker (at least defensively). It left us desperately short of cover for RB when Walker was injured and our CBs were dropping like flies. However he was only injured one game. He played 50 games this year (37 in the PL). This is way too much for any player, regardless of age, but Harry doesn't rotate so what can be done? Considering Walker's durability and the fact that Kyle Naughton is coming back next year, it might not have been the worst decision to put him in the shop window. I don't want him to be sold, but Redknapp clearly favored Walker and if the new manager didn't fancy him, then he's still fresh in everyone's minds.
As we have found ourselves saying quite often in the second half of this season, "Hindsight's 20/20." Now that we know Redknapp might be here long-term (sob), it would have been great to strengthen in January. Not doing so may very well have cost us third place, but I don't think so. The only team that actually made any significant improvements to their squad was Newcastle and they finished 5th. Bottling 3rd has to come down to poor management when you consider everything surrounding the January transfer window and the rest of the season as a whole, at least in my opinion.