With the crisis of #weneedastriker seemingly ending (albeit momentarily for Spurs), eyes have turned to filling the team's next need. As the Luka Modric saga hopefully comes to an end, the need to replace the Croatian playmaker becomes more evident. With Scott Parker injured, Tom Huddlestone on the verge of a season-long loan, and Jermaine Jenas being rumoured on the outs, central midfield is becoming a large source of need.
We saw Spurs' central midfield pairing they will enter the season with on Saturday, as Sandro and Jake Livermore paired together. The duo had extenuating circumstances against them from the onset, as Sandro missed nearly the entire pre-season because of the Olympics. The pair were hardly poor, playing extremely competently against a tough opposing Newcastle United midfield. But the weaknesses of carrying this pairing through a Premiership season are evident.
Sandro has proven himself to be one of the most talented young defensive midfielders in world football. He's extremely athletic, is excellent at breaking up play and quite adept in making late runs forward. However, Sandro's aggression and lack of precise long-range passing causes him to struggle when playing from deep. He excels much more when given the freedom to get forward and pressure the opposition's central midfielders.
Therefore, it becomes imperative to find a specific type of midfielder to pair with Sandro to get the best out of him. The key is a tactically disciplined midfielder who is comfortable sitting deep, playing long diagonal balls, and can spring the number 10 (whether Gylfi Sigurdsson or Rafael van der Vaart) into leading attacks.
For all his strengths, Luka Modric was not this player. Modric had the range of passing, but his propensity to get forward and lead attacks left Sandro often sitting far too deep, as either his best skills went unused or the Brazilian too high (leaving a large gap between the central defense and midfield).
For me then, an ideal pairing for Sandro becomes Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin. Rumours have swirled around Sahin going on loan to Arsenal. But today's comments by Real Madrid Manager Jose Mourinho say that he wants Sahin in England, regardless of whether it is at Spurs, Liverpool, or Arsenal. It seems that the Turk's move to the red side of North London is none too certain.
We saw the best out of Sahin in 2010-11 with Borussia Dortmund, where he played in a 4-2-3-1 system similar to the one Andre Villas-Boas is utilizing with Spurs. Sahin was the offensive creator, sitting deep and spraying balls to Dortmund's talented attacking midfielders. He was paired with Sven Bender, who ably did the majority of running and tackling, covering Sahin's deficiencies in this manner. This midfield pairing saw Dortmund win the Bundesliga in a surprise to nearly all of Europe.
It seems well to reason that Sahin could replicate his 2010-11 form alongside Sandro. The wingers especially seem likely to benefit from having a passer of Sahin's talents deep in midfield, as too often against Newcastle Bale and Lennon came deep to pick up the ball. Sahin's play would help push the pair deeper and wider, pinning back the opposing fullbacks and opening up space. Space that should see Gylfi Sigurdsson match last year's play with Swansea, where the Swans' imposing wide play allotted the Icelandic midfielder tremendous attacking opportunities.
New rumours again having the Luka Modric saga coming to an end. It seems unlikely that Sahin would agree to a full transfer to Spurs to help bankroll the deal for Madrid. However, Daniel Levy would be wise to push for a loan-to-buy deal for Sahin attached to any Modric sale. With just nine days left in the transfer window, Spurs will struggle to find a better-fitting midfield piece than the out-of-favor Turk.
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