Last night, I got an email from Ed Francis about Lassana Diarra. I'm a big proponent of the signing, he isn't. We decided to have a little point/counterpoint regarding this situation, and I hope you enjoy.
If this summer transfer window has no other lasting impact, I will always remember it as the catalyst that helped me to realize I have at some point become an archetypal Spurs fan. After months and months of hoping and wishing and praying and grinding of teeth, here we stand on the brink of a signing that, much like the purchase of Rafael van der Vaart, would be something of a coup for the club. An extremely talented and versatile player in his prime, whose signing would both provide depth and not dent our claims to ambition, at a reported price that would bring a smile to the bacon-hued face of even the most stubborn wheeler-dealer - and I'm still not satisfied.
Just to clarify my position, I am NOT actively against the signing of Lass. Indeed, at any time other than now, the announcement of a signing as genius as Diarra would have seen me gently swooning like the chambermaid in a period piece film who walks in on the master of the house philandering, hankerchief aloft. All of that said, I do believe that in context of where we are right now, bringing Lass on board is not what the club necessarily needs to be doing.
Yes, it is true that Diarra possess the ability to cover ground that Huddlestone lacks, the tactial awareness Sandro has not yet picked up, and the defensive ability that Modric never displays. However, to bring him into the first team specifically implies shunting out one of these players, most likely Big Tom or Sandro, and for separate reasons I'm not willing to see either player made redundant. Huddlestone was definitely not the player he can and has been last season off the back of injury, but his distribution and shooting ability make him, in my honest opinion, invaluable.
Ditto Sandro, who showed glimmers of talent that could lead to him becoming a legend in the future. All of this considered, can we afford to force out or put on rotation two extremely skilled young players who are both at or arriving at their blooming period?
In a similar vein, Diarra's signing will stunt or stifle any chance of Jake Livermore emerging in the first team. Scoff at me if you wish, but I genuinely think Livermore is a vital asset for the future- a possible diamond in the rough of our fledgling Academy, which makes it all the more important to foster the potential he has shown this preseason in particular. Signing Lass will put him one more notch down the pecking order and severely damage his chances of cracking the senior squad.
I'm not going to go into the murkier business of discussing whether his signing dips into the striker fund- whatever speculation we can lodge over that particular issue, the truth is we have no idea how much Redknapp and Levy have to play with and the selling of deadwood might not yet be over. I would like to further point out however, lest we forget, that cover on the wings is looking extremely thin. With Bale getting crunched by every defender he ever comes up against, Townsend unready for first team play and Jenas crippled with chronic uselessness, it's only a matter of time until we come up against another crisis in this area of the pitch.
Though I will welcome Lass with open arms, my final thought on this issue is that the feelings of a missed opportunity to patch a real hole in our squad will linger long after the window has closed if his signing comes at the expense of the purchase of a Ruiz or Afellay-type figure. So, I'm sorry to be that guy, and you might call it ingratitude, but I'd like to call it realism.
I've always been a believer that you can never have enough talent. I've also always held the opinion that more options are good. If Wilson Palacios is done with the club - and the rumored signing of Lassana Diarra would indicate that he is - Lass is a fantastic signing for the club, simply because he gives us options that we do not have.
Alex Ferguson did not build Manchester United into a world superpower by finding his best XI and sticking with it. He did it through building a deep squad and changing his personnel based on the situation. Park Ji-Sung is one of the most important players on that team and he only starts in 15 games every season. Lass is a great signing simply because we don't have another Lass.
Tom Huddlestone is a deep lying playmaker with decent skills in the tackle and limited mobility. Luka Modric is exclusively a creator who can occasionally run forward and score goals; he has little to no defensive qualities. Sandro is a monsterous and athletic defensive midfielder who, as Ed mentioned, has limited tactical acumen at this point in his career.
If Lass comes into the team, he will not be replacing any of these players because he is not like any of these players. He is what Wilson Palacios was supposed to be and what he once was, except a much better passer. Do you remember how good we were when Palacios was at the top of his game? Additionally, Sandro is out for god knows how long - somewhere between two weeks and until Christmas, depending on who you believe. This team is THE WORST when it comes to accurately reporting injuries.
As for Jake Livermore, as much as I like his potential, he has not yet proven himself at Championship level, as Bryan Ashlock and Brian Mechanick noted on the podcast earlier this week. I am not willing to forego buying a very available class player for a very affordable price because I like the potential of a player who has yet to prove that he can be a consistent performer in the second division. I love Livermore, but this is bordering on preposterous.
Lass gives us tactical flexibility, and if we have all four of Lass, Huddlestone, Modric and Sandro healthy and on the team, all four of them will see playing time in important matches. It will all depend on the other available personnel and the situation. I have my issues with Harry Redknapp, but there is absolutely no way that he's dumb enough to keep any of those four players as a permanent bench warmer.
After playing Niko and Livermore mid-week and dealing with all the bad performances from Jermaine Jenas and Palacios last season, I find it hard to figure out how anyone could be against this signing. Lass is going to be a great player for us, he's a great value pickup, and he is not going to hurt the careers of Huddlestone and Sandro.