COMMENTARY | Water is wet. Fire is hot. Tottenham Hotspur are in desperate need of quality strikers.
Spurs fans couldn't help but get their hopes up when Aston Villa forward Christian Benteke handed in a transfer request earlier this week. The 22-year old Belgium international scored 23 goals across all competitions in his first season at Villa. To put that figure in perspective, Tottenham's Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor netted a combined 23 goals across all competitions in 2012-13.
Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas was keen on rotating between formations in his first season at White Hart Lane, relying primarily on 4-3-3/4-3-2-1 (depending on the last column you read on the subject) and a 4-4-1-1, the second of which featured Tottenham leading goalscorer and unanimous Player of the Year Gareth Bale slotted right behind the striker. While Bale did have a handful of starts up top, beginning in the preseason when AVB was without a true forward, the Welshman has stated on numerous occasions that he prefers the freedom and the roaming nature that comes with playing underneath a front man.
Benteke has the ability to slide right into any of the formations mentioned in the previous paragraph; either in front of and sometimes acting as cover for Bale, or flanked by the likes of Bale, Aaron Lennon and, if Villas-Boas wanted to switch things up or found himself in a pinch, Mousa Dembele. Bale, assuming that he remains at Spurs, will likely again be the team's top overall player, but a forward such as Benteke could prove to be the lynchpin in the Tottenham attack.
It also makes sense that Benteke would choose Spurs over a Champions League side such as Chelsea. The World Cup is less than a year away, and Benteke likely realizes that he would, at Spurs, be the number one option at striker in what will be the most vital year to date of his professional career. Chelsea, on the other hand, would have to make multiple sales, not all of which are logical, in order give Benteke an equal amount of playing time.
Villas-Boas and Tottenham Technical Director Franco Baldini may both be keen on acquiring Benteke ASAP, but, as usual with this particular club, it appears as if it's going to come down to the money. Villa are holding strong to a £25m asking price according to reports, a fee that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will understandably not want to pay so early into negotiations. Even in this age of inflated fees for talented strikers, £25m for a 22-year old wantaway forward who has one very good year in the EPL under his belt is borderline crazy.
All would also do well to remember that Tottenham broke their transfer record earlier this month when they acquired Brazilian midfielder Paulinho for £17m. Spurs could, in theory, fund the buys of Paulinho and Benteke by selling the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Clint Dempsey, Adebayor and Defoe. That would, however, leave AVB exactly where he was during the second half of this past season; with not enough strikers to win any trophies or earn Champions League football.
Levy's penchant for waiting until the last minute to do business could again burn him when it comes to a big-name striker. Villa, knowing that a player strike would do serious harm to Benteke's World Cup aspirations, have little reason to sell low, and it's not as if there are a plethora of other realistic options out there for Tottenham. Spurs supporters should ready themselves for a nervy back-and-forth that could last all the way up to the start of the upcoming season.
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Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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- Christian Benteke
- Gareth Bale