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Tottenham lacking in creativity

Tottenham struggled to create chances against Norwich on the weekend. The Norwich midfield was more than a match for Spurs and they deserved their 1-1 draw. Dembele made a difference when he came on, but it was clear to see that Tottenham were missing Rafael Van Der Vaart and especially, Luka Modric. Gylfi Sigurdsson, does create chances and he looks to be a top prospect. He had a great start to his Premier League career with Swansea, but he is still very inexperienced. He now has to deal with the pressure of filling Van der Vaart’s shoes and at Spurs the expectation levels are that much higher. Although he looked good in pre-season he has struggled to have the same impact in the first few League games. This will come as the season progresses and he fits in to his new surroundings.

The real loss for Spurs will be in the centre of the park though. Modric completed over 2200 passes last season, averaging 70 passes a game. None of the new recruitments get close to this sort of turnover. Every Tottenham move went through him, ESPN FC describes him as “skilful, creative, classy, a playmaker with immense vision.” It’s the playmaker in him that has not been replaced. Dempsey and Dembele are more direct players, and it make take a slight change in style for Tottenham to adapt to their strengths. They still have quality throughout their squad and Spur’s first team still looks very strong, but it may take a few more games for them to adapt to life without Modric. We saw at the beginning of last season, when he was heavily linked with Chelsea that they really struggle without him. A slightly more direct approach will suit Dempsey and Dembele better.

Same old problems for Liverpool

Only Chelsea, Man City and Tottenham had more shots per game last season than Liverpool but they still only managed to score 47 League goals. More worryingly, only 5 teams scored less goals at home last season and only 4 won fewer games at home than Liverpool. This is largely down to their profligacy in front of goal. Suarez is a brilliant player, and on his day can produce moments of absolute genius. The hat-trick away to Norwich last season, where he scored a spectacular 40 yard lob, immediately springs to mind. He is not a finisher though. He can be very wasteful in front of goal.

Yesterday, against Arsenal, they once again lacked that cutting edge. They were on top for most of the first half but just couldn’t find the back of the net. They also seemed to be very short of options off the bench. Stewart Downing was the only attacking change that Rodgers was able to make yesterday. He admitted after the game that it was a mistake to let Andy Carroll go and that he was very confident in signing a replacement before deadline day ended. To make matters worse, Carroll had a very good debut for West Ham and showed exactly how useful he could have been to Brendan Rodgers who was obviously under the impression that he was going to sign Clint Dempsey. What is clear is that: if Liverpool do find a goalscorer, whether it’s Owen who Rodgers refused to rule out, or Suarez discovering some shooting boots, they create enough chances to be a force this season. If they don’t, they will be battling for a Europa League spot once again.

Are Manchester United a one man team?

The most common insult thrown Arsenal’s way last season was that they were a one man team. I am not actually suggesting that Arsenal were or Manchester United are, but this season United fans may well come to understand how Arsenal fans felt. Yesterday, Robin van Persie scored a sublime hat-trick to defeat Southampton 3-2. Other than missing a penalty he was at his brilliant best: The first was a classy finish, the second was a real poachers goal and the third a sublime near post header to wrap up the game and his hat-trick.

Van Persie doesn’t have the best fitness record. Last season was his first injury free season in his 7 years in Highbury. Arsenal fans were hoping that the ‘Wenger curse’, that affected Hleb, Flamini and plenty of others who have left would strike Van Persie and that his fitness would maybe be in question after a long season followed by the Euros. If anything he looks fitter than ever. He looks very sharp and every time he got the ball yesterday he looked like scoring. This could well be a long season watching Van Persie for the Arsenal faithful, whereas Man United fans could come to revel in the tag of being a ‘one man team’. Who could blame them, when the one man is that good though.

Just one final thought…

Stoke love a draw don’t they. Since they won their first pre-season game 1-0, they have drawn the next 8 most recently against Wigan on Saturday. They have in fact drawn 14 of their last 19 games. May be worth a punt…

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5. Pablo Hernandez

Valencia to Swansea for £5.55m

Hernandez is another very astute signing made by Michael Laudrup. Like all Spaniards, his technique is brilliant, very much in the same vain as Michu. He may not have the same impact, but for £5.55m he is another bargain. He has spent the last two seasons vying for his place on the right wing at Valencia. Firstly, he was stuck behind Joaquin, but last year he made more of an impact starting 30 games. He bagged 5 goals and 5 assists which is a healthy return for a right winger.

He will fit right in at Swansea as Michael Laudrup has signed a number of talented Spaniards. He hopefully won’t take too long to settle into his stride. His ability to pick out an angled through ball cutting in from the wing will delight a player like Michu who will run onto those all day. He will blend seamlessly into Swansea’s version of tiki-taka. Swansea sold Scott Sinclair to Manchester City for £8m and have picked up a very able replacement for only £5.55m.

4. Charlie Adam

Liverpool to Stoke for £5m

Many may see this as a controversial choice for my top 5, but I think Charlie Adam could do brilliantly at Stoke. He joined Liverpool after a fantastic first season in the Premier League with Blackpool the year before but like a couple of others in this list, last season was one to forget.

At Blackpool, Charlie Adam was the fulcrum of their midfield. Everything went through him. Last season he had more of an all round role to play. He played second fiddle to Gerrard, which is something he is not used to and couldn’t really adapt to. At Stoke he will be the playmaker again as they do not have too much creativity in their midfield. He will be able to get on the ball as much as possible and dictate play. His ability to play balls through to their wingers will be key. Stoke are very dangerous on the flanks as they have Pennant, Etherington and now Michael Kightly who are great crossers of the ball.

Stoke’s strength is quite obviously in their physical presence. They are brilliant in the air and always a real danger from set pieces. Adam is a master of the dead ball. 10 out of 14 of his assists at Blackpool came from set plays. Stoke will thrive on this slightly different presence in their midfield, and especially on the quality of his set piece delivery.

3. Clint Dempsey

Fulham to Tottenham for £6m

At 29 years old, this represents Dempsey’s last chance for a big move. He took his time in the hope that he would secure Champion’s League football eventually compromising with Tottenham in the Europa League. At £6m he is an absolute snip for Spurs.

After his brilliant performances last season, Dempsey has been understandably linked to a number of clubs over the summer. He scored 17 Premier League goals for Fulham, which is an incredible achievement for a player thought of as an attacking midfielder. The truth is that he spent a lot of time up front last season, but its his ability to time his run into the box that has made him so lethal. In the Premiership, Frank Lampard has been noted as one of the most prolific attacking midfielders but he never managed 17 goals in a season.

His versatility will be a huge asset to Tottenham, he can play up front on his own and can chip in with goals from all across the midfield. He is very composed on the ball, a great dribbler, and he has excellent vision providing many chances for teammates in the final third.

2. Dimitar Berbatov

Manchester United to Fulham for £4m

Berbatov hardly figured for Manchester United last season with the emergence of Javier Hernandez and Danny Wellbeck and with Robin Van Persie arriving he was surplus to requirements this year. Fulham have lost their two best players in Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey. However, in Dimitar Berbatov they have made a fantastic addition. He won’t need time to settle in in London and Martin Jol has already coached him at Spurs and will know how to get the best out of him. In 2010-2011 he was the Premier League’s joint top scorer with 20 goals. He has the ability to completely destroy teams, most notably with a memorable hat-trick against Liverpool and a five goal haul against Blackburn.

Berbatov has been accused of being lazy in the past and drifting in and out of games, but he likes to be centre of attention and at Man U he was always second choice behind Rooney and Ronaldo. He has a silky touch and is brilliant at floating in between midfield and attack. He was never given the licence to roam at Man U and if given a free role at Fulham he could be very effective.

1. Gaston Ramirez

Bologna to Southampton for £12m

Gaston Ramirez has been highly rated ever since he signed for Bologna in 2010. Over the summer he has been heavily linked with both Tottenham and Liverpool, so it was strange to see him end up at Southampton.

Southampton have strengthened well over the summer, Nathaniel Clyne and Steven Davis the most notable conclusions. The left footed Uruguayan is their marquee addition though, the icing on the cake as it were. As an attacking midfielder he can play on either wing and through the middle. Ramirez is blessed with great dribbling ability, technique, decision-making and a playmakers vision. He has a decent turn of pace and has a strong left foot that allows him to operate very effectively on the left wing. He likes to drift in from the flanks as a playmaker and its perhaps his vision which has seen him tipped to become a top player. He made over 50 chances for Bologna last season and that is the sort of creativity that will help Southampton avoid the drop.

There is an element of inconsistency in his game as he is relatively raw, at 21 years old. His form will only increase with maturity though and he will be a very exciting player to watch at Southampton. Bags of skills and tricks, it may be like having a mini Zola at St Mary’s. This signing is so far out of left field that it just has to be my number one on deadline day.

 

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