Lewis Holtby: Former German U-21 skipper potentially the first casualty of the new Tottenham

Turmoil is never far away at Tottenham and this season has proven to be no exception. With the much heralded promises and new beginnings last season, the parting of AVB has seen Tottenham’s old adversary, Turmoil, walk hand-in-hand with long-term instability, haunting the corridors of Hotspur Way, and jumping out of cupboards and scaring the tea-lady. That may or may not be bonafide ITK.

Promises were broken – on whose side we’ll probably never know – and new beginnings turned into false dawns. And Tottenham’s answer? To promote Technical Director, Tim Sherwood, with no previous first-team management experience on an 18 month contract. But hey, nothing says stability more than an 18 month contract, right? Right, Dan?

It seems like only a few months ago I was writing an article proclaiming a new signing as Tottenham’s new saviour in the creative department: Lewis Holtby. What we had lacked he could bring to the team: intelligence, creativity, and offensive guile. His first game, a 1-1 draw away to Norwich, was full of fancy flicks and he looked set to win the hearts of every Tottenham fan. I even went so far as to – pretentiously, perhaps – describe his performance as being as elegant as a piece of music by Chopin dovetailing with Gareth Bale’s violin-like solo performance. Yea, I know…

Fact is, he was good. Very good. And Tottenham thought they had their Luka Modric/Rafael Van der Vaart replacement.

Fast forward a year and I’m writing another article. This one isn’t reaffirming my original article, though. This one is lamenting the potential departure of Holtby. His career to date hasn’t been Chopin-like but more like Gareth Gates – stuttering performances, and after his first album, started fading away and was eventually dropped by his record label.

This, however, isn’t altogether Lewis’ fault.

Under both managers Holtby has struggled to get a run of games. Pure and simple. His last appearance for Tottenham was in centre midfield with Christian Eriksen against West Brom, evoking memories of Harry Redknapp’s Nico Kranjcar and Luka Modric centre pair against Man City some seasons ago. Fortunately West Brom are not Man City. It was a brave, attacking line-up from Sherwood but ultimately foolish as both players like to get on the ball and create, not sit in a more disciplined midfield role. To put it bluntly: neither are defensively inclined players. As one could have imagined, Holtby didn’t have the best of games and was withdrawn on the hour.

Tottenham’s transfer strategy in the summer seemed to have direction and logic thanks to the added appointment of Franco Baldini as Director of Football. It was an unprecedented window signing seven players all in all, spending the Gareth Bale money on other areas of the team, and breaking their transfer record three times. The players signed were bought for a 4-3-3 formation – the formation most favoured by AVB, but strangely, rarely played. It meant that Tottenham had strength in depth to challenge on all fronts, to rotate the squad without an obvious drop in quality.

With AVB sacked, Tim Sherwood has implemented 4-4-2 and reintroduced Adebayor back into the team. Playing with two up top means that there are less spaces in midfield. Holtby, by his own admission, prefers playing deeper in midfield so he can get on the ball and try to dictate the game, but with too many players vying for two spots in midfield, and the emergence of Nabil Bentaleb, he has fallen further down the pecking order.

With Sherwood admitting in a recent press conference that he would like to get rid of players he feels he doesn’t need one would have to think he was thinking of Holtby and the Frenchman Etienne Capoue. This begs the question, though, whether Levy is looking at Sherwood as a long-term managerial solution as it would be incredibly stupid to start selling off players if Levy is thinking of replacing him come the summer. On the other hand, though, it would be typical of Tottenham. No-one does stupid like Tottenham.

Holtby looks set to leave this January, whether it be on-loan or permanently, and Tottenham will regret it. It’s not everyday the club signs a young German international who was the captain of the Under-21s in the European Championships in the summer.

While the appointment of Sherwood is looking like the correct decision at the moment (16 points from 18 proves it correct) it’s a sad state of affairs when the club feels players are surplus to requirements after such a short time at the club and seems to fly in the face of the DoF system which was implemented to ensure continuity.


Written by William Hold

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