This transfer window at Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino’s second during his time in charge of the club, has seen a ruthless clear out of the squad. Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Benjamin Stambouli and Lewis Holtby have all been packed off while Emmanuel Adebayor, who appears to be close to a move to Aston Villa, is set to follow them out of White Hart Lane.
Younes Kaboul, with a £3 million move to Sunderland, and Vlad Chiriches, who has joined Napoli, are also on the exit list in Daniel Levy’s summer decluttering.
The sales of Kaboul and Chiriches are especially significant in how Levy is now seen to be supporting Pochettino as he sets about shaping the squad to his own liking.
Having inherited a team from the year of Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood, mostly built by the former with his scatter-gun use of the £85 million recouped by the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Pochettino is now overseeing a clear-out of the disappointments and ushering in a new dawn of seemingly sensible, measured business.
With Tottenham having shipped 53 goals last term, only four Premier League teams conceded more and even relegated Hull City and Burnley managed better defensive records, it is at centre-half where Pochettino has started his renovation with reasonable extent to believe the other areas of his squad are in good shape.
Nabil Bentaleb, Moussa Dembele, Ryan Mason and Tom Carroll make for a good centre-midfield quartet while the craft and guile of Christian Eriksen, partnered with the improving Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela will provide the chances for the prolific Harry Kane.
Pochettino can plug full-back positions with Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker or Ben Davies and if Spurs can resist overtures from Manchester United for Hugo Lloris, they will retain one of the league’s best goalkeepers.
The Argentine coach is correct to identify centre-half as the troublesome position as he struggled to find a regular partnership last season. Federico Fazio and Jan Vertonghen was his favoured duo but with Fazio only making 20 appearances as he settled into his first year in England, Pochettino often found himself lacking inadequate cover.
Younes Kaboul was given the captaincy last September before being dropped in November whilst Chiriches continued to endure a miserable time in north London, making just 10 appearances as he battled injury before finishing his campaign early with a red card at Stoke in early May.
It is then, equally as fortunate as bizarre that Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri has said that he “doesn’t know much” about his new Romanian centre-half. “I saw him for half of a match, and he seemed to have discrete physical qualities, but I don’t have a clear impression” he said, “but if they [the club] chose him…” referring to the actions of his chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis who appears to have taken matters into his own hands after missing out on Cagliari’s Davide Astori.
The Partenopei were also rumoured to have chased Juventus’ Daniele Rugani, Torino’s Nikola Maksimovic and Roma’s Alessio Romagnoli in their hunt for a centre-half but it is on the €6 million Chiriches whom they have been forced to settle.
Taking over from Rafael Benitez, Sarri has had to undertake work on his own defence after the exit of Miguel Britos to Watford so in comes Chiriches, aiming to rediscover in Italy the form that convinced Spurs to stump up Steaua Bucharest’s record selling fee of €9.5 million to land him in 2013.
Spurs are now taking a loss of around half that fee for the defender who managed just 27 league appearances across two years and who has now seen Kevin Wimmer, the 22 year old signed from Koln, and Toby Alderweireld, who joins for £11 million from Atletico Madrid after a year in England with Southampton, jump ahead of him at White Hart Lane.
He leaves as another unwanted memory, together with Paulinho and Roberto Soldado, of how easily the Bale money was squandered by Levy, Villas-Boas and Franco Baldini, who somehow still remains in his post as the club’s technical director.
If Chiriches settles in Naples however, having failed to do so at five clubs across three different countries so far at the age of 25, they will have got themselves an astute bargain. Spurs will attest to his quality at the start of his spell before his form deteriorated and he is captain of a Romania team that conceded just three times in the whole of 2014 and is on the brink of qualifying for Euro 2016 with just one goal conceded so far.
Despite a poor second year in England, he still finished the season with impressive stats of 2.7 interceptions and 1.9 successful tackles per game, suggesting a defensive quality that is still intact. Though winning on average just 0.7 of his aerial battles despite standing taller than 6ft indicates an indecision when challenging for the ball, while similar hesitation and tentativeness were in evidence as he made memorable errors against Sunderland and Besiktas.
“One mistake after another mistake” said Pochettino after the Europa League meeting with the latter.
The writing was on the wall from that October evening and though Pochettino didn’t quite give up on Chiriches after that, it is no surprise to see him depart after his nightmare ending to life in England against Stoke.
In Italy, where the pace of the game is slower and he will be afforded more time on the ball as a result, and under Sarri who worked wonders with limited resources and talent in his time with Empoli, the Romanian will find prime opportunity to revive his career.
As Pochettino and Levy also move on, it could be the best move for all parties.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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