While Tottenham Hotspur dropped vital points in their quest for a Champions League place with a shock 1-0 loss against Norwich at Carrow Road, two familiar faces were inspiring Steve Bruce’s Hull City to a convincing 4-0 victory over Cardiff to take their side eight points clear of the bottom three.
Midfield duo Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore were two players ushered towards the White Hart Lane exit in the summer, albeit the latter on a temporary basis, after a flurry of signing following the world record deal that took Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. However, the pair have been in excellent form of late and it has led many Spurs fans to question if they represent better options than those still at the club and whether they should have been allowed to leave by former boss Andre Villas-Boas.
Two new arrivals in the form of Paulinho and Etienne Capoue, along with youngster Nabil Bentaleb, represent the trio of players now vying for places in Tim Sherwood’s central midfield area. The Brazilian arrived for £17 million and Capoue cost a reported £9 million, while the emergence of 19-year-old Bentaleb has been an unexpected bonus, but have they done enough this season to justify the club’s decision to allow Huddlestone to leave and keep Livermore, who is due to return at the end of the season, out of the team?
The bulky frame of Huddlestone is not the most mobile of frames for a modern footballer, but he possesses outstanding technique and a fantastic range of passing. The 27-year-old has created 42 chances this season, while team mate Livermore is comfortably second with 29. Paulinho has managed under half of Huddlestone’s total with 19, while the remaining pair have just eight between them.
Considering that Hull are far from safe from the drop in an intriguing relegation battle, the total of the Tigers’ duo is impressive. Even the most creative players at Tottenham, Kyle Walker and Christian Eriksen, can only lay claim to 31 chances created. Despite Huddlestone being way out in front in terms of chances created it is Livermore that leads the assists table.
With four so far, he is the best of four candidates, while former Toulouse man Capoue is yet to get off the mark. In regards to goals scored Paulinho has netted four while Livermore has three. Huddlestone’s total of two is unsurprising as he has never been prolific in front of goal as his barber will vouch for, considering the length of his locks when he finally netted against Fulham to end his barren spell.
However, Paulinho’s goal total makes him the third highest goalscorer at Spurs this season, which is a damning statistic that points to how poor their creativity and potency in front of goal has been. Villas-Boas failed to provide the attacking football that was demanded in north London and paid the ultimate price with his job, as creativity in midfield clearly has been lacking for the entire campaign.
Capoue clearly leads the way in our defensive based comparison matrix, boasting the best statistics per 90 metrics. But his problem has been getting on the field. He has made just 12 appearances as he has struggled to settle, picked up injuries and failed to secure a regular starting berth. Meanwhile, Bentaleb has emerged since Sherwood took the top job and has impressed until the defeat at Carrow Road when the youngster’s error directly led to Robert Snodgrass’ winning goal.
Bentaleb and Capoue are both accomplished at breaking up play, but they appear to offer little else, particularly going forward. It is not enough to be earn a pace in the side if your job is simply to pass to a more creative player if you do not possess such a player within your ranks.
Tottenham gambled by brining in so many new recruits in the summer and it has failed spectacularly. At the start of the season they seemingly had a wealth of options in the middle of the park that would help them regain a top four spot, but Bentaleb’s presence in midfield shows just how badly their transfer dealings have turned out.
Although lacking star quality, the pair that are currently plying their trade at the KC Stadium would definitely have had a big part at the Lilywhites and if you were given the opportunity many would opt for Bruce’s boys.
Paulinho is worthy of his place at present while Capoue may need more time to adjust and Bentaleb has the talent to develop into an accomplished player. But Huddlestone and Livermore are both English and have a wealth of experience in English football. They have been undervalued even though there are no longer any doubts over Huddlestone’s fitness, having been an ever present in Bruce’s side, while Livermore is seizing his top flight opportunity.
He should look at how Jonjo Shelvey has thrived away from Liverpool as a benchmark of what he could achieve. At 24 years of age he should no longer hang on at Spurs and try to force his way into the reckoning, if he is not handed a first team opportunity next season, he, like Huddlestone before him, should leave.
It is a damning verdict that Spurs’ ambition to qualify for the Champions League has led the north Londoners to choose to turf out two English talents with Three Lions caps that would have been beneficial to the squad and opt for foreign imports that have effectively failed to improve the team. However, don’t expect Daniel Levy to change his approach this summer if they fall short of their top four target.