Saturday 31 August 2013

Some succour courtesy of Billy Beane

It has been a North London derby week dominated by transfers, and the lack of them.

With the Fenerbahce second leg dealt with as comfortably as we all expected, it has been our ongoing transfer impotence and Spurs splashing the cash which has been the focus of everyone’s attention.

The free transfer of Matthieu Flamini apart, we have been unable to bring in any new faces in the final days of the transfer window and don’t appear close to a ‘marquee signing’.

Meanwhile along the Seven Sisters, our nearest and dearest have taken their total summer outlay to about £90m.

You have to think Daniel Levy is deliberately stalling the Bale transfer to prevent Real Madrid potentially selling players to us to help balance their books.

Given our track record, I seriously doubt we would actually be able to secure any of Madrid’s most prized assets but kudos to Levy if that genuinely is his tactic – it shows the kind of cut-throat approach to the transfer market which we have lacked this summer.

Whatever the reason, it is Spurs’ supporters who will go into tomorrow’s game with the warm glow that comes from seeing new recruits sign on the dotted line.

On the face of it, they appear to have done well. Lamela has an excellent goal-scoring record, Soldado has a ‘been there, done that’ feel and Paulinho has been getting rave reviews from those who (unlike me) have seen him in action.

Their most intriguing arrival is Christian Eriksen from Ajax, who to my unsophisticated eye looks pretty classy and he has a stellar reputation. At just 21 he will obviously get better and it could turn into another Bale-esque success story for them.

But you have to ask why no other clubs were willing to bid for a player moving into the last year of his contract and my mind thinks back to why, despite being equally well-regarded, nobody else apart from us wanted Andrei Arshavin. Maybe Eriksen will ultimately turn out as underwhelming as the Russian.

Anyway, enough semi-positive analysis of Tottenham. There is an interesting piece in The Times today which gives us hope.

It is an interview with Billy Bean, the famed Moneyball stats guru from the Oakland A’s baseball team.

The thrust of Bean’s approach recently has been to focus on cutting the crap from the bottom of their squad and raising the quality level of their weakest link, rather than trying to add cream to the top. And by all accounts it is working for the A’s.

The hope has to be that mirrors what Arsenal have done this summer by shedding so much dross from the squad during the close season. The way we have handled the in-coming side of the transfer window has been dreadful, and we’ll only truly be able to reflect on our business at the strike of midnight on Monday.

But you can’t argue that while our squad is thinner, player-for-player it is better now than it was at the end of May.

Tottenham, on the other hand, can’t be so sure that their new signings will actually improve them overall. As Wenger said yesterday, it is quite a risk to bring in so many bodies at once.

Spurs have a pretty ropey transfer record recently and although Baldini and Villas-Boas have not overseen them all, the latest signings will need to prove themselves on the pitch.

They face their first real test tomorrow, as do Arsenal. The pressure is on both squads, both managers and the way both clubs have handled the ins and outs this summer.

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