How Tottenham’s Spanish acquisition could become their ‘keystone’ signing
Tottenham Hotspur have been on the cusp of something significant now for the past few seasons. This is a team primed to realise their potential and challenge for major honours in the coming years. Gone are the days of mid-table mediocrity and irrelevance, replaced by a genuine sense that the glory days may finally be on the return. The disdain of the perennial top four towards Spurs is a real mark of how far the north Londoners have come under Mauricio Pochettino.
So how do Spurs trade the ‘bridesmaid’ tag for genuine success?
A lot has been made of Spurs’ summer transfer window. Typically weighted towards the final few weeks, did Levy panic or make genuinely astute captures? This is a particularly polarising question for Spurs fans and it may well be early days but one particular acquisition, and perhaps one of the least glamorous, has really caught the eye.
Fernando Llorente’s ‘Deadline Day’ move from Swansea City could well be one of the best bits of business conducted during the summer window. A World Cup winner and one of the most decorated strikers in the Premier League, at £15m he looks like an absolute steal in today’s world. The very fact that Antonio Conte and Chelsea were so keen on the Spaniard speaks volumes for his worth, and this is something that won’t be lost on the Tottenham faithful.
So aside from experience, why the glowing appraisal?
Llorente won’t score 30 goals a season for Spurs, and he certainly won’t be used week in week out, but what he will offer is a much needed plan B, something they’ve lacked in years gone by. It is occasionally winning ugly, and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat that has characterised the most successful sides of years gone by.
Simplistically, many see Llorente as your archetypal target man, and no doubt he will be used in this manner, especially when required to see a game out. Yet his worth goes far beyond this, offering Spurs greater flexibility across the array of tactical setups that Pochettino may choose to use.
Last week’s excellent 3-0 expose of Apoel Nicosia provides an excellent case in point. Introduced early in the second half, Llorente’s ability to command and lead the line allowed Harry Kane to drift into a traditional ‘number 10’ position (ironically his chosen squad number) and evade the attentions of the APOEL back line at a point where the game hung precariously in the balance. Shackling Kane is fast becoming a tactical must for opposing sides, but with an equally dangerous forward in Llorente waiting in the wings, it provides Pochettino with further ammunition to break down even the most resilient sides.
Even the most able holding midfielder would struggle to track Kane in between the lines, and so it proved with the Englishman completing a landmark Champions League hat trick to improve his record to an astonishing 34 club goals in 30 games so far in 2017. In doing so Spurs have cemented their place at the top of their group ahead of a challenging double header against defending champions Real Madrid.
Variety is what Llorente will increasingly offer Spurs. His influence will be positive for the likes of Christian Eriksen and Delle Alli who are regularly hampered by rigidly organised defences, giving them the necessary space to work their magic whilst centre halves are pre-occupied by the physicality and aerial threat of Spurs’ new Spanish centre forward.
You don’t have to be a first choice starter to influence a season; Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez was a prime example of that.
Perhaps not the most dazzling of captures, but potentially one of the more important, could Fernando Llorente help drive Tottenham Hotspur to the next level?