Do Spurs need to sign a centre-back this summer?
One month into the tranfer window, Tottenham fans could certainly be forgiven for feeling a profound sense of deja vu.
The desperate search for a striker goes on with the rumours revolving around the likes of Diego Forlan and Giuseppe Rossi again. Meanwhile, Scott Parker is still at West Ham, and Spurs are shopping for a centre-back. Again.
The Lilywhites finished the season with SEVEN recognised central defenders in their 25-man squad, not including Vedran Corluka, who plays there for Croatia.
If there was one position which didn’t look like it needed reinforcing, it was in the heart of the defence – or so it seemed.
However, Harry Redknapp’s recent admission that he was “in for Phil Jones” confirmed that Spurs are in the market for another central defender.
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That is surprising, because Spurs have signed a centre-back in each of the last four transfer windows - Sebastien Bassong, Younes Kaboul (for the second time), William Gallas and Bongani Khumalo – but Redknapp still seems to be unsatisfied with his options.
The justification for another arrival in this position is obvious. Jonathan Woodgate is now a free agent, Ledley King only managed nine games last season and is out of contract next summer, William Gallas will be 34 years old in August, and Sebastien Bassong wants to leave.
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Combined, those factors could validate one new arrival. However, too many players are being forgotten and/or marginalised in that overly simple equation. Too many important questions are being ignored.
Why, if Gallas cannot be relied upon, did Spurs give him a new two-year contract in March?
Why did they sign Bongani Khumalo, a South Africa international who played at the last World Cup, in the last transfer window?
Indeed, given that the 24-year-old is yet to appear for Spurs at all, what would his Tottenham prospects look like if the Lilywhites signed a Gary Cahill or a Chris Samba this summer?
Why, if Spurs are looking to recruit a centre-back with Premier League experience, are they willing to let Bassong go this summer?
What is wrong with Kaboul? And why is Corluka so completely ignored in all discussions about Spurs’ options at centre-back?
The answer is: Redknapp does not think he is good enough – and the same applies to Bassong and Khumalo.
In one press conference at the start of February, in the midst of a defensive injury crisis, Redknapp appeared to write off all three of them.
“I wouldn’t see myself wanting to play Charlie [Corluka] and Bassong,” said the manager. “I don’t know if you saw the game at West Ham this year [when we lost 1-0], but I decided after that game that I’d better not play them together again if I could help it.”
Moving on to Khumalo, he joked: “I think the Premier League is better than the South African league. I know it’s been compared to it but I just think it is a better league than the South African Division 1. There is a difference.”
That raises the question of who wanted to sign Khumalo – Redknapp or chairman Daniel Levy – but that is a debate for another day.
The point is that, whether Spurs fans want to overlook the South African or not, he exists - and he will take up a place in the 25-man squad in September, unless he is loaned out again or sold, just seven months after his arrival.
Importantly, a new signing would also be a major blow for 19-year-old prospect Steven Caulker, who is being tipped as a future star at centre-back – potentially the first since King to come through the youth system and establish himself in the first team.
The aim is to test Caulker in the top flight next season by loaning him to Swansea so, if Tottenham are looking one or two years down the line, they could have a ready-made solution in their own ranks.
Ultimately, though, the best case in point is Bassong, who made just eight appearances in 2011 – despite the fact that King and Woodgate were out of action.
Given that the 24-year-old Cameroon international became the fourth choice – and even the fifth choice defender when King reappeared - why would Spurs look for another player in that position?
Ultimately, even if Bassong left and King did not feature next season, Spurs would still have Gallas, Michael Dawson and Kaboul, with Corluka and Bongani in reserve – five international centre-backs, making up one-fifth of the entire 25-man squad – and with Caulker developing nicely.
If that is not enough, if this is still a problem position and these players cannot do the job, then fundamental questions need to be asked about the decisions that have taken us to this point.
If the current selection is not good enough, who signed them and why? Why is five or six centre-backs not enough? And if it isn’t enough, why is Bassong on his way out?
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs