Tottenham's summer transfer activity was solid, if unspectacular, but new head-coach Mauricio Pochettino knows that one player would have made a big difference as the north London club attempt to make a return to the Champions League.
Pochettino took over a talented but unbalanced squad in the summer, and set about making changes at the back. In came Ben Davies to provide competition for left back Danny Rose, Federico Fazio joined from Sevilla to repalace the departed Michael Dawson, while Michel Vorm arrived to provide a more like-for-like back up to Hugo Lloris. DeAndre Yedlin was also signed, although his arrival will not happen until January at the earliest.
While Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea), Lewis Holtby (Hamburg - on loan but rumoured to have been made permanent), and Sandro (QPR) left the Spurs midfield, Andros Townsend was linked with a move to Southampton and there are question marks over the futures of Aaron Lennon and Paulinho, only Benjamin Stambouli was signed, arriving from French team Montpellier.
Argentine Pochettino has far too many central midfield options - even with three central midfielders playing there, Etienne Capoue, Nabil Bentaleb, Stambouli, Moussa Dembele, Ryan Mason, Paulinho and Christian Eriksen are all competing for a starting spot, while Harry Kane's form may dictate a move to a two-strike lineup - but that did not stop him seeking to address one of Tottenham's biggest issues.
Replacing Luka Modric
Ever since Luka Modric moved to Real Madrid in 2012, Tottenham have lacked a deep lying playmaker. Christian Eriksen has brought some creativity and control higher up the pitch, but no one has succeeded in replacing the Croat's ability to get the ball off his defenders and inject some tempo into the play.
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Etienne Capoue is showing a greater willingness to take responsibility for the ball, but it is no surprise that Ryan Mason has been given a chance in the first choice line-up at the expense of Dembele, Bentaleb and co.
Mason's passing is more forward thinking, whereas the sidelined midfielders too often played square or backwards. Dembele's game has been limited ever since the recurrence of his hip injury, Bentaleb's progression has stalled, while Paulinho's Spurs career has never really got going.
Pochettino saw that there was a missing link between the attack and defence and looked to his former club Southampton for the answer. Despite having plenty of options, Pochettino wanted quality rather than quantity and went after Saints' Morgan Schneiderlin.
The Frenchman has the perfect balance of power, athelticism, passing skill, tackling, and ambition to drive a team forward, and despite falling out with the Southampton hierachy he already has three goals in the Premier League so far.
Having played in England since 2008, Schneiderlin is fully accustomed to the British game and would also have counted as a home-grown player despite representing France six times.
Pochettino and Spurs tried, but were reluctant to meet Southampton's asking price. If more unwanted players can be offloaded it would be no surprise to see Daniel Levy calling up his South Coast counterpart to try again. Schneiderlin would complete the half of the rebuilding job Pochettino needs to do at White Hart Lane; then it's on to the wingers and the attack.
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