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Race against time: Villas-Boas must act in transfer market to avoid yet another false dawn at Tottenham

With Luka Modric set for Real Madrid and Jermain Defoe the only recognised striker in the squad, the Portuguese needs to conclude deals before the transfer window slams shut

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By Jay Jaffa

Nothing is ever dull at Tottenham: From the devastating realisation that the club would be playing Europa League football this season to the dismissal of Harry Redknapp, the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas and his first two signings, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen.

Since then, though, aside from a cross-country tour of the US, activity has noticeably slowed at White Hart Lane. The promise that this new era would lead to a flurry of signings, ready to adopt a new style of play and improve on the club's fourth-place finish now seems a distant memory. Even the move to the new training ground has been delayed until September.

As the start of the Premier League season looms on the horizon, Spurs head to Newcastle on Saturday possessing just one recognised striker in Jermain Defoe (perhaps harsh on Harry Kane, but he is yet to prove his credentials in the top-flight). It is a tired point, but the need for at least one new striker has been painfully obvious to all concerned since July saw Louis Saha leave and Emmanuel Adebayor return to Manchester City.

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What Spurs are now left with is a manager with much to prove carrying a squad significantly weaker than that led by Redknapp in his final season. Expectations will be high, because of the work Redknapp did, yet they will be magnified possibly to unrealistic levels given the current state of the squad.

It isn't new ground; Daniel Levy had to fight tooth and nail to ensure the club kept hold of Luka Modric last summer but that created disharmony on the eve of a curtain-raiser against Manchester United – a 3-0 loss, before City departed White Hart Lane with three points and a 5-1 win.

Though no-one will label the current group unhappy or under-prepared – they have had a productive pre-season – it is an unfinished squad, one that will have to bungle its way through the August fixture list before one can truly judge Villas-Boas' work.

It is hard not to sympathise with the Portuguese head coach. He arrived at Tottenham with the club on the cusp of a new era and indeed it was labelled in this manner. However, six weeks on and six games later – all with the same squad of players, he must feel frustratingly hamstrung by the sluggish activity in the market. Perhaps he should have known from his experience at Chelsea and their pursuit of Modric that Levy adopts a stance unlike any other Premier League chairman.

Villas-Boas has given little clue of his exasperation to be fair but he has an air of intelligence and must be self-aware enough to know he will be judged by his peers and pundits on results from the minute Martin Atkinson blows the whistle at the Sports Direct Arena.

Crucially, and the reason expectations must be tempered with a dose of reality, you must look at the squad Redknapp passed down to Villas-Boas. Ledley King's retirement, the expiry of Adebayor's loan and the contracts of Ryan Nelsen and Louis Saha have all meant swiftness in the market was of utmost importance this summer.

Unfortunately for Villas-Boas, Levy's notoriously tough tactics have led to a number of disappointments and mean that once again, fans will be glued to the internet on August 31 waiting desperately for the news that a striker (any striker?) has signed.
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Ironically given the shortage up front, it has meant focus has indiscriminately been cast to the Leandro Damiaos, Fernando Llorentes and Roberto Soldados of this world, alarmingly neglecting the fact that Spurs must strengthen throughout the squad.

Modric's imminent move to Real Madrid leaves a gaping void of class in the middle of midfield, in which no available central midfielder could adequately fill (though Joao Moutinho would make a good go of it). In goal, a long-term solution must be found but Lyon have indicated that Spurs are not prepared to match their asking price for Hugo Lloris.

It is the same story, but a new transfer window, except this time in a period of transition, with a young, inexperienced manager and a thin squad, the damage could be far greater and longer reaching. If Tottenham do not conclude the deals needed over the final two weeks of the window, what was meant to be a year of growth and progress may be remembered as yet another false dawn.

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