An Erection to out-do any former erections. That was the impression I gauged upon the signing of Lewis Holtby. We were teased, toyed with. Were Levy to grant us one plea and bring in this raw, versatile German midfielder in January or would we brand this lack of signing in January a scapegoat after the inevitable internal collapse come May? The conceivable opportunity cost of falling out kof the top 4 seemed to far outweigh the price that was being flirted around and Levy dug into his pockets to pay the pennies that Schalke demanded.
He came to answer the questions. The key to unlock a pair of forwards that had been stuttering in front of goal of late. A midfield trio of Sandro, Dembele and Holtby providing the perfect balance of solidity, speed and creative flair in attack. In truth, rarely do things avail to the idealist way of seeing things; football isn't played on paper and, arguably, we've felt the full force of how cruel the realism of the sport can be.
Holtby's faced the reality of largely being utilised from the bench throughout the second half of the season. I refuse to use words such as "resigned" and "demoted" to the bench as I feel that this is part of AVB's tact. Each manager has varying ways in which they go about introducing players. We like to bed-in and introduce through our own accordance, when we feel the time is right. Lloris was no different. The pantomime that followed his lack of inclusion in the former part of the season from the French was anything but funny or entertaining.
Players are granted positions on merit, not on reputation. It leaves said player having to work hard the moment they step foot in training. It encourages them to find and grow that inner fighter required to not only make the starting 11 but also ensure they do their best to bring home 3 points. This is AVB's way of eliminating any sniff of ego. It keeps away the complacency in the side. This was my theory as to why we'd started winning games late and rid a Spurs formality of conceding in injury time. Each player has to work in training and on the pitch.
Lewis himself joined when we were on a fine run of form. It was rather premature to write in blood (as some seemed to) that we were to bulldoze into the top 4 again, despite the run of great form we were on. Situations change each week. We were always going to drop points, as were/are the teams around us. Holtby spoke that it would be difficult to break into a team that was starting to find their feet under a manager with fresh ideas and a point to prove.
Since then, we've thrown him into a number of roles and sought to find a solution that can get the best out of him as well as the team he's playing alongside. It's fair to assume that we're still seeking Holtby's role with AVB not giving too much away. The player himself stated that "my best position is as one of the holding players, or maybe in a 4-3-3 formation as one of the central midfielders". I hadn't seen much of Lewis when he was at Schalke, but I was well informed that many saw him snatching the number 10 role in behind a forward. On this basis, his comments brought a little surprise but, simultaneously, possibly emphasises the versatility of the player to slot comfortably into a number of positions. With Sandro typically keeping in high spirits despite being on crutches and Parker struggling to even be in the shadow of his former-self, this could open up the opportunity for Dembele to partner Holtby in centre midfield.
I picture a scenario in which there is little to lose by testing this tact. Parker hasn't hit half the heights we'd expected/hoped when Sandro limped off at QPR and so this should open up possibilities of trying different things. This also leaves room for Bale and Sigurdsson to continue their great form in the first 11 and would represent a fairly strong spine in the side; something I still feel we're close to but haven't quite found yet.
This is very much still a bedding in season for Lewis. It was always going to be. Hopefully we're learning that patience is needed for success. This has certainly been the case for individuals. A real life glimpse of Premier League life and a full pre-season will only help Lewis seek a role that benefits both himself and the club. I love the boy's apparent passion - said tentatively, admittedly - when joining others to celebrate and I look forward to the moment it all just clicks both for him, and us.
Ben - You can follow me on Twitter here
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