Will they stay or will they go?
What have we learned from pre-season and what light does it shed on our opening games?
A calmer more focused and more effective Robbie Keane has washed up at Spurs. He has either made himself unsellable or increased his value tenfold. I was absolutely certain of his departure but now I'm absolutely not so certain.
Not really a revelation to many but has shown clearly his pace, skill, awareness, work rate and unselfishness. Certainly one to keep. Unless we keep Robbie instead. Could we keep both?
If we keep Keane then he might be the one to go as Crouch is almost certain to stay unless of course he goes back to Liverpool or Everton. ITK rumour mill is in overdrive but only because it enables them to repeat his marital problems. Roman only does tap-ins but, as Jimmy Greaves will affirm, it's not tapping them in that's difficult, Sandra could that, but getting into position to tap 'em in.
You have to admire a man that only takes 3mins.2secs to get a yellow card in his first game since the World Cup. In a friendly too. A simple hello and a handshake would have done Wilson. You'll have to get them calling cards reprinted. He and Jenas, who had played well at Benfica, battled for supremacy for the mid field's most ineffective player award and JJ just shaded it. Let's hope that his disciplinary record doesn't cause us problems later in the season as it might have done this year.
His hand in the Bale goal that beat Benfica was a glimmer of a better player that surfaces occasionally. Ran the channel, held off the opponent, cut ball back to Gio, flick on to Bale. Result a fine goal. There is so much stress on the silver plimsoll that it doesn't tempt strikers to look up and Defoe would be a better player and still our top striker if he did.
I predicted that this might be a problem at the start of last season but Huddlestone and Corluka stepped in and then Dawson and Bassong did well. Now we have Walker and Kaboul and of course Ledley so it shouldn't be too bad. No good news of Woodgate so I am discounting him until January. This should be enough.
We haven't seen much of Modric but enough to know that he is going to be our driving force this season even if he can barely see over the steering wheel. The second half of the Fiorentina match showed clearly that Tom Huddleston will be his co-pilot. They will be the key to success at home and abroad especially if they can get on the score sheet more often.
Our secret weapon wherever he plays. Not the best kept secret I admit but he has been outstanding in pre-season and I am expecting him to be our player of the season again. From hoodoo to hero in twelve months.
Apart from Sandro, whose reputation gets more fabulous the longer we wait, nothing. If we keep all our current strikers with the addition of Gio in the hole then Harry or rather Daniel might think we are sorted. But we don't have a free scoring hold up player amongst them and this might restrict us tactically in Europe .
If a couple more youngsters can step up to join Gio, Rose and Walker we might not bother which would suit the suits.
Jenas and Hutton have probably come to the end of their probation periods, and will leave if offers come in. Taraabt left for QPR and ran the show on Saturday but I doubt if this will come back to haunt us but his kind of flair is an unpredictable commodity.
Other than minor shufflings on the fringes very little more is liable to happen. Go on Harry make me look really silly, I dare you.
If Keane leaves all sorts of mayhem might erupt; Young or Bellamy or Heskey (I'm joking, I'm joking) could arrive. If he stays all sorts of mayhem might erupt in any case as mentioned previously. So it's all down to Keane then. Hasn't he left us twice already?
We need to avoid teams that pass the ball and have technically excellent players. That's Spanish sides basically. Against strength and speed , as long as it not too fast, or too strong, we can hold our own. Augers well for the Premiership but not so well for the Champions' League. (Do I not like typing that phrase) We should qualify for the Champion' League (there it is again) proper, beyond that, who knows.
Before the Champions' League game (Stop it Jimmy you're just gloating now) we need to put down our marker for the Premiership. Dawson has already got out the hymn sheet saying that this is a 'must win' game. It is in terms of confidence and attitude and it is the right message. But we all know that any individual game is irrelevant over a 38 game season. It would set us up nicely for the Champions' League (sorry) fixture.
We are at home and they are half beaten before they start after their disappointments at our hands last season.. If they go into a huddle you know its just a cover for a round of introductions of the 'Who the hell are you?' and 'Where are you playing?' variety.
We don't know much but what little we know is positive, and I stand by my optimistic 2010/2011 predictions. We haven't jinxed ourselves by doing too well in pre-season, Villarreal springs to mind, but have battled well against decent opponents, coming from behind twice to beat Fiorentina. The future's bright and the year ends in two ones. What can possibly go wrong??