Tottenham made their first acquisition of the winter transfer window by snapping up Lewis Holtby from Schalke earlier today. The 22-year-old midfielder had previously agreed to join the north London outfit on a free transfer next July but the deal has been pushed through by Daniel Levy earlier than anticipated, for a fee reportedly in the region of £2m.
Only a week ago, Andre Villas-Boas was somewhat sceptical of acquiring Holtby this month but the Spurs boss was nevertheless quick to sing the player’s praises:
“Lewis is a player of tremendous potential, one that we are extremely happy to have here. (He is) a very, very creative player and can play in different positions – he’s been tremendously educated in his football and has lots of experience for such a young player. We have high expectations for him.”
Released by Borussia MGladbach as a youngster, Holtby moved to second-tier German outfit Alemannia Aachen and, after working his way up their youth system, made his debut in the 2007-08 campaign. The midfielder mustered just two first-team appearances in his first season but the following year, a return of eight goals and 10 assists over 31 games persuaded Schalke to shell out for his services prior to 2009-10.
After producing a pair of assists in nine games, Holtby was farmed out on loan to VFL Bochum in the second half of his debut campaign, returning a couple of goals and two assists in 14 appearances. The following season he was loaned out again and made his mark at FSV Mainz 05 with four goals and 10 assists from 30 matches. Having justified his worth in German’s top division, Holtby was installed as a first-team regular by his parent club the following campaign – six goals and a pair of assists last term was followed by four goals and seven assists in 19 appearances this year; a clear sign of both his eye for goal and creativity.
On the international front, Holtby has represented Germany from Under 19 to Under 21 level, scoring 18 goals from 38 appearances, and has also turned out at senior level on three occasions.
Holtby’s versatility makes it difficult to ascertain his likely starting position under Villas-Boas. One theory is that the transfer has been brought forward due to Sandro’s season-ending knee injury sustained earlier at QPR this month, with the German set to tuck in alongside Mousa Dembele in the double-pivot – a fair assumption, given that the likes of Tom Huddlestone has failed to make an impact, while Scott Parker has only just returned from a long-term Achilles problem. Certainly, while Holtby has impressed as a playmaker, he’s also more than capable of grafting in the middle of the park and affords Villas-Boas a definite option from a deeper berth.
Alternatively, 22 of Holtby’s 24 starts in all competitions for Schalke this season have been in the role in “the hole”. Given that the German side also utilise a 4-2-3-1 formation, the new boy would fit seamlessly behind a lone forward and lend his creative weight to a berth that has seen Gylfi Sigurdsson and Emmanuel Adebayor fail to flourish. Although Clint Dempsey is starting to return to form, the US international will be worried by Holtby’s arrival. Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon are pretty much nailed-on out wide, leaving one position up for grabs in the attacking midfield three and with Adebayor also in the mix as a more withdrawn forward behind Defoe, Dempsey could be edged back onto the bench, despite some recent impressive displays.
In Fantasy terms, then, much is dependent on how each game views him. If Fantasy Premier League (FPL) looks upon Holtby as a central midfielder, a price of around 6.0 could be on the cards, while a cost of around 7.5 to 8.0 is likelier if they expect him to be utilised as an advanced playmaker. Ideally, then, the best scenario would be for Fantasy games to price him in accordance with deep-lying midfielders, only for Villas-Boas to field up further up the pitch – giving us a budget-friendly route into Tottenham’s midfield as the north London outfit step up their pursuit of a Champions League spot over the remainder of the season.