Harry Redknapp admits his failure to sign Patrick Vieira was one of his biggest regrets of the recent transfer window and for the Tottenham manager, those feelings will be thrown into fresh focus when his side faces Chelsea tomorrow.
Redknapp made no secret of his desire to lure the former Arsenal player away from Internazionale and into returning to London. In the end, though Vieira rejected his advances, preferring to remain at San Siro, leaving Redknapp with an unplugged hole in his team-building.
So far Redknapp's biggest fears over his squad's potential weak spot have yet to materialise thanks largely to the excellence of Wilson Palacios, the Honduras international who has exceeded expectations since his £14m move from Wigan Athletic in January, and the improving Tom Huddlestone, while Jermaine Jenas is only just returning to full fitness. But with Huddlestone on standby in case one of Spurs' fragile centre-backs breaks down, the manager knows he could quickly be left short in a crucial area.
All that is alien territory to Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea coach, who could name two international class midfields and has relished mixing and matching his players in an attempt to refine his favoured diamond system to the requirements of the Premier League.
As is so often in recent years, Chelsea's success during their 100 per cent winning start to the league campaign has owed as much to the relentless pressure exerted in midfield as it has to Didier Drogba's form up front.
No wonder, then, that Redknapp should muse on his failure to sign Vieira ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge; especially as the player has so far started in just two of Inter's four league games and was on the bench for the Champions League game with Barcelona. "I would like to have got Vieira and was genuinely keen on him," Redknapp said. "It was definitely a goer but is he playing at Milan?
"We are short in central midfield. We have three central midfield players. Jenas, Huddlestone and Palacios. That is not enough. We have left ourselves short. Tom has done well and Jenas is fit. It is the only area that scares me a bit," said Redknapp, who let Jamie O'Hara and Kevin-Prince Boateng join Portsmouth last month .
It seems certain Redknapp will revive his interest in Vieira in January, offering the promise of regular football in the build up to the World Cup finals in a bid to convince the player to put aside his Arsenal loyalties and join their rivals. The Frenchman appears to be interested. "I have a big respect for the manager [Redknapp]," Vieira said recently. "He is somebody I could work under because I really like the personality he's got – and every player I know who has worked with him has been really happy."
Last weekend's defeat to Manchester United underlined the gap in class that still exists between Tottenham and the Premier League's very best teams, although the impressive start that brought four wins in their opening four games has not been forgotten. With an opening-day victory against Liverpool already under their belts, a point against Chelsea would reinforce the view that they can challenge for the top four this season.
The manager, though, believes the make-up of his squad means they have little option but to go to west London seeking victory.
"I have not got anyone to block it up," he added. "Niko [Kranjcar] is not going to do a dog's job for us. He is a footballer, he gets it and plays it. So I have no one I can bring in and leave out 3-4 flair players out and fill out."Reuse content