Mauricio Pochettino, Daniel Levy and Paul Mitchell. A trifecta that puts Spurs fans in a position that is fairly unique for clubs that are in and around the top 4 of the Premier League.
While Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Woolwich fans will be holding out for big names and even bigger expenditure. Spurs will recognise that after Alderweireld, the majority of, and perhaps in fact the best, signings over the last two years have been of largely unknown youngsters.
With one summer of exception that’s been the case for some time but there’s been a tone change. Although Tottenham remain much more financially restricted than their rivals that’s no longer the main identity of ENIC’s spending methods. Spurs aren’t buying young so much because they have to but because they’re really good at it. And not just in recognising and securing young talent but turning that talent into a top level team.
Maybe this is just a maturity from within myself but speculating transfer prospects seems more pointless than ever now. I don’t expect to recognise our signings’ names from before we were linked with them. I don’t even want to.
A back-up striker and a back-up central/defensive midfielder. That, I think, is the general consensus amongst Spurs fans. Squad depth certainly seems to be the theme this summer and with a season of Champion’s League football (whey!) to balance with the usual Premier League and domestic cups, our super-high-intensity playstyle means that having 20 reliable players seems close to necessity.
I’d actually go as far as saying that this season Tottenham have lacked capable back-ups to Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld.
At face value that’s five purchases and a busy window. Unlikely to happen. But maybe some of these birds can be killed with a single stone. There’s cross-over between Dier and Dembele and there’s cross-over between Dier and Toby. Five players sharing three roles should be sufficient cover.
So what kind of player do Tottenham need to play second-string in the middle of the park?Someone who’s defensively capable, who has enough physical presence and technical ability to be able to retain possession under pressure and, ideally, someone who can trump both Dier and Dembele in the realms of creativity. Well Spurs already have that player and his name is Nabil Bentaleb.
Between injuries, a scattering of weak performances and rumours of both contract issues and attitude problems Nabs has had a Lamela-Season-One tier year. But there’s no doubt a talented player in there. The player we saw in the 14/15 season would be perfect as competition to both Dier and Dembele. He presents himself as a more creative option who isn’t a dramatic drop-off from Dier’s defending or Dembele’s dribbling.
If Bentaleb, for whatever inside reasoning, isn’t suitable to Spurs and is on his way out this summer then I find it hard to see Spurs needing any less than two new players for the deep-midfield zone of the pitch. I’ll come back to that in a bit.
Eriksen gets away with being the only weak physical presence in the first XI by being an excellent force of creativity. Players of his ilk are far from common and even rarer is one that would be able to keep up with our pressing tempo or sit on the bench and wait his turn. Maybe, freed from being needed deeper on the pitch one of Mason or Carroll can fill this role rather than offloading both. Neither are on good terms with Spurs fans right now and neither may seem like great options but I struggle to imagine us being able to better them. Could Alex Pritchard make it his role? A creative type who can play out on the left, as a 10 or a little deeper, that’s certainly makes him Eriksen Jr. but I think there are questions over his work rate and ability to fit in to our high-tempo game.
Kane is similarly difficult to replicate. His mixture of versatility and quality is pretty unique world-wide. Someone who can play as a targetman but isn’t limited to it. Maybe that’s why almost all the forwards we have been linked with so far are all quite different to Kane. Quick and skillful forwards who can play on the wing but are shorter and weaker with little ability to play with their back to goal. I can understand the perspective of wanting to have an alternate method. But I think we already have that between Son and N’Jie. The retort might be that neither of them have done the job but I don’t think that’s down to a lack of general quality. I think Pochettino’s direct style requires a forward who can compete in the air and hold-up the play and I’m worried we’re not looking for one.
There’s also an unhappiness amongst Spurs fans with Vorm. I rate Vorm highly and have done since before he joined Spurs but perhaps there’s an argument that he needs consistent game time to perform to the required level. Or maybe any keeper that comes in for Lloris is going to fail to compare.
But all of this is talk of squad depth. I don’t want to sound entitled or demanding but I don’t think that’s enough. I’m a firm believer that in football you must always at least attempt to improve in order to maintain. Time and time again the Premier League sees it’s champion fail to improve over the summer and suffer for their arrogance. Spurs might not have ended champions but they do have achievements to protect – and I do think having a similar season to the one just passed is the objective.
Yes we have a young team, yes we have an outstanding coach. But the already discussed Bentaleb presents a clear warning that these drop-offs spring from nowhere. Someone in that rock solid XI will become unfit, have a fall-out, suffer personal issues or just fall out of form.
Which raises the question ‘In which area of the pitch can we reasonably attempt to improve?’. I have an answer and I don’t think it’s going to be a popular one but then what answer could be?
It’s back in that deep-midfield. I think we can improve on Dier. Not because Dier isn’t a great player. Not because he hasn’t played incredibly well, he really has and I love him for it. But because between Dier and Dembele there is a tactical limitation. We lack creativity.
I mentioned in my season review that Dier is surprisingly creative and I know it must seem counter-intuitive to then say he’s lacking. But that’s because my initial praise comes from the angle of perceiving him as center-back first and foremost. Dier is great in midfield, for a defender. Dier is surprisingly creative, for a defender. Dier is good with the ball at his feet, for a defender.
I would like to see Spurs look to the transfer window for a player who is similar to Dier defensively but offers just a little more in possession. Someone who’s great in midfield, for a midfielder (and that’s not Wanyama by the way). What about you?