With Manchester United splashing money around in what has become an awkward routine of theirs during the summer transfer window and Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal spending big to lure in stars of last season, the previous campaign’s comfortable runners-up, Tottenham Hotspur, may be feeling the pressure to follow suit.
Chelsea have set about to make it no secret that they have succumbed, Anontio Conte certainly not adopting the playground’s ‘hard-to-get’ approach with Sergio Aguero ostensibly becoming the latest in a long list of strikers to snub the champions’ advances.
Chelsea may feel that it is necessary to rebuild with Diego Costa seemingly being shown the door, with question marks looming over Michy Batshuayi’s capabilty to fill the hole the Brazilian-born striker leaves, but what do Spurs need to do to improve their side?
The defence registered 17 shut-outs last season, only equaled by the league’s bore-draw experts Manchester United. The ex-Spurs centre-half Alton Thelwell spoke highly of Spurs’ Belgian defensive partnership earlier this year, remarking that the pair have “all the attributes you could want”. At a collective age of 58, Mauricio Pochettino prudently has his eyes on the future, and Juan Foyth, a 19 year-old centre-back currently playing for Estudiantes in Argentina, could arrive this summer for around £8m – pennies in contrast to what the North London side somehow just offloaded Kyle Walker to City for.
Eric Dier was often deployed as part of a three man defence throughout the year too, as well as in a holding midfield role where Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama expertly held the fort all season, although the England starlet is wanting a move to Manchester United this summer. The fee will undoubtedly be stratospheric with £60m being batted about; a figure that would certainly merit letting him go, but it does expose the lack of options on Spurs’ bench to replace him.
As for Walker, his role in the side last season was noticeable, but not irreplaceable. Registering six assists in 33 appearances last campaign is a decent return, but diminished by the statistics of his obvious replacement, Kieran Trippier. The 26 year-old recorded five assists in just 12 sporadic Premier League appearances last season, even more impressive given that six of those appearances lasted for less than 13 minutes where he failed to produce any attacking returns. His exceptional crossing ability is in stark-contrast to Kyle Walker’s, mocked by Gary Lineker on Twitter following his move north. Questions have been continually asked of Kyle Walker’s defensive ability so Spurs fans will welcome ex-boss Tim Sherwood’s praise for Trippier in that department.
Where most other teams are strengthening, though, is in attack. There is no cause for concern here, but Pochettino will surely be looking to address the side’s dearth of options. Behind Harry Kane there is only Victor Janssen with Clinton N’Jie having been loaned to Marseille and the Dutch striker doing nothing to allay the fears surrounding him when he deputised for the injured Kane.
Just like a back-up right-back is needed with Walker gone, the side need an explosive striker, especially with the Champions League to contend with again. In the 11 games they played in the Premier League whilst in the Group stage, they recorded four draws and two losses. The losses may have been to Chelsea and Manchester United, but West Brom, Bournemouth and Leicester all held Spurs to draws, only really paralleled once more throughout the season against Sunderland, which, interestingly, came just three days after the 4-3 fourth round win against Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup.
The same can be said for the men behind Kane: Son Heung-min, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. All three had superb seasons, each involving themselves in 24, 29 and 28 of the side’s 86 league goals, respectively. But a competitive side cannot field a bare-bones side every week. Georges-Kévin N’Koudou is not good enough, neither is Erik Lamela, and fans will not want to see history repeat itself with a Moussa Sissoko-esque transfer on deadline day again.
The first eleven arguably needs no new arrivals; certainly nothing that could – nor should – induce panic-buying. In the new era of ‘buy first, assess later’, Pochettino’s approach is refreshing – let us hope Sissoko was a blip and the Trippiers, Allis and Alderweirelds of tomorrow will be brought to Wembley for similarly modest fees.
Only 20 players took to the pitch for Spurs last season, making them the joint least-rotated side with Liverpool. A tactical decision or a forced hand?