This is the second in a series assessing Premier League teams and their transfer priorities for the summer. For a look at Arsenal and its progression under Mikel Arteta, read on here.
So much has happened in the last 14 months that it feels vaguely incredible that Tottenham was in the Champions League final only last season. Even with Mauricio Pochettino’s dire warnings about a lack of investment in a stagnating squad, the expectation was that Spurs would finish in the top four and, with their new stadium finally up and running, the future seemed bright.
Although Tottenham has offset some of its losses through leasing out some stadium facilities to the local National Health Service trust, it still expects to miss out on $250 million in revenue as a result of being forced to play games behind closed doors, cancel concerts and put on hold plans to host other sports, including the NFL, rugby league and rugby union. Combined with continued repayments on a $1.2 billion stadium, that is a major hit. In June, it took out an emergency, low-interest $220 million loan from the Bank of England, repayable in April next year, which suggests there is little cash available for a summer splurge.
Yet Tottenham needs investment. Pochettino was right when he identified the need to rejuvenate the squad. Players have left–Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Moussa Dembele, Christian Eriksen and not been properly replaced–Jan Vertonghen is leaving and others are aging or have suffered dips in form. In addition, Jose Mourinho seems markedly unimpressed with at least one of last summer’s signings, with Tanguy Ndombele regularly the focus of his frustration.
That, in turn, raises a far more fundamental question. Pochettino is a progressive coach who wanted his team to press. Under his guidance, Tottenham was supremely well-conditioned and clearly among the fittest sides in the Premier League. Mourinho is more concerned with shape and mentality; his Manchester United side had the lowest distance-run stats in the league. His is a very different style of football to Pochettino's, more conservative, more based around a low block. That would suggest the need for a major overhaul of personnel, which for two decades has been the Mourinho way. Since Porto, he has not been a manager who has built on a budget. Yet clearly here that is what he will have to do.
A lot of the problems in the Tottenham midfield were caused by the departure of Dembele. Ndombele hasn’t yet shown the consistency of positional discipline to take his place, while Moussa Sissoko is a more forward-minded presence. There is a need for somebody who can operate alongside or just in front of Harry Winks, supporting him while still driving on to link with the forward line. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is entering the final year of his contract at Southampton and so would presumably be available reasonably priced, and he seems to have the right sort of profile.
The period when Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld gave Spurs the most reliable central defense in the league feels like a long time ago. Alderweireld is 31 and so should still have three or more years at the highest level, although he struggled at times last season. Eric Dier remains clumsy and error-prone, slow on the turn, but perhaps can function in a back three, while Davinson Sanchez has pace but is not yet the commanding figure it was hoped he would become when he joined from Ajax. South Korea international Kim Min-jae, who would probably cost around $20 million from Beijing Sinobo Guoan is a possible option. Atalanta fullback Timothy Castagne, who tends to operate on the right but can also offer cover on the left, is another possible defensive addition.
A backup center forward
Although Harry Kane remains Tottenham’s biggest star, one of the problems the club has faced in recent years is that when he is hurt or otherwise not available, his replacements are often a very different type of player. Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura are both more than capable of playing through the center, but not if Mourinho wants to go long and direct. Mourinho seems unimpressed by teenaged Ireland striker Troy Parrott. Callum Wilson scored eight goals for Bournemouth in a difficult campaign and reportedly has a $13 million relegation release clause. He has regularly been Kane’s backup for England and could be for Spurs. Although a very different type of forward, David Brooks is a player of huge promise who is also likely to leave Bournemouth rather than play in the Championship.