After the negative feelings felt towards the end of the season start to ebb away, perhaps it is time to look at what is needed if we are to improve next season. Not only to be title contenders again but to also perform well in the Champions League. I don’t think it is wrong in saying that, to the club at least, the two domestic cup competitions are very much secondary objectives. Fans will always want to win something but the club is more concerned with revenue streams.
I am sure Poch and co will come out and say that top 4 is the primary goal. That is probably the minimum expectation in reality despite other wealthier foes likely to spend big this summer. There will be pressure on Spurs next year but not as much as if a United or City had been champions and us second. The media will be focused on Leicester, not because they are champions but because they are looking for an end to the fairy tale. A point when they can say ‘told you so’ and that last season was a fluke. Only time will tell whether that will happen but it does deflect this sort of media scrutiny away from Spurs, at least initially.
What that does mean is that Spurs can go again, under the radar at the beginning of the season. You only have to look at all the headlines and pictures of next season’s managerial head to heads to see that Poch is frequently absent from the headline match ups. Mentioned eventually but only after the Sky 4, City and Leicester have been mentioned. Hopefully that will fire the players up.
So onto the squad improvements, there is a strong argument that we do not necessarily need to buy guaranteed starters. We are looking for competition and players who can come in and do a job better than the current reserves. This is true largely due to the age of the team, it is very young and still plenty of improvement is achievable. This need is greater because of Champions League commitments, not sure we can justify putting out youngsters or those that need a game in that competition like we have done in the Europa League.
Before I go into where I think we need strengthening, I am not going to put forward names as possible solutions as I honestly don’t watch enough foreign football to have an idea of whether someone will fit into Poch’s system.
Lloris is the number one with no questions asked. Vorm is ok but perhaps not good enough should Lloris get injured long term, one or two games will probably be survivable. Problem with goalkeepers is that they are rarely injured so you do need a backup that will be happy to sit on the bench and Vorm fits that bill currently. I don’t think anything will happen in this department unless a stunningly good young keeper becomes available.
Verdict: Probably nothing happening here
Fazio will be gone if everyone gets their way so there is a backup centre back needed. I think it is clear that Toby and Jan are the first choice pairing so Wimmer will need to be content with playing back up again. Dier can cover but given he is the first choice defensive midfielder currently I think it is clear we need another centre back. There are some promising youngsters coming through so it will be interesting to see if one of them is promoted or whether Poch dips into the market. Yedlin probably surplus to requirements given Walker and Trippier.
Verdict: Don’t be surprised if no one is bought, probably not through want of trying but because the player would have to be content to start as fourth choice. Fazio shipped out for sure and if the right offer comes in, Yedlin too.
Deep lying midfield
This is probably the biggest problem area in terms of effect on team dynamics. The backups to the first choice pair of Dier and Dembele have not performed. Alli has had a few games here (in Dembele’s role) but he is too important further up the pitch now to really be considered. Mason and Carrol have simply not been good enough in this role but I also feel that (in Masons case in particular) this position is too deep for them.
I have read many different articles and it is debateable whether Carrol is out of contract or not this summer however I can only see two of Carrol, Mason and Bentaleb staying and this is assuming we buy no one. Ah Bentaleb, so much promise but this season has not worked out how it was supposed to. Injuries have not helped but I also think he may be being used incorrectly.
Last season he was the defensive midfielder alongside Mason but in Poch’s system this year a defensive midfielder frequently becomes part of the defence as cover. I don’t think he is suited to that at all. I would like to see him in Dembele’s role (as backup to him) which may well negate the need for a signing there. Perhaps another youngster in Winks is the answer to Dembele when he is out but I get the impression if that was the case, Winks would have played a few more minutes this season.
What is clear is that another defensive midfielder is needed, whether this be from internal or bought in. When Dier was missing or being played at centre back it was clear there was a gaping hole in the middle of the park.
Verdict: A defensive minded midfielder will be bought but Bentaleb may get another shot at being Dembele’s competition. Mason will probably stay also (unless a couple of signings are made for this area) and Carrol moved on/released.
I think the first choice here are currently Eriksen, Alli and Lamela. Backups being Son, Chadli, Onomah, Njie, Winks, Pritchard and Mason (occasionally). That is ten players fighting it out for three places in the team. That’s probably a few too many. Mason and Winks may be considered deep lying while Son and Njie may be considered strikers – that would take it to a reasonable six for three places but I don’t think that is the case.
I think in this area we are missing someone with a bit of trickery, someone who will beat a player or two (with skill rather than pace or movement) to make space. This is most notable when teams set up with 10 men behind the ball. Pritchard may do this but we have yet to see what he can do at this level.
Verdict: I don’t think anybody will be coming in here despite saying we are missing something. Think one of Chadli or Pritchard will be lost.
The most glaring shortage of options in the squad as Kane is pretty much all alone. Son and Njie were touted as strikers but they appear to be much more geared towards being attacking midfielders. Poch has named checked a youngster or two but I think if he were serious about them they would have appeared on the bench and got some minutes at the ends of games to save Kane and give them some experience.
The problem here is that we are being linked to some of the more sought after and high profile strikers around. I can’t see them wanting to come in and initially be playing second fiddle to Kane.
Verdict: One will come in, can’t go another window without another striker coming in. Perhaps two if there are some undiscovered youngsters around.
So there you have it. I think a minimum of two players inbound in the shape of a striker and defensive midfielder. Maximum would be four I feel with two strikers, a defensive mid and a defender. I think the key here is that we are not necessarily looking for people who need to hit the ground running as they go straight into the first team, this is different from previous years.