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Three Positions Tottenham Need To Strengthen In Next Season

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Tottenham Hotspur

 

 

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

In their final two seasons at White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur won plaudits and the hearts of many football fans – but they didn’t win any trophies. What is required for them to kick off life away from the Lane with a major honour? Should they stick with the principles of developing players that has got them this far, or begin to invest in more established performers? There are many big questions surrounding the club at a time that is exciting, challenging and emotional in equal measure.

The club’s recruitment has been exemplary in recent seasons but, as we saw with West Ham last summer, allowing a change of stadium to distract a club from the quality of it’s signings can be fatal.

Despite a 2nd placed finish last season, the North London side are at the time of writing (26th June), 4th favourites at 9/1 with online bookies to win next year’s Premier League title. And as a result, fans will be under no illusion that the signings they make this summer will be crucial to closing the gulf between themselves and their EPL rivals. With that in mind, where should they strengthen? Here are three key areas.

Centre-back

Mauricio Pochettino flirted with three-at-the-back at times last season and it brought some success, including a victory over Chelsea in January. If that system remains part of his plans, another centre-back is needed, even more urgently should Eric Dier’s move to Manchester United materialize.

Virgil Van Dijk would be the ideal choice due to his composure in possession, but his cost and difficulty in obtaining may put Spurs off. A simpler target would be Ben Gibson or Michael Keane, who stood out for Middlesbrough and Burnley respectively last term. Both are English, 24 and fit into the mould of player that Spurs often like to develop. Alternatively, Chris Smalling would bring plenty of experience should Pochettino explore an exchange deal for Dier.

Creative midfielder

Should Dier depart, Sporting Lisbon’s Adrien Silva has been linked as a possible midfield replacement, though his combative style is similar to Victor Wanyama. More importantly, Spurs need a quick midfielder capable of carrying the ball forward and breaking into the box. Alongside warrior Wanyama, Mousa Dembele has a great football brain while Harry Winks showed potential before his long-term injury. Those three central midfielders however, scored just six goals between them and none of them tended to run with the ball at pace.

It is perhaps symptomatic of the team’s ethic that nobody is greedy in possession, but adding another dimension to the approach play would be no bad thing for Tottenham. RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita averages 2.7 dribbles per game according to online sources with 15 goals and assists combined, despite starting in a deep central midfield role. While he would be a difficult player to attain with plenty of competition across Europe, he would enhance the quality of the first team.

Spurs are more heavily linked with Ross Barkley, who could also make an impact. The 24-year-old might be an attacking midfielder by trade, the same position as Dele Alli, but Pochettino can still make room for both. The team needs depth beyond the first XI, the lack of which a rare criticism levelled at Spurs during their two title tilts.

It may sometimes suit to have Barkley and Alli in the same side, especially against defensive opponents that only leave one or two players forward. Wanyama’s focus should be restricted to ball-winning and may benefit from partnering a midfielder who drives forward to sustain a high intensity. While Alli is an excellent goalscorer and creator of chances in the final third, he is not always one to influence a game in the middle third, meaning Barkley could offer unique qualities to the Spurs midfield.

Alternatively, should Pochettino prefer to add creativity in wide areas, Wilfried Zaha looks ready for a big move. The 24-year-old made 4.1 dribbles per game last term, the second most in the top flight and added quality to his undoubted speed, culminating in the best season of his career.

Versatile forward

The striker situation at Tottenham is something of a catch-22. They need a striker who can perform well when Harry Kane is unavailable or in need of a rest, but given that Spurs rarely play two up top, good strikers may not be attracted to competing with one of the best in the world.

Vincent Janssen proved in the Eredivisie that he can be a good finisher, but he has only started 12 games in all competitions since his move last summer. Whilst his work rate and hold-up play remains strong, he has lost his poise in front of goal, perhaps due to the pressure of knowing his chances are limited.

For that reason, Tottenham need a more versatile forward who can play in one of the positions behind Kane. That way, the new boy can provide cover for the prolific marksmen, but will still get game time when his first choice position is taken. A good option could be Josh King, who started 16 games as an attacking midfielder for Bournemouth last term but also excelled as a striker. He netted 16 Premier League goals: more than Roberto Firmino, Jamie Vardy and every other player outside the top seven.

King had a reputation at Blackburn and earlier in his international career for Norway, as a player that was full of raw pace and energy but little end product. The 14/15 campaign saw him start just five games for Rovers, with only an FA Cup hat-trick against Stoke to suggest he was better than Championship level. Eyebrows were therefore raised when Eddie Howe deemed him Premier League quality in the summer of 2015, but he has since relished the opportunity to prove himself and enjoyed the best season of his career in 16/17. Pochettino likes players with an extra hunger and, given that they are not realistically going to sign a better striker than Kane, King could be a good option to enhance the squad depth.

Signing a centre-back, a creative midfielder and a versatile forward will be the key for Spurs if they wish to progress in their new home.