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Tottenham Hotspur are having a second brilliant season in a row. They’re punching above their weight, challenging Chelsea for the title and by all accounts playing the best football in the league. However, whether they end up winning anything this season or not, Pochettino and the club’s recruitment network are in for a difficult summer.
Not only will funds be somewhat restricted due to the financing of the new stadium, but more pertinently, how do you improve a team that has performed so well? Can a team that does not win the league (if they do not win the league) justify not adding to the squad?
To some extent, the case was similar last summer, and the club found it difficult then too. Of their five summer recruits (Wanyama, Janssen, Sissoko, N’koudou, Lopez), all of which were ostensibly signed as backup, only Wanyama has forced his way into the starting XI. The others have struggled or barely featured.
Going through the side, it’s difficult to see how Pochettino can try to do anything but buy better squad options. How do you better the best defense in the league? He can’t realistically upgrade on Lloris, nor on Alderweireld, Rose or Walker. Vertonghen has stepped up another level this season, Trippier is about as good a backup full-back as you can get unless you’re Juventus, and Wimmer and Carter-Vickers barely get a game as is. Ben Davies can be improved upon, but he’s just signed a long term deal, suggesting the managers believes in him. With Pochettino, attitude and mentality often outweigh talent.
This is also applicable in the case of Eric Dier. Dier is neither one of the club’s best centre-backs nor is he a better defensive midfielder than Wanyama (though he does offer a little more quality on the ball). On the face of it, Dier can be improved upon for the third centre-back role. However, he’s one of Poch’s guys. A lieutenant. It isn’t any coincidence that Spurs’ formation change to a 3-4-2-1 this season allowed Dier a role in the starting XI after it became clear that Wanyama had locked down the defensive midfield spot. The manager trusts and values Dier’s attitude and commitment.
In midfield, Wanyama and Dembele have been machines. How do you upgrade them without buying Kante and Modric (what a miniature pair that would be)? Winks is a highly promising deputy, while Dier’s versatility means that no further backup for Wanyama is required. One could argue that the club should look for a younger, less injury prone player that has Dembele’s skill set, but good luck with that.
In the attacking midfield positions, how do you improve on Son, Eriksen and Dele? All three have been absolutely magnificent, and while there’s a chance we are currently witnessing peak Eriksen, the other two are likely to improve still further. The status of Erik Lamela is currently unknown, but given how bad Sissoko is at football, there’s definitely a case to be made for finding high quality back-up in this area. Clearly the manager does not think this is N’Koudou, and given his only fleeting appearances this season, one would have to wonder about the future of Josh Onomah, talented as he is. Speaking of youth prospects though, would next season still be too early to throw the prodigious Marcus Edwards into this mix?
Finding good squad options in this area seems like the easiest way to bolster the squad. The question is whether they can find a player or players of the required calibre. Can they find an affordable Willian to their Pedro? A Nolito to their Sane?
Despite the plight of Vincent Janssen this season, Tottenham’s striking situation is hard to improve upon. Kane is the undisputed first choice striker, and finding someone of top quality willing to play backup to him was hard last summer and remains so this. Janssen is also unlikely to be moved on given the club’s investment in him. Pochettino is a known admirer of Alvaro Morata who – if he himself weren’t such a big admirer of Antonio Conte – might be one player willing to take his chances of battling it out with Kane. Conte is equally infatuated with Morata, and if the Spaniard doesn’t end up at Chelsea this summer, I’ll be extremely surprised.
So how and where can Tottenham upgrade their squad, if they indeed need to? Are any of the first choice XI actually under threat, or can Pochettino hope only to improve his backup options? Your thoughts welcome below, or @ us on Twitter.