Connor's Corner: How can Spurs improve this summer?
By Connor Harmer
Moving on now to the team that finished 2nd - Tottenham Hotspur. They’ve come so close over the last two years, pushing Leicester to the very end in the 15/16 season as well as chasing the outstanding Chelsea home this season. Although they’ve come so close each year, it’s hard to see where they can improve. They had the best defensive record in the league in the 16/17 season and have the Premier League top scorer for the last two seasons amongst their ranks in Harry Kane. Mauricio Pochettino’s high intensity, pressing style means that their transfer activity can be very limited as a lot of players do not have that type of attribute to their game.
Right back Kyle Walker looks set to leave Spurs this summer. Walker and Rose as full backs have been very successful and Pochettino has really improved their games, however I think Walker is easily replaceable and I’m not sure Kieran Tripper, although yesterday signing a new 5-year deal, is enough to take them to that next level. Walker is still prone to errors and his attacking instincts sometimes cost him positionally on a defensive front and he is sometimes only bailed out by his blistering pace. One player I think would be an improvement on Walker would be Serge Aurier of PSG. The Ivorian looks set the leave Paris this summer and although there has been a lot of talk of his disciplinary history being poor, he is someone of a similar attacking threat as Walker and a similar age. Aurier only had 2 assists less than Walker last year in the league, playing 10 less games however. His passing accuracy of 89% in Ligue 1 is a fantastic return for a right back and overshadows Walkers 79% accuracy in the Premier League and this is something that I found is a big weakness of Walker, he tends to be too quick for his own feet sometimes. I had heard whispers of Aurier before the 2014 World cup and was quick to put him in my dream team for the tournament and his performances in the showed why people were talking; PSG were quick to snap him up not long after. It’s clear to see he has the talent and the big stage experience, but it’s his discipline that is a worry; I feel Pochettino’s strict and ruthless management could really bring the best out of him.
With no one else leaving, I don’t see many areas in which the starting 11 needs improvement. They were missing Jan Vertonghen for a large part of the season as well as Danny Rose. Providing they keep their players fit, they probably have the best 11 in terms of team cohesion. I can’t see many players being dropped from any part of the pitch; The spine of the team is clear with Lloris, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Wanyama, Dembele, Dele and Kane. With that pretty much set, I can’t see Rose, Eriksen or Son Heung Min being dropped especially after their seasons just gone. Spurs maybe need more options for certain games and more squad players to bulk out ahead of their season on that big Wembley pitch.
I think they do need another one or maybe two attacking options to play as one of the 3 behind Kane to support Dele, Son and Eriksen that they already have. I don’t see any of them as what we would previously call wingers, with probably Son being the closest they have. His desire to come inside from the left this year has reaped rewards with his 24 goals and 6 assists in all comps, but I feel they struggle on the right-hand side with this. Erik Lamela has been injured for most of the season with a hip injury and with no expected date of return it’s a weak point in their armoury. Bayern Munich man Douglas Costa would be a real coup for them, and if they were able to stretch their resources to sign him it would be a real sign of intent. Murmurs from his camp suggest the left footed wide man is set to leave for regular game time and he is someone in that next tier of players who has played at the very top. Costa’s performances in the Champions League with 2 goals and 3 assists in 4 starts is something Spurs are maybe missing at times. His trickery, pace and ability to take someone on in the final 3rd is something that for me only Son offers Spurs and with the South Korean set to miss the first few weeks of the season with a broken arm, Costa could be an outstanding replacement for those weeks as well as be a different option for the other 2 spots behind Kane once Son returns.
There is talk Spurs may make a move for Ross Barkley. With figures floating around of £50m it’s hard to see Spurs and especially Daniel Levy pay anything like that for a player who has a year left on his contract. Barkley has moments of brilliance, but he isn’t someone who will start for Spurs and feel they should look elsewhere as Barkley doesn’t have a great history of attitude when being put on the bench. Barkley’s lack of versatility could hamper the move also. His favoured position is centre of the attacking 3 and I can’t see him doing a job out wide in this high intensity team as well as outing Dele Ali. Bournemouth’s Joshua King could be more suited, the attacking midfielder has played in all 3 positions throughout the season as well as scoring an outstanding 19 goals in all comps and even more impressive 16 in the Premier League. With several years Premier League experience now, the ex-Manchester United academy graduate could well be destined back at the top and his goals and versatility would be a superb addition for Spurs in the league off the bench and in the cup competitions.
The only other position I can see them getting backup for is at centre back. Vertonghen and Alderweireld are one of, if not the best partnership in the league. But, they’re not going to be able to play every game and if injuries are to hit either of them it will be a massive loss. They’ve had struggles with back up for these two previously with the likes of Wimmer, Stambouli and Fazio all trying and failing. Uruguayan Jose Giminez of Atletico would be a fantastic signing were Spurs be able to prize him away, but I’m not sure he again will come to sit on the bench. I feel they need someone who has Premier League experience and maybe someone who has won titles. West Brom’s Jonny Evans has had 2 great seasons in the Midlands and was someone I really liked at United. Tenacious and good with both feet, Evans has that winning mentality of winning big trophies that some of this young Spurs team are maybe missing. I feel he could be a good back-up to the two they have already and could do a great job for them in cup competitions.
Vincent Janssen is a player highly criticised by the general football fan this season, with a poor return in front of goal and with Pochettino ruthless streak many expect him to go this summer, with another striker to be brought in to replace him. I think however Janssen will stay and is a great option for Spurs. It’s very hard for anyone to come in, knowing they’re going to be second fiddle the whole season. No one is going to come in and replace Harry Kane, Janssen is someone slightly different to Kane in terms of he’s more physical, but still has that killer instinct in front of goal. Last year’s 7 goals may not have shown that but the 23 year olds 27 goals in 31 starts for AZ Alkmaar in the 15/16 season show that given a chance, he really can be a deadly striker. With a year under the youngster’s belt settling into the English lifestyle and English game, we could well and I almost certainly think we will see a different Janssen this year when given his chance.
Again, like Chelsea, I don’t think Spurs will challenge in the Champions League, but it really is time for them to win something. They have been fantastic the last two seasons but seem to be missing that little something. With one big addition to add to the attacking 3 they already have and 2 or 3 additions around the squad to bulk them out, I can see them challenging again and winning one of the domestic cups.