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Spurs – So where do we go from here

Tottenham are in turmoil, regardless of who sits in the boardroom, in the dugout, or overlooking the training field it’s the eleven on the pitch that make the difference. So lets focus on them for now, and where things could go for Spurs between now and the end of 2021.

Between the sticks

Spurs have a World Cup-winning captain in their ranks, if there is any greater sign of how far the club has come in 25 years, this is it. Being able to attract and retain a world class talent of this nature is proof of how the business-side can benefit on the pitch, and Lloris has been a fantastic servant during his tenure. However, for every world-class save, there is a rush of blood that takes him out of position and unsettles the foundations of our defence. After three games, Hugo was joint-top of the goal prevented table (saves of shots which should result in goals per 100 minutes), in the subsequent three, this rate has tumbled despite facing more shots due to Tottenham’s soft centre. Is it finally time to move on and give Gollini a chance?

Credit: Manchester Evening News

The pro’s for Gollini are plentiful. Firstly, he’s on loan with an option to buy. You can see what a player is like in training, more if they play in cup games, but the League is different. Giving Gollini regular starts in the League allows Spurs to see for sure if they have a future number one on their hands. For Atalanta last year, Gollini kept 13 clean sheets in 32 games with Christian Romero in front of him. That kind of form could give Tottenham a serious platform on which to build upon for the rest of 2021. However, in both the Europa Conference League and EFL Cup, Gollini has looked shaky, conceding multiple goals with a shots to saves ratio of less than 50%.

Verdict: It has to be Hugo – accept no substitute

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Central Defence – Which Spurs combo is best at the back?

Our defence has shifted in recent seasons, the anchors of Super Jan and Toby have moved on, Ben Davies has proved less dependable when moved across, and nobody else has truly made the position their own. Our current crop have their individual merits, but the jury is out on whether there is a partnership for the ages just yet.

Christian Romero – Serie A Defensive Player of the Year, Copa America winner, for Atlanta last year he averaged seven interventions per game that prevented the opposition getting near his goalkeeper. It’s too early to say what his impact can be at Tottenham but he strikes me as a player you can build a team around.

Davinson Sanchez – I’ve never been truly convinced by Sanchez. At times reliable but he has a level of indiscipline that doesn’t allow me to fully trust him at the back. This season we have seen a new Davinson, focused and determined, particularly before the international break. Since that break however, performances have notably dipped, against Chelsea he played 12 minutes without impacting the game, against Arsenal he won the ball back less than 20% of the times he attempted, and lost possession more often than he gained it. Worryingly, there are several more international breaks to come before the end of 2021.

Joe Rodon – I’m a big fan of Rodon, he’s more experienced that he’s given credit for and has looked solid and consistent when he has played for Wales, particularly in the games against Italy and Turkey at the Euros. He’s hardly played any football since June however, and when i think of his performance last season, it’s the games against Liverpool and Man City which stand out where his performance left little to be desired. This does leave ten other games where he performed well however, and his interceptions, tackles and clearances per game indicate a player that could be at the centre of a strong foundation for years to come.

Japhet Tanganga and Eric Dier – I’m putting these two together for one important reason, they are both passionate, they both give every drop of sweat on the pitch for Spurs. For me, although they wish to be central defenders, at this time, and in this season, they are unable to perform as reliably at the top level as Rodon, Sanchez and Romero have previously demonstrated.

Verdict: Romero and Rodon can give Tottenham a platform to build upon for years to come, a Super Jan and Toby Version 2.0 if you will. Sanchez comes in when we need a three to free up the full backs.

Midfield – The heart of the problem?

I have a long held belief that Tottenham’s woes come from a simple decision… buying the wrong Fernandes. In the Summer of 2019, Daniel Levy approached Sporting Lisbon after witnessing Bruno Fernandes sparkling form in the Nations League Finals. Bruno was desperate to join, and Spurs were the only team he would talk to as he dreamed of linking up with Harry Kane in particular. However, Levy told Sporting that Tottenham would only meet the 65m Euro asking price if 20m was contingent on Tottenham winning both the Premier League and the Champions League! The money they offered Sporting was instead spent on Ndombele, with Bruno Fernandes instead joining United two weeks after compatriot Gedson Fernandes joined Tottenham. The initial outlay for United was £8m less than Tottenham paid for Ndombele. This sliding door moment was compounded by the uncertainty around mercurial man Christian Eriksen, and he, like Dembele, and Lamela represent assets Tottenham have never replaced.

So where do we go from here?

Looking through the squad, it is clear there are no playmaking central midfielders at the club.

Giovanni Lo Celso – For me, just doesn’t fit the bill here, he lacks the discipline to knit play in a consistent way, and needs to play too far forward in order to impact the game in a positive way. Gio also has a tendency to drift out wide which would distort the shape of the team and impact on those in front of him.

Harry Winks – Quite simply, Harry is no longer cutting it at this level, I can only imagine it’s the injuries which have hampered his game but I don’t think he has strung two good performances together since Pochettino left. It’s a really sad state of affairs for someone who should have been a club legend by now, and whether it is poor man-management, injuries or some other factor this is a no-go for me.

Ndombele – Would the real Tanguy please stand up? At times unplayable, at others, well, unplayable. Tanguy played against both Arsenal and Chelsea and when he was able to get the ball at his feet in space, he was able to gain some success in moving forward. Unfortunately, he appears to rely on the success of others in order to move forward with his game, something we cannot afford in this area of the pitch. He is also losing possession far too often, with 1 in 5 touches resulting in him losing the ball, it simply isn’t good enough at the level.

Jack Clarke and Bryan Gil – I’d love to see these two given more game time, but quite simply I don’t see how this happens without Bergwijn, Son, Moura and Alli making way for them. Either way they still wont provide any creativity in the middle of the park.

Verdict: Give Nile John a chance, and invest in January

Credit: LigaLive

Writing the above, I have convinced myself that the player needed is not at the club, although I have neglected to look to the Under-23’s. Could the answer be Nile John? Nile has shown his adaptability already in his time at Spurs, switching from the wing to a stronger, more skilful role in the middle. He has shown energy, determination and strength for the U23’s and although he was not impressive in the Europa Conference, this was in an odd position with Lo Celso and Winks behind him which did not, in my opinion, allow him to showcase his skill set. I think he would compliment Skipp and Hojbjerg well in a middle three that would link with the forwards well and provide the creativity needed as a result.

Beyond January? I’m hopeful that the long-term answer here is Pape Matar Sarr, currently remaining at Metz but due to join us in the Summer, however, he is only 19 and that is a lot of pressure to put on young shoulders. To bridge the gap I believe the club should be targeting Dani Parejo of Valencia, who would have an instant impact and may be willing to join for a relatively modest fee.

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