Tottenham Hotspur haven't re-integrated their World Cup players into their team yet, meaning we got to see a lot of the club's fringe players during their recent preseason matches in the United States. Having taken in those three games, we've taken a quick look at the players on the fringes of the Spurs squad and how they've improved or damaged their stock over the last few games.
Harry Kane - Last January after Jermain Defoe moved to Toronto, we looked at Tottenham's striker situation and said "LOL, we have Roberto Soldado, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Harry Kane." Harry Kane was the punch-line. Not anymore. If there's one thing we can thank Tim Sherwood for it's giving Kane a chance to play at the tail end of last season, and he's grabbed his opportunities with both hands. Kane is coming into his own now, and based on his performances in the three preseason friendlies thus far, not only has he comported himself well, he could turn out to be a vital component to Spurs' offense.
Kane is a tall, strong striker with a nice finish and an ability to place himself in open positions. He's developed an acute awareness of his surroundings, and he's playing with confidence. Sure, his matches have come against rotated MLS-level competition and he'll be up against much better teams in the EPL, but in his three appearances for the first team in North America he's played well, even bagging a goal against Chicago. Will Hurri-Kane be a lock-down starter in the Premier League? Probably not. But I think it's safe to say that he's a first-team lock, and he'll get plenty of Cup and Europa matches, as well as a healthy amount of substitute appearances in the league. After three preseason matches, the CFC writing staff -- to a man -- are all-in on Harry Edward Kane.
Ryan Mason - Of all the youth and development players given a chance in the preseason tour of North America, the one who perhaps came out looking the best is forward/midfielder Ryan Mason. Mason, 23, is coming off of a year-long loan at Swindon Town where he played a lot at central midfield for the Robins. Mason played in all three matches in Spurs' tour, including going the full 90' against the Fire.
In most of his matches, Mason was paired in a double-pivot formation with Etienne Capoue, with both players given license to move forward or cover as tactics dictated. In his appearances Mason showed a real composure on the ball from deep, a keen football intelligence, and the vision to find open teammates and pick out a nice pass. He rarely put a foot wrong. After the Fire match, a Spurs official I spoke to called Mason one of the best performers in preseason. I'd agree. Mason's stock is way up after these matches. Spurs are loaded at CM so it's a tall order for Mason to stake his claim to the first team, but he may have done enough to secure himself a loan for a good side, perhaps even lower-Prem. Watch out, Tom Carroll.
Milos Veljkovic - It is difficult to evaluate our defense during the recent tour as most of the players who will make up our starting defense next year were a) crowd surfing at EDM concerts b) hurt c) not currently playing for us or d) youth players. And all of this while learning the style of a new coach. So even at the best of times our defense looked ... out of sorts. However, our 19 year old Serbian prospect acquitted himself well.
Milos came up as a quick, agile defensive midfielder, which means, as Bryan noted, he is well-suited to play in MoPo's high tempo pressing defense. Given the short amount of time our new manager's been here, Milos did quite well pressing our opposition, especially considering his age and size. Considering the chaos along our backline, it is to Milos' credit that he did not panic as the Michael Dawson retirement parade came rolling through like the Kool Aid Man at a brick factory. After the Danny Rose experiment, we doubt he'll be anywhere near a starting lineup, but if the preseason convinced us of anything, it's that we're going to see plenty of Milos in our cup schedule.
Erik Lamela - The English media and lovers of bantz everywhere were quick to write Lamela off as a high priced flop last year. Spurs fans, however, were all too aware of his injury problems and the clown car of coaches we had last year, so we were coming into this season with an open mind regarding the young Argentine.
Now we don't want to take too much away from three preseason games against MLS opposition, but you guys: We think that Erik Lamela might be the greatest player of all time. He was a revelation and by far the best player on the tour. His play was aggressive, he dribbled past opposition, he scored goals, made assists, AND took the time to troll some Gooners. And he did all that without any guyliner. Like we said, it's only three games, it's only the preseason, and we don't want to get carried away, but we're pretty sure Erik Lamela is going to win the Ballon d'Or this year.
Etienne Capoue - Tim Sherwood pretty clearly didn't rate Etienne Capoue last season, and his myriad of fitness issues didn't exactly help the situation. Going into this summer, he was rumored to be available for sale at the price Spurs paid for him the previous summer, but he made the most of his opportunities to play over the last three preseason matches.
His athleticism and aggressiveness makes him a great defensive option in a box-to-box role for Mauricio Pochettino's site, and he's a good option in the single pivot or as an emergency CB too. Capoue was great in both the pivot and advanced roles, and his versatility is going to keep him employed by the club.
Iago Falque - His rise isn't as significant as those listed above, but it's impossible to deny that Iago Falque improved his standing over the last three games. He's been an afterthought since going on loan to La Liga, where he was solid, though unspectacular, but he looked like he belonged while playing with first team players over the last three games. He didn't look any worse than Andros Townsend, at least.
Don't be shocked if Falque gets another look in the next preseason game. He's probably still very much on the outside of the first team looking in, but he's at least working on increasing interest in a loan from Premier League clubs, or a sale. He's valuable to someone, even if it isn't Spurs.
Cristian Ceballos - We thought Cristian Ceballos was a fringe prospect that probably wasn't good enough to play for Spurs' first team, but might potentially get there in a year or so. That's exactly what he looked like in his appearances. However, it was encouraging that he looked competent as the most advanced central midfielder and out on the wing. Perhaps a La Liga loan is in his future?
Zeki Fryers - Fryers is very similar to Ceballos in that he has a lot of potential and could become a good player for Spurs, but he's already 21. He probably has about one year left of being a backup/going out on loan before the club has to make a decision on his future. He showed glimpses of ability, but plenty of flaws defensively during his appearances at center back and left back. It's really not clear where he stands.
Kyle Naughton - He's going to be a pure backup or get sold. He didn't show that he deserves to be more than that. He's probably headed to Swansea or a club at about that level.
Lewis Holtby - As much as we all love Lewis Holtby's instagram account, it's tough to see exactly where his place is. It certainly helps him that Gylfi Sigurdsson's been sold, but over the last three games he was the same erratic, inconsistent player that we've come to know and love/hate. His energy is great and he occasionally comes up with brilliant passes, but he's also guilty of lots of positioning errors and giveaways.
So what is Holtby to Mauricio Pochettino? A Christian Eriksen backup? A player in need of focus and a defined position? On the chopping block? Nothing about his play in the United States made his position clearer.
Tom Carroll - With the World Cup midfielders out, we expected to see a lot from Tom Carroll. His long-time fans were hoping that they'd see him make a step up and look like a clear Premier League quality player. Instead, what we got was a player who made a lot of great passes, but also looked like he had no idea what he was supposed to do in his role.
This isn't uncommon in preseason, but it's still disappointing, especially given that he entered preseason way ahead of Ryan Mason and probably a bit ahead of Etienne Capoue and Lewis Holtby as well, in the eyes of a lot of fans. Instead, he now looks to be at the bottom of the midfield depth chart. Of course, Pochettino sees Carroll in training every day, and might think the best is yet to come from him, but he did not look like a player ready to cement a first team place and take the Premier League by storm.
Michael Dawson - Two years on from bravely rejecting a move to QPR to prove he had what it takes to play for a top four side, Dawson looks increasingly like he really should have taken that move. Despite the shambolic season that Michael Dawson just turned in, three games against MLS opposition somehow made his stock drop even further. A week ago we would have said Dawson wasn't good enough for Tottenham Hotspur. Three games of getting torched by MLS forwards later and we wonder whether he's good enough for the Premier League at all.
The 30 year-old Spurs veteran has been an incredible servant to the club, and at his best he was nothing short of a hero. But the lead-footed center back seems to slow down with every year, and his positioning has grown suspect to boot. Mistake after mistake plagues his game. If he wants to stick around in the dressing room and be a mentor as he transitions to a behind-the-scenes role, we would absolutely love it. But at 30, he's got a few more years of playing time he'll probably want to spend playing. It just looks like it will have to be playing for a side on the road to relegation.
Danny Rose - Ben Davies was purchased for a reason. In his minimal time with the team, Davies looked better than Rose -- who should be settled in and comfortable with his teammates -- did at any point during his performances. In fact, Rose appeared to have gone backwards in terms of positioning and discipline, which is pretty shocking given his average performances last season.
There's no reason to believe Rose should be anything more than Davies' backup and a decent defensive substitute on the wing this season.