Toby Alderweireld hasn’t traveled to Turin with Tottenham for tomorrow’s first leg clash with Juventus. He has just come back from a long-term injury and also wasn’t in the squad for Spurs 1-0 victory in the North London Derby on Saturday.
Normally, that would be a pretty major absence for the Lilywhites, but not with the current team available to Mauricio Pochettino. According to Eric Dier, it’s the strongest squad that Spurs have had since he joined the club. Our friend Dan Kilpatrick of ESPNFC has more:
Asked if the squad was the strongest since he joined the club from Sporting Lisbon in August 2014, shortly after manager Mauricio Pochettino arrived, Dier said: “Yes, of course, because we’ve constantly added to it since I’ve arrived.”
”It’s getting stronger and stronger and that’s what we need -- competition for places and people pushing each other. Everyone needs to be at their best. It’s a competitive environment, and that’s what you need to build if you want to be a top team.”
”Look at all the top teams: they have big squads and it makes it difficult for the manager. That’s what the players here have to do: make it difficult for the manager to choose an 11, or an 18, and make it difficult to choose who he leaves out as well.”
In the past, poor transfer recruitment has meant that Tottenham have had some weak benches and back-ups, but that is not the case now. Gone are the days of desperately having to play Kyle Naughton at LB.
Spurs are lucky to have almost a completely healthy squad at the moment. But even if they didn’t, they have quality reserves who can step in and do a job when needed.
As Dier points out, this depth has another added benefit: productive competition between players for places in the starting lineup. If someone starts to slack and become complacent with their status as a first-choice player, then they’ll soon find themselves out of the first team. The strength in numbers keeps everybody honest.
Spurs’ resident utility man also spoke about their comfort with the various systems that they’ve run under Mauricio Pochettino, and of the comfort they’ve developed at Wembley Stadium.
“When you are with the same manager for a long period of time -- this is the fourth year together and the core group of players is the same -- we’ve been working together on lots of different things and they’ve all come together,” the England international said.
”It gives us opportunities to adapt to many different systems. Over those four years we’ve learned all of them.”
“It feels that we are as strong as at White Hart Lane,” Dier said. “We took our time but we’ve really made it home, the fans have made it home and that’s the feeling we have at the moment here. The supporters were fantastic against Arsenal again.
”The turning point was definitely those two Champions League games against Real and Dortmund. The atmosphere was fantastic. The fans and the players have to work with each other as we did in those games and from then forward we’ve been really strong.
”We learned a lot from the Champions League last year. We were very disappointed but that was our first experience of it. So it was difficult but I think we learned a lot about it. We proved that this season with the way we’ve played in the Champions League and hopefully we can continue that on Tuesday.”
Spurs have the potential to mix it up, but it seems likely that they’ll stick with the 4-2-3-1 for the foreseeable future. That system has produced quality results recently in tough fixtures against Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal.
Tottenham have to survive the away leg in Turin before coming home to defend their temporary home, but it’s true that they seem to be more comfortable at Wembley than ever. All that talk of a “Wembley curse” seems like ancient history now.
That strength at home has been a big part of this run to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Here’s hoping they can continue that run by getting the better of Juventus over these coming two legs.