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Tottenham Hotspur XI for 11 — the best starting lineup from the past 11 years

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There’s a lot to discuss here!

Tottenham Hotspur FC v PAOK FC - UEFA Europa League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Let’s play a game! With no current football to talk about, it’s a great time to look to the past and, as they used to say back in the heyday of Deadspin, Remember Some Guys. Football has change a lot over the past decade, and inspired by our friends over at The Busby Babe who did the same thing, we thought it would be fun to pick a Best XI from the past 11 years of Tottenham Hotspur’s history.

There are a couple of important rules that need to be addressed for purposes of this exercise, also inspired by The Busby Babe.

  1. 11 players on the team, from 11 seasons (2009/10-2019/20).
  2. You must select one player per season to fill out your team.
  3. You get that year’s version of the player (e.g. if you pick Danny Rose from 2009-10 you get... Danny Rose in 2009-10, not him from 7 years later.)
  4. You can arrange your team in any formation and move players into any position (but no, we didn’t put Kane as a goalkeeper)

Think this is easy? It’s not — it was super hard, try it yourself! Sacrifices had to be made, including selecting players in off-peak years, and not selecting some incredible players at all. We agonized over some of the picks. We’re still not sure we got it right. But this is what we came up with.

Goalkeeper

Hugo Lloris, 2018-19

It was never a question of whether Hugo would be in this list, but what year we selected him. And because Hugo’s been pretty consistent over the years, that gave us the luxury of selecting other players from other years first, and slotting Hugo in near the end of the process. 2018-19? Sure, why not. Even if he has a couple of gaffes here and there as he did that season, he’ll still face plenty fewer shots with the defense in front of him.

Centerbacks

Jan Vertonghen, 2014-15

The 2014-15 season wasn’t exactly great for anyone, but what we can say is that Jan had a pretty good year. We had a spirited discussion about whether Jan should make it in this lineup, or choose what the heart knows it wants, which was Ledley King in 2009. Recency wins out over sentimentality.

Toby Alderweireld, 2019-20

Look, we had to pick SOMEONE from this train wreck of a current season and for reasons that should be pretty apparent soon, leaving people out for a peak Toby year became pretty problematic. Truth is, this was probably not Toby’s best season with Tottenham, but he’s still a darned good defender. Place him beside near peak Jan and you’ve got a solid back line.

Left Back

Benoit Assou-Ekotto, 2009-10

It hurts me a bit in my soul to leave Danny Rose out of this lineup, but at his best Disco Benny was a truly formidable fullback. This season he had a goal and three assists playing as an attacking fullback. I kind of miss him. LOL.

Right Back

Kyle Walker, 2011-12

Walker is the best right back Spurs have ever had, so again it’s more a matter of finding a season to include him that doesn’t disadvantage other players’ peak seasons too much. 2011-12 was during Walker’s “track star” years where he was good at being fast but at times frustrating in other aspects of his game. But this exercise is all about trade-offs, and this was the first season where he really started to break out, including scoring THAT goal against Arsenal.

Central Midfield

Luka Modric, 2010-11

It’s still hard to fathom how under-appreciated Luka was by Tottenham’s fanbase during the years that he was here. This was the season that prompted Chelsea to make an all-out push to sign him, and Daniel Levy to reject him. This was also the season that Harry Redknapp kept playing him wide left. He played one more amazing season for us after this one before departing for Real Madrid. We have him here in his natural position.

Mousa Dembele, 2015-16

In an exercise like this, you kind of revolve the lineup around certain players who you KNOW were amazing in certain years. Moose’s season here is one of them. The stats aren’t gaudy, but god, he was so good.

Christian Eriksen, 2013-14

Eriksen came out blazing in his first season with Spurs, scoring 12 goals and tallying 16 assists in 2013-14. He was so much fun to watch that year, and with that level of production, how can you leave him out? The irony is that he played on the left a lot, but this is a flexible 4-3-3, so we’re shunting him back to the center.

Attacking Midfield

Gareth Bale, 2012-13

We started here. How could we not? This was a season and a performance from Bale that you build around. 26 goals, 15 assists in all competitions from the left wing spot. Magnificent. He was never better for Tottenham.

Dele, 2017-18

Statistically this wasn’t Dele’s best season at Spurs — that was 2016-17 (22g/13a) — but it was still a pretty darned good year when he really started to develop more of an all-around game, even if he didn’t score as many goals. 14 goals, 17 assists, and a lot more involved in creating from deeper positions.

Striker

Harry Kane, 2016-17

2016-17 isn’t quite peak Harry — that came the following season when he plonked home 41 in 48 appearances. 2016-17 was also the year of his first two ankle injuries which kept him out of much of the Champions League group stages. But even if we can’t get peak Harry into this starting XI, you don’t look 35 goals and 7 assists in the mouth, and that’s a pretty darned great offensive season.

Notes

  • I hear you screaming — WHERE’S SONNY? I KNOW. We tried, honest. But putting together a lineup like this requires some sacrifice, and sorry but we’re not leaving Gareth Bale out of this lineup, no matter how good Son’s been for us. He definitely makes the bench, though.
  • We had a long and spirited discussion about Ledley King in 2009-10 — injuries kept him out almost half the season that year, but it was really the only opportunity we had to get him in the lineup. Same thing with Michael Dawson the same season. Ultimately, we couldn’t over look a midfield pairing of Vertonghen-Alderweireld, the best in Spurs’ modern era, even if neither of them were from their respective peak years.
  • We also briefly toyed with slotting in Aaron Lennon from 2009-10 at the right wing spot at the expense of Dele’s 2017-18 season... but come on.
  • This was really hard! We’d like to see what you’d come up with. Are there things we forgot about (likely)? Do you disagree on anything (probably)? Have your say in the comments.