The time has come: the 2021-22 English Premier League campaign is just days away from kicking off. After finishing in seventh place last season and qualifying for the new UEFA Conference League, Tottenham Hotspur are again enduring a challenging and interesting offseason. Despite Spurs hosting Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday, there should still be more business expected in north London over the next few days and weeks.
With all of the reports surrounding Harry Kane over whether he will go or sign a new contract that contains a pricey release clause, Spurs have many decisions to make ahead of the end of the current transfer window. As many had suspected would happen, Spurs have made it a clear emphasis this summer to refresh the squad and move on from the bevy of ‘deadwood’ players within the club. Already Juan Foyth, Toby Alderweireld, Érik Lamela and Joe Hart have moved on, and players such as Moussa Sissoko, Ben Davies and Serge Aurier have been linked to moves away. We do not have a distinct or finite number in mind regarding how much Spurs can and will be able to spend in the coming weeks, but getting numbers and figures off the books and recuperating fees for outgoings will help in re-tooling the roster.
Spurs have European aspirations for this upcoming season, as they rightly should. Even with the Kane situation, Spurs do have a good nucleus of talent and seem to have the right football mind [Managing Director of Football Fabio Paratici] in charge to harness the potential and make additions where needed.
While the next couple of weeks will provide for more of a concrete answer for how Spurs will line up and what can be expected of them for this upcoming season, Spurs will have a good measuring stick of their progress on Sunday when they host Manchester City.
It almost seems too poetic that the same club that has been battling with Spurs for Kane all summer will line up against them on Sunday. Whether or not Spurs come to an agreement with City over Kane, either via player swap or straight cash, we know that City will be an absolute animal once again this coming season. The perennial favorites to win the league once again, City most recently broke the English transfer record by adding Jack Grealish, a player who could be viewed as redundant depending on how the team lines up.
Historically speaking, City have not typically been the fastest starters out of the gate. Last season, through 16 matchweeks, Spurs were level with City on points, albeit City with a game in hand. Just five match-weeks later, City were atop the league clear by 3 points despite playing a game less than most of the league. It should come as no surprise that the surge up the table for City came in the holiday crunch of games in the months of December and January where City could mix-and-match with their squad and not lose as much ability in comparison to other clubs doing the same.
But as we approach the game on Sunday, Spurs really could be getting City at the perfect time. With the lack of fluidity and gametime paired with the uncertainty in the transfer window over the next couple of weeks, Spurs have a chance on Sunday.
For starters, most of City’s roster played in international tournaments whereas most of Spurs’ players have played together and looked pretty cohesive in preseason games. While John Stones, Kyle Walker and Ederson were on holiday after competing in spectacular international tournaments, the trio of Dele Alli, Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura were dicing up the likes of MK Dons and Colchester United.
All jokes aside, the reality is that Spurs have had a few weeks and multiple matches to line up how Nuno Espírito Santo will want them to this season. Reports have circulated in the past few days that Kane will be available for Sunday’s game. However, it would set a pretty poor precedent to play Kane over others who have been working hard in training, providing further reasoning that Kane should be on the bench to be used as a possible ace in the hole.
On the other side, City will reportedly be without both Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne. In terms of creative facilitators, City will not only be without two of their best in Foden and de Bruyne, but the world cannot be expected of Grealish just yet as he joined the team officially last Thursday. City certainly have the ammunition to still field a sensational team, but with the future of Bernardo Silva up in the air, it may be different as to how they line up on Sunday.
Additionally, it was not so long ago that Nuno pulled off the double against City. Just two seasons ago when Nuno’s Wolverhampton team was healthy and at its best, Wolves beat City 2-0 at the Etihad and 3-2 in a thrilling game at home where Nuno’s side scored two goals after the 80th-minute mark.
Tottenham will surely not finish above Man City this coming season. However, the potential for a back-and-forth game is there for Spurs to at least take some points off of the reigning champions. In recent seasons, Spurs have been somewhat of a boogeyman team for City. In the past five league matches between the two, City have managed to take just seven points out of a possible 15 off of Spurs.
Rather than getting City a few months from now where they will be more situated and settled, Spurs should have some optimism ahead of Sunday. We should not expect a full three points, but the potential is there for Spurs to perhaps snatch a draw in their opening match against one of the more difficult opponents in all of Europe.