With the close of the first half of the 2022-23 season, club football now takes a break with the World Cup beginning on Sunday, November 20th. Whereas some teams would have preferred to keep playing in their current run of form, Tottenham Hotspur are opposite. While they have gotten the points return they were looking for, those points have come through lot of inconsistent performances that highlight some of the shortcomings in the squad at this moment.
Spurs have some injured players, a few others that are not quite fit enough or have hit the rhythm of what Antonio Conte is looking for, and the squad is a little short in certain profiles, so this break comes at the perfect time as their next professional match will be on Boxing Day against a pesky Brentford side. However, the January transfer window opens just a few days later, giving an opportunity for Spurs to offload some players and bring in reinforcements to the squad for the second half of the season. And keep in mind, the period between January and May still contains more than half of the remaining Premier League games, along with a potential FA Cup run and Champions League knockouts.
In this moment, there is no denying that Spurs are quite vulnerable. Even during the League Cup game against Nottingham Forest, Conte opted for a strong XI but the result and performance was anything but strong — the players looked extremely sluggish, some blitzed by the fitness demands and others possibly had an eye towards the impending World Cup. Perhaps Arsenal’s strong start has deterred Spurs supporters from seeing the beginning to this season as an extremely positive one. However, there is no denying that Spurs will need to strengthen in January if they want to challenge for top four and trophies this season.
Last season, Spurs shedded players that Conte saw as not resourceful enough, including sending Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso on loan and selling Dele Alli permanently. The duo of Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski, however, came in and contributed right away and have arguably become two of Spurs’ most important players less than a year later. So it seems likely that again Spurs will be looking to bring in 2 or 3, possible 4 players in January who can come in and immediately make their impacts felt as Spurs look to stay competitive in three different formats (Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League).
Whether these players are starters or simply more additions of depth and reliability in the squad, Spurs are going to need more players. But as January’s window arrives, it should also be in the mindset of the club’s Managing Director of Football Fabio Paratici to shift on some players within the squad to perhaps give them more first-team football and even a change of scenery that they may deserve. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan on writing a series, going over the different types of players and profiles that Spurs may consider bringing in. But first, let’s take a look at some of the players within the squad who may be apart of some outgoings in January.
When Tanganga came through the ranks and was thrown into the fire by José Mourinho, it seemed like Spurs had a homegrown, young and cheap defender in their ranks for the future. But ultimately, due to a lack of opportunities, a questionable position change to wingback, and a series of injuries, it seems that Tanganga is too much of a tweener for any particular manager he has had to select him with regularity.
For me, Tanganga is best as an option at right centerback in Conte’s preferred defense. He does not have the ability going forward at the position, but he has been used extremely, extremely sparingly at the position. This season alone, Tanganga has logged just 17 minutes of gameplay — all of which came in the first Champions League group match against Marseille back in September. I’m extremely uncertain of what to do with Tanganga. I do not see him having a role under Conte, but I think he still has a lot to offer and is still extremely young at 23. I’d prefer to loan him, but I think the club could opt to sell him permanently.
Pape Matar Sarr
While it is still early, there is no getting around the fact that Spurs have failed Sarr since he came over from Metz in Ligue 1. At 20 years of age, Sarr has logged over 50 matches in France and was an impressive performer despite being on one of the worst sides in the league. At Spurs, he has yet to get a kick in at the first-team level and has been jettisoned to playing for the U21s.
Paratici has made a lot of strides in shaping the project to have an eye for the future and that was definitely the case when Spurs purchased Sarr and loaned him back to Metz last season. And while he may still be adjusting to England and doing so at Spurs may have some positives, it is time for him to get more playing time. A Championship loan could be extremely beneficial, especially one within London or in within a reasonable vicinity. Perhaps Norwich, QPR or even Preston would have interest.
Lucas is another player who has been more on the outside looking in this season , but that has been in large part due to injuries. When Conte first came into the picture, like every other manager Spurs have had recently, he was immediately intrigued by Lucas’ profile and his unique athleticism. Extremely strong for his size with pace to go along with it as well as uncanny jumping ability, Lucas has the natural traits managers (especially ones like Conte who love physical specimens) are interested in.
But this season, it seems that Lucas is no longer excelling in certain areas of his game that used to be strong points. Many have pondered the possibility of converting him into a wingback and while Conte has done it at times, he seems to be more preferred as a stick of dynamite to throw on to cause havoc when Spurs are chasing a result. I think it would be best for all parties to move on, but I just think Lucas is like a cat with nine lives and he will return.
Another young player Spurs have basically stopped developing, White is a player that honestly may deserve a look in at the first-team level. It is widely known just how good of a dead-ball specialist he is within the club and while he would certainly benefit from adding some muscle to his frame, he is a technical player who many have high hopes for within the club.
Similar to Sarr and another player further down in this list, there is no use for keeping him to play at the semi-professional level at Spurs. White is deserving of a League One loan, particularly in a side that likes to dictate the game. Perhaps playing with Dane Scarlett at Portsmouth would work.
Ah, yes... the much-maligned right wingback. To start, there may not have been a player more important to Forest’s promotion last season than Spence. When Spurs invested in Spence and beat out Forest to his signature in the process, he was a promising young right wingback under Steve Cooper playing at an extremely high level just last season.
But since coming to Spurs, he has failed to get a look in under Conte with the Italian all but ostracizing him from the get-go. He is still 22, but because he has failed to win over Conte and reports starting to come out about the club’s interest in the right wingback market in January, it would be wise to let Spence go out on loan to re-capture some form and get a change of scenery after being buried behind the likes of Emerson Royal and Matt Doherty.
Arguably Spurs’ best player at the youth level, Devine was purchased from Wigan in the summer of 2020. He holds Spurs’ record as the youngest player to have scored in a senior game at 16 years old. Now 18, Devine has yet to progress into the first-team. He projects as an attacking midfielder that is best deployed centrally, but he does not offer the physicality traits that Conte may demand at this point.
Devine is another player who is just wasting his development away at the U21-level. Spurs penned him to a six-year contract extension in September, which was extremely important given that Spurs have had trouble in recent seasons penning their academy talents to long-term deals. Devine deserves a loan and, like White, would benefit from playing at the League One level.
We all know Conte is a bit stubborn and often does not change things or look to Plan B with the intention instead to just improve Plan A. When Kulusevski went down with injury earlier this season, many pegged for Bryan Gil to be inserted into his role as there were some similarities from a ball-progression and dynamism perspective to the Swede. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, despite playing for multiple teams within La Liga and logging plenty of minutes in the process, he really falls victim to his slender frame.
Despite this, Bryan has been featured more as the season has gone on. He has mainly been used by Conte as an extra attacker when Spurs are chasing games. Gil has been quite lively in his cameos and a regular run of games would be extremely important for him to prove himself. Getting more time on the training ground in front of Conte — especially with many of the senior-level players in Qatar — should do him wonders.
Last January, Spurs loaned John to Charlton hoping that the attacking midfielder would get some needed game time at the professional level. He literally did not log a single minute at Charlton in a move that may go down as one of the more curious loan moves in recent years.
Like White, Devine and Sarr, it is time for John to get another run out on loan. Not only because their development is being stagnated at the U21 level but because Spurs should be promoting other players in the ranks to face new competition and take the next step in their progression.
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