With the end of the season approaching, there’s a lot still on the table still for Tottenham Hotspur. Since a miserable exit in the FA Cup two months ago against Middlesbrough, Spurs’ focus has entirely been on league play. And while there have been blips along the way, most notably the loss at home to Brighton and the grim away draw at Brentford, Spurs have put together a record of 6-1-2 since March 1.
Although Spurs are currently on the outside looking in in the Top 4 race, they still control their own destiny as they look to their final four games of the season. Obviously, not many are expecting Spurs to go into Anfield on Saturday and come away with a win against Liverpool, winning all of their remaining games puts them through to the Champions League. Regardless of what happens over the course of the next couple of weeks, the fact of the matter is that, barring an unexpected collapse, Spurs will once again be playing European football next year. The question is which competition that will end up being.
Despite all of the recurring stories regarding Antonio Conte and whether he will stick around this summer, the more reliable folks like Fabrizio Romano and Alasdair Gold continue to insist that Conte’s plan is to continue the squad refresh this summer. The expectation is that Spurs will be serious players in the transfer market this summer, and are expected to bring in some new wingbacks, a left-sided centerback and potentially even a dynamic midfielder in the process.
Under Fabio Paratici (and his Italian rolodex), we should expect the club to be connected with numerous Serie A players. However, one avenue Spurs should not look past this summer is simply buying from the three relegated clubs who will be looking to cash in on some of their prized assets. Looking at the bottom five within the league, there are a few quality players that Spurs could get on the cheap given the financial constraints those clubs could inevitably find themselves in during life in the second tier.
While these names may not command the biggest headlines, there can be significant rewards by going to the well in investing in players from relegation sides. Andrew Robertson for Liverpool is the perfect example of this. He has not only developed into a world-class fullback with better talent around him, but Liverpool bought him from an awful Hull City side for just £8 million five seasons ago.
Let’s take a look at a player from each potentially-relegated squad and how they might fit at Spurs.
16th place - Burnley
It looks like Burnley’s annual escape from relegation is again proceeding nicely, but they are still more than capable of going down. In this team, you could make an argument for targeting both Wout Weghorst and Nick Pope. Weghorst has been on Spurs radar for awhile. Pandemic-related issues probably kept other clubs from looking closer at him, but he is a player that provides something different if the club were interested. While Pope is a decent shot-stopper who would count as homegrown, he is pretty poor at playing out the back and is older than you think at 30 years old.
The transfer target: Dwight McNeil, LWB/LW
When I think of underrated Premier League players, McNeil is near the top of that list. McNeil plays for a side that is not as appealing on the eyes but grinds out results and has tended to stay afloat in the top league. McNeil’s cleverness on the ball and ball-striking ability gets overlooked. Without an abundance of talent from players surrounding him, it certainly does not help his G/A contributions. But, McNeil is a seasoned Premier League veteran who came through the Manchester United academy. He’s still just 22 years old and in a system and situation that is more positive and attacking, there is no question that McNeil would become more of a household name.
Burnley is starting to win more since sacking Sean Dyche (aka “The Ginger Mourinho”), but Spurs should definitely come calling if Burnley slip in the next couple of weeks. At Spurs, McNeil profiles uniquely as a left wingback in large part due to his heavily-defensive approach with the Clarets. McNeil is a good carrier of the ball, provides nice depth and versatility and already has years of Premier League experience. To me, this is a no-brainer.
Verdict: A young player who would likely not be expensive and be a very nice wing-back fit
17th - Leeds United
After being something of a darling last season in the league, Leeds have completely fallen back down to earth. Due to a lack of depth, some injuries and teams just figuring them out, they have plummeted down the league table this season. In this squad, the two most-talented players are of course Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha. However, if Leeds were to go down, the duo would undoubtedly be out of Spurs’ range, given the price tag both would command.
The transfer target: Jack Harrison, LWB/LW
Harrison is quite an interesting prospect, given his unique path to becoming a Premier League starter. After dropping out of the United academy, Harrison bet on himself years later to pursue professional football in MLS. He was the first overall pick in the 2016 MLS Draft and starred for New York City FC. Due to NYCFC’s partnership with Manchester City, he was brought over in the January 2018 transfer window. However, Harrison never appeared for City, with loan spells at ‘Boro and Leeds.
He became a permanent player for Leeds this past summer. It would be a nice story if American Jesse Marsch can keep a club like Leeds afloat, but Harrison would certainly garner attention if they were to go down. A player lauded for his ability on the ball and his intelligence on the pitch, Harrison would not be so pricey and would fit really well at Spurs. Similar to McNeil, Harrison is calm in possession, provides width and a threat from the outside and could play really well in an attacking system as a wingback.
Verdict: Worth a look at wingback if Conte is looking for inexpensive depth
18th - Everton
A big win against Chelsea last weekend was severely needed for the Toffees, but they still find themselves in 18th place. With a game in hand over their other relegation rivals, Everton could still find their way out. But if they were to go down, there are a variety of players who many clubs would find interest in. The attacking duo of Dominic Calvert-Lewis and Richarlison comes to mind, but both players would be a bit expensive and both do not necessarily seem like good Conte fits. For Richarlison in particular, I do not see him fitting well to Conte’s rigorous patterns. There were rumors that Conte liked Jordan Pickford, but the uproar that would cause plus the mistakes he has in his game would likely find Spurs looking elsewhere for a second ‘keeper option (see Sam Johnstone).
The transfer target: Ben Godfrey, CB
Another underrated player, Godfrey is a player that has held his own despite playing in two bad situations in his Premier League career. He was at Norwich a few years ago before their relegation that season, then came back up and is now in the midst of another challenging situation with the Toffees. For this reason, Godfrey’s growth has been stunted a little bit.
At just 24, he has three seasons of Premier League experience, and offers versatility across the defense. A traditional centerback, he has also played as a right back when needed. He is a bit like Japhet Tanganga in many aspects. Both players are not great on the ball, but both are intelligent players who are a tweeners between traditional defensive positions.
Verdict: A versatile player who is still young and can continue development in a better situation
19th - Watford
Overall outlook: Watford are always an interesting story when they are up in the top flight due to their connection with superagent Jorge Mendes and their “sister” relationships with other clubs around the world (such as Udinese). This season, Watford have had the ability of putting goals away, but their defense has ultimately led them likely back to the second tier. In this side, Spurs could look at options like Imran Louza and even Ismaïla Sarr. Louza has quietly had a really good season for the Hornets, but likely needs another year or two. Sarr, by far Watford’s most-precious asset, would probably be expensive and I do not see Spurs spending big on a player that would not immediately slot into the starting XI.
The transfer target: Emmanuel Dennis, LW/RW/CF
In one of the better and more underrated storylines so far this season, Dennis signed from Brugge this summer and really burst onto the scene for Watford, contributing 10 goals in 32 games for the Hornets.
Watford’s attack has never been in question this season in the Premier League. Dennis, along with Joao Pedro and Cucho Hernández, have been extremely dangerous at times. Out of the three of them, Dennis has a bit more versatility. While he is signed through 2026, Dennis has shown that he can play in the Premier League.
20th - Norwich City
Overall outlook: The ultimate English yo-yo team has already been relegated from the league. Their sacking of Daniel Farke and appointment of Dean Smith indicates that they are trusting of Smith to bring them back up into Premier League. In all honesty, there are not many options in this Canaries side who Spurs should be in for. Ozan Kabak is a player that has potential, but injuries and challenging situations have really stunted his development.
The transfer target: Max Aarons, RWB/RB
A player who has long been connected to Spurs given their need at right back over the years, Aarons has been a mainstay for a Norwich club that continues to go back and forth between the Premier League and the Championship.
With two years left on his deal, Aarons may be an integral asset for Norwich next season, but there are natural attacking tendencies in Aarons’ game that suggest he could play as a wingback instead as a more traditional right back. I have never been the biggest fan of his game, but Spurs seem to always be connected with Aarons. So depending on the fee and the fit, maybe they come calling here.
Verdict: Potentially worth buying depending on the price and how Conte sees his fit
Who are some relegation-threatened players you would like to see at Spurs?
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