With the Premier League and top-level leagues across Europe set to return this weekend, there is plenty of excitement in the football world. It was a somewhat short summer, but an expediting of the schedule was needed with the 2022 World Cup quickly approaching in November. For Tottenham Hotspur, it was a summer that started out with a lot of optimism after the club quickly brought in several incoming players. And yet, depending on which Spurs supporter you talk to, there are varying opinions for the assessment of this summer’s window thus far
If you’re one of those who looks at this window in a positive light, you’ll note that Spurs brought in three players who will be big-time contributors once they get accustomed to Antonio Conte. These include the signing of Ivan Perišić on a free and spending a combined £75m or so on Yves Bissouma and Richarlison. For me, Perišić and Bissouma look like eventual starters in Conte’s XI and Richarlison has the makings of a versatile depth/fringe-starter with the ability to operate in a variety of different attacking spots and roles.
The club also brought in a predominant left-footed center back in Clément Lenglet on loan from Barcelona and they added a couple of homegrown players in Djed Spence – who has nice potential for the right wingback role – and Fraser Forster to backup Hugo Lloris.
However, there’s a flip side to the coin as well. There’s a thought that bigger moves were going to be made once news of the £150m cash injection was announced in May. There were also links to big-money moves for either Alessandro Bastoni or Joško Gvardiol, but both players ended up staying put, at least for now. The logic is that with Spurs loaning in Lenglet for the year, they will go again next summer to acquire that big-money defender.
The two positions of worry right now for Spurs are at right wingback and creative central midfielder. Starting with midfield, Spurs have four midfielders more than capable in playing the reliable, safe and sturdy roles Conte will ask from them. This quartet does not include youngster Pape Matar Sarr, who, despite his talent and clear potential, does not have a concrete role at the moment. However, as of this writing, Spurs have not solidified the latter position, despite recent links with James Maddison and Lucas Paqueta.
Playing with a capable, creative option in midfield would give Spurs the ability to play a 3-5-2 formation to mix things up on top of the 3-4-3 shape that they have predominantly used during Conte’s tenure at Spurs. This change of formation would give Spurs a bit more attacking influence, which would be resourceful in breaking teams down who are sitting deeper.
At right wingback, while Spence excelled in the role last season on loan at ‘Boro, it is hard to expect him to hit the ground running and be that reliable option in the role considering how late he came in this summer. So, Spurs’ options in the role look likely to be Matt Doherty and Emerson Royal once again despite some rumors in the past few months in either players moving away.
Perhaps the largest concern is Spurs’ lack of outgoings. To date, they sold Steven Bergwijn to Ajax and loaned out Joe Rodon to Rennes in Ligue 1 with a buy option. Other moves, albeit a bit less meaningful, were the dealings of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Jack Clarke, who were moved, respectively, to Celtic and Sunderland. Conte made it clear weeks ago that some players were not in his plans when he left them behind from Spurs’ trip to South Korea. Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Harry Winks are three players identified as likely to leave this summer. However, no significant interest has as of yet materialized. Winks was rumored to Everton and Leicester weeks ago, but those links have somewhat dried up. There is seemingly an ever-longing transfer saga at the moment with Villarreal for Lo Celso. And for Ndombele, his hefty fees and contract through 2025 are huge reasons why Fabio Paratici is struggling to find a suitor for the talented Frenchman.
Regarding the £150m cash injection from earlier in the summer, I do understand that there is cause for concern over Spurs’ summer transfer business by some portion of Spurs supporters. This is largely due to Conte and his history of not committing to clubs long-term. With this being a plausible possibility, many would argue that Spurs should have spent more to bring in players of higher quality, especially in the areas where Spurs have the biggest question marks, to really go for it this season with Conte at the helm. But, we do need to be fair and acknowledge that Spurs’ early business in the window reflects a significant backing of Conte and his ambitions. The additions Tottenham have made appear to be exactly what Conte has been asking for.
In addition, while it looked like Spurs were in the running to make a huge splash by spending on either Bastoni or Gvardiol, unfortunately both players are still very young (especially at the center back position) and both likely wanted to continue their development at clubs/leagues they are more familiar with. Spurs were also in on Raphinha, now at Barcelona, and they have been linked in more-recent weeks to Memphis Depay in a swap deal with Sergio Reguilón. So again, it is not like Paratici has been sitting on his hands this summer.
Perhaps the £150m cash injection news gave Spurs’ supporters an unreasonable belief of how that money was going to be spent. As it stands, Spurs’ net spend in the summer window looks to be in the region of £55m. I will note that this spending excludes wages; therefore, free transfer acquisitions (Perišić, Forster) would not be included here. This math was performed by the following math and the values were taken directly from Transfermarkt:
Tottenham’s transfer window may not be living up to the huge expectations put it on it by supportesr when news of the £150m cash injection surfaced, but the truth is that no Spurs supporter can say at the moment that the squad/team is not better than the one that beat Norwich on May 18 to finish top four. And, no Spurs supporter can say the club is not in a better position today than it was a few months ago. Yes, there are still concerns about the squad going into the season, but the same sentiment can be said for nearly every team in club football bar a few.
A few weeks back, I wrote a piece on there being more and more signs pointing to Conte staying and committing to Spurs longer than many would expect. A few days ago ahead of the final preseason friendly against Roma, Conte said something that seems to support that theory.
“This is a young team and we can work for many years together to improve and fight with the best teams in England and in Europe.”
While Conte is a master manipulator and we should take his words with many grains of salt, there is still plenty of optimism for Spurs at the moment because 1) Levy is now in a position where he has to support both Conte and Paratici, and 2) Conte is surely aware that he has both the support of the fanbase and an excellent relationship with Paratici to really oversee this project and guide the way he wants. After years of faulty structure between the chairman and the manager – remember Mauricio Pochettino’s sentiment of him being more like a coach than a manager – Tottenham are finally in a place where they are moving in the right direction and the structure in place at the club looks more balanced.
As supporters, we need to remind ourselves that this window is being run by Paratici based on Conte’s needs and wants. Sure Paratici and his team of scouts are identifying players for the club, but it is Conte who signs off on every player who joins the club. Because of that, Conte and Spurs may end up being the perfect duo. While Conte has left prior appointments, sometimes abruptly, Conte’s departures his previous clubs over the years have been due to disagreements with boards and ownership groups. At Spurs, he is being given the keys to the entire kingdom. So as supporters, we have to trust that Conte and Paratici are moving this project forward. And while the club is still trying to move on some of the “deadwood” in the squad, there is a clear vision of what Conte is hoping and expecting in this squad for this season and into the future. There are still a few weeks left in the transfer window, so still plenty of time for Spurs to move on some players while potentially looking to bring in another player or two.
Despite joining in the middle of the season when Spurs seemed far away from a Champions League position, Conte was still able to muster out a promising finish out of last year’s group. With a full preseason and reinforcements brought into the squad, there should still be plenty of optimism with this project and where it is going. The phrase “trust the process” is extremely played out, but Spurs were one of the best teams in the league towards the tail end of last season. As the club continues to acclimate themselves to his vision, there is no reason why this transfer window should be seen as anything but a continued step in the right direction.
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