Yesterday Tottenham Hotspur were able to stay afloat in the League Cup by beating Wolves by way of penalties. Whereas other Premier League sides had easier draws, Spurs had the exact opposite in a tricky away fixture against a side that has given Spurs problems in recent years.
Ahead of a massive north London derby on Sunday, Tottenham were forced into utilizing most of their likely starters in this game to get the result they needed to move onto the next round. It did not come back to bite them completely here, but Spurs’ lack of depth will inevitably be an issue as they look to compete in various tournaments in the club’s quest to win their first trophy since 2008.
Just a few weeks ago, Spurs sat atop of the Premier League table heading into the first international break. In that break, Spurs dealt with various COVID situations and injuries that ultimately led to one of the worst performances, among many, in the past few years when they lost to Crystal Palace 3-0 away. While Tottenham were able to get some of their players back for Wednesday’s cup tie against Wolves, the depth of this team is extremely concerning. Similar to the past few years, Tottenham will have to compete in the following competitions:
- 33 more Premier League games
- FA Cup
- League Cup
- UEFA Conference League group games + potential knockout ties
For a club that is so starved for silverware, Spurs do not have the luxury of punting on one of the competitions as a club like Manchester United or Liverpool have done in recent years. Given that Spurs should expect to have two matches a week at minimum for the foreseeable future, Tottenham better hope to have fortunate injury luck if they hope to be serious contenders in the competitions above.
Injuries to Steven Bergwijn, Giovani Lo Celso and Son Heung-min forced Spurs to shift their alignment in last weekend’s loss to Crystal Palace by moving Dele Alli into more of an attacking position and putting Harry Winks into the midfield alongside Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Oliver Skipp. The midfield ultimately added next to nothing and the team lacked an attacking threat all afternoon.
In Wednesday’s game against Wolves, Spurs were without Bergwijn and Lucas Moura and their wide options included Lo Celso, who has traditionally been used in more of a midfield role, Bryan Gil, who just transferred from Sevilla and is adjusting to the physicality of playing in England, and Son, who had just come back from injury.
In reality, Tottenham may have had some luck go their way in yesterday’s match-up. Fixture congestion is real, and the truth is that the most significant rigor of the schedule has yet to have been felt. Should Tottenham have yet another injury on their hands – say to Lo Celso, Son, or even Gil, it begs the question of what would they do? With only seven players on the bench in Wednesday’s game, six of which were outfielders, would they dare bring on Matt Doherty to play in a wide role? Would they change their system? These are glaring concerns that could easily be felt if their injury luck goes bad.
We all want Tottenham to play in an attacking style that enables them to get the best out of the deadly finishing duo in Kane and Son. We all want Tanguy Ndombele to come good and play at a high level of form. We all want this team to grind out difficult 1-0 defeats where needed and put to bed lower-level quality of competition when possible. But the construction of this team and the worries burrowed underneath may reap their ugly heads.
When we look at at other ‘big’ clubs, the long and short is that Spurs just do not have the roster depth that say Chelsea or even Manchester United have. Should Marcus Rashford go down with injury, United could insert the likes of Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial or even Jesse Lingard out wide. If Harry Kane were to go down, Tottenham’s only recognizable striker in the squad is 17-year-old Dane Scarlett.
The harsh reality is that Spurs are actually a bit less deep than they were last season. In 2020-21, at least Tottenham had Carlos Vinícius and Gareth Bale to turn to when Kane needed a breather. Vinícius was the club’s leading scorer in their Europa League campaign and scored 10 goals in all competitions. It is and has been no secret that Spurs’ lack of goal output outside of Kane and Son is concerning, and it is completely unfair to expect Scarlett to replace Vinícius and Ryan Sessegnon (yeah, remember him?) to replace Bale.
I have my hopes that Fabio Paratici will continue to improve this squad going forward, but my assessment is that while Spurs had a decently-productive summer, it was not enough and the schedule constraints could and likely will inevitably highlight that fact. To me, Tottenham’s refresh in the summer has left me with the feeling of ‘well we’re rebuilding but we still feel like we have enough to win a trophy’ mindset.
As it stands, Spurs’ mistakes in the transfer market in recent years have had a domino effect and it has ultimately led the club into the predicament that they currently find themselves. Tottenham’s on-field production has certainly not matched their potential. With a little bit of luck, perhaps Tottenham’s fortune could change but the stark reality is that the club, in comparison to the teams that they have competed with and against in recent years, feels further away from where they should be.
Follow me on Twitter @RyanSRatty.