After finishing in the Premier League’s top 3 for the second time in as many seasons, Spurs look poised to once again challenge for the title next campaign. The vast majority of the starting XI have recently signed long-term contracts—making major summer departures unlikely—and the achievement of Champions League football for a consecutive season no doubt adds revenue to an already financially-sound club. While all these signs surely bode well for Spurs’ future, the question remains: how do they turn a team of nearly-men into title winners and break their Premier League era championship drought?
In an attempt to answer that not-so-simple question, I’ll break down Spurs’ flaws by position and detail on how to improve upon them. Be sure to take advantage of the community features here at our fancy new and redesigned Soccity site and let me know if you agree or disagree with my list in the comments section!
2016-2017 Flaw: Lack of consistency
How to fix it:
To be honest, the issue at goalkeeper is one that is quite difficult to fix. It’s not a personnel issue, as we are better stocked than most at that position with Lloris and Vorm. It’s not really a performance issue, since both of the aforementioned net-minders played pretty damn well last season. The simplest way to put it is that despite the relative brilliance of both our goalkeepers, our starter made crucial mistakes in big matches that could very well have cost us the title.
Lloris’ most notable howler came in our January match against City, where he rushed off his line only to completely miss the ball and allow Leroy Sane a tap-in. Had he not made that error, we’d have picked up 2 more points from that match and been even closer to Chelsea for the run-in. It’s tough to criticize Lloris for such rare moments of disappointment, but the fact is he got away with his recklessness on multiple occasions because his defense bailed him out. To play the sweeper-keeper role, you need awareness and sound judgment; and while Lloris possesses both, they deserted him at key moments last year and in a few instances led to dropped points. As a club captain, the Frenchman will no doubt need to improve on his consistency going into next season.
2016-2017 Flaw: Injuries
How to fix it:
This is another issue that is rather challenging to address, as it comes down to luck as much as anything over the course of a long campaign. Spurs’ defenders were among their most frequently-injured players, with Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Walker, and Rose all facing some time out of action. Rose in particular missed most of the last several months of the season, a run that included several key clashes.
When they’re fit, Spurs might have the best back four in the league. Their Belgian central defense duo anchors a backline that conceded the fewest goals overall last season and their English fullbacks made major contributions to the highest-scoring offense in the league when they played. My advice for next season? Rotate often against the lesser Premier League/European sides to ensure the starting defenders pick up as few knocks as possible. The more they play, the greater Spurs’ chances of lifting a trophy either domestically or on the continent.
2016-2017 Flaw: Lack of a Wide Plan B
How to fix it:
Sign. A. Proper. Winger. And no, Moussa Sissoko doesn’t count. Spurs’ midfield is something of an anomaly as it employs a multitude of central midfielders in wide roles to good effect. Both Eriksen and Dele are traditionally center-midfield players who managed to chip in with a boatload of goals last season despite often being deployed in the wider positions. Even Son, who had a career high year in 2016-17, was more known as a forward when he came to us than a true wide midfielder. That said, the South Korean more than proved himself as a viable wide option last season, so I’ll accept him as one player who can fulfill the winger role when needed. But truth be told, we badly need another true winger to provide a pace/wide threat in scenarios where our attack-through-the-center style breaks down.
Of our other available attacking midfield players, only N’Koudou is a genuine wide player and he doesn’t get that many minutes. When Lamela returns from his long-term injury it’ll be a boost, but he’s yet another player who prefers to come inside and make his mark down the middle. I have to assume that Sissoko will move on to another club this summer after an absolutely awful season, so the funds should be there to bring in a player to fill the role the Frenchman should have. In my mind, it has to be someone along the lines of a Reus/Costa/Bellarabi-type; the kind of player that keeps their width while offering a serious pace and distance shooting threat from the outside. Now, I don’t believe for a second we’ll get anyone that high-profile, but if Poch can take even an average wide player with speed and make him fit our system I think it would be a huge help when it comes to breaking down stubborn defenses.
2016-2017 Flaw: Human cloning hasn’t yet come far enough to make it possible to create a second Harry Kane
How to fix it:
Poor, poor Vincent Janssen. He had the better part of two months at the beginning of the year to make an impact in Kane’s absence, and despite an admirable effort he failed to do so. His performances were Soldado-esque; tons of effort and energy with little end product. Then Kane returned, relegating the unfortunate Dutchman back to the bench. And so it remained until the end of the season, with Janssen limited to cameo appearances once we were already up by 3 or 4 goals (Poch you savage) as Kane smashed his way to a second consecutive golden boot award.
On one hand, the Kane conundrum is a great problem to have. Our starting striker is more prolific than the likes of Aguero, Sanchez, and Lukaku, which is absolutely insane given the pedigree those three have. But with great reward comes great risk, and whenever Kane goes down injured Spurs look that little bit less dangerous. In a league where titles can be won or lost on the back of a mere 4-5 points each year, those dips in offensive output can prove all the difference. Luckily for Spurs last season, the midfield shouldered a pretty significant share of the goal-scoring burden and minimized the damage during periods when Kane couldn’t play. We can’t reasonably expect Dele, Son, and Eriksen to all put up double-figures each year, though. At some point, Kane needs a deputy (or partner) who can be relied on for at least 10-15 goals in all competitions.
Can Janssen really be that guy? 6 goals in 35 appearances across all competitions last season would seem to suggest otherwise. I believe, however, that Pochettino will give him another season to work things out. He’s still young, clearly understands and executes the high press, and by all accounts is a generally positive presence in the dressing room. He managed to score his first Premier League goal from open play late in the season as well, and it was evident how much of a weight that lifted off of him. So unless the player himself wants out and forces a summer move, I see him being a part of Pochettino’s plans as the Argentine devises a strategy to compete on multiple fronts again next season.
If Janssen goes, though, I’d like whoever is brought in as the replacement to be a bit different from Kane in terms of their key strengths and attributes. Kane has practically everything you need in a forward, but he’s not blessed with fantastic pace. A forward who could enter games late and really test tired defenses with his speed and dribbling would be a welcome addition, and may also prevent Kane from having to go the full 90 minutes on a consistent basis. The key here is that whoever is brought in should have enough experience and skill to be capable of making an impact while also being happy playing second-fiddle to the top dog at the club. A rare combination of attributes in a front-man for sure, but if anyone can dig such a player up it’s Pochettino.