Opinion: The five most important players to this current Tottenham squad

Over the past season Tottenham, like any club have experienced moments of struggle in regard to their squad quality, due to injuries occurring to important players.

The most notable injuries so far in the Antonio Conte era would have to be Romero, who had a hamstring injury that occurred in November of 2021 and therefore missed 16 games due to the issue (TransferMarkt).

Matthew Doherty was also another notable miss as he was ruled out for the season with a ‘medical collateral ligament injury’ (Sky Sports) an injury that has even bled into this season.

Antonio Conte explained that ‘Matthew that had serious injury and I said in the past he is struggling a bit to come back as the player I knew last season’ (Talk Sport), suggesting a possible explanation to why Brazilian Emerson Royal has started every league game this season ahead of Doherty.

The injury at the time seemed to be a huge blow to Tottenham’s top four hopes as Doherty was playing well as he was put back in his ideal position of a right-wing back and had 2 goals and 4 assists (Premier League) before his unfortunate injury against Aston Villa which saw Emerson Royal called upon.

However, it may not be the actual injuries that had the biggest effect on Tottenham last season, it was the absence of injury to Harry Kane that had the biggest effect. It was Kane’s first ‘injury-free’ season since the 2015/2016 season.

However, Tottenham are now well-underway with the 2022/2023 season and reliance on certain players has shifted with Antonio Conte starting the season in charge it means that certain players may start to become more and more vital to his system.

With this in mind here are my five Tottenham players that would cause the team’s performances the biggest damage if they were to pick up an injury, and how they could fix the problems these injuries would open up.

5 – Hojbjerg

Hojbjerg may be a player that seems to divide opinion amongst Tottenham fans, but especially at the moment, if Hojbjerg was to get injured the Tottenham team would lack his presence.

Since the arrival of Rodrigo Bentancur, he and the Dane have started the majority of the games as the midfield two.

The fact that Hojbjerg has almost been an ever-present in the Spurs team isn’t the only reason that he’s on this list, there are also numbers to suggest that should Hojbjerg become unavailable for Spurs they would lose an attacking edge in the middle of the park.

Manager Antonio Conte has explicitly stated how he believes Bissouma is currently ‘a step behind Bentancur and Hojbjerg’ and that he ‘needs to work, go totally into the idea of football’ (Football.London).

Suggesting that perhaps why Bissouma has only started one Premier League game so far (due to Bentancur picking up a knock against Nottingham Forest).

Hojbjerg’s creative ability perhaps goes under the radar amongst fans as he has averaged 1.3 key passes per game this season, which is double Bentancur’s average (SofaScore).

The stats suggest that despite Bentancur being a little more secure on the ball and better at driving it forward, Hojbjerg fulfils a special role in Conte’s set up of being the player in midfield to link defence to attack.

You could perhaps make-up for Hojbjerg’s creativity if he became injured by switching to a 3-5-2 and playing three midfielders, perhaps Bentancur, Bissouma and Skipp so that the passing duties are spread out amongst the three; however, it would be a big risk for Conte to take and a lot of change for the squad to adapt to.

4 – Dier

It’s fair to say that two years ago fans would have groaned at a team sheet when they saw that Jose Mourinho had named Dier in his eleven. But fast forward a year and Dier had started impressively in a very poor Tottenham team under Nuno, his impressive start to the season continued with Conte at the reigns as Dier became almost un-droppable.

He performed very well in the middle of a back three as it felt like Dier had the security of two other centre-backs for him to defend strongly whilst it also allows him to play a long ball forward, something that perhaps derives from his days as a defensive midfielder.

For these reasons I’ve put Dier as fifth on this list; there’s also proof that Tottenham miss Dier in the heart of the defence as Tottenham lost to Wolves (2-0) and Southampton (3-2) at home last season when he was out with a ‘thigh issue’ (The Athletic).

It’s also hard to imagine how Dier would be replaced as a central centre-back in this Tottenham team with his ideal replacement, Joe Rodon, being currently out on loan.

It’s difficult to imagine Lenglet stepping into the centre of this back three when he’s only just got his foot in the left-sided centre back position. Romero seems too rash and dangerous, with the same applicable for Davinson Sanchez it only leaves Japhet Tanganga who is surely too inexperienced and unproven for such a huge role in Antonio Conte’s team.

3 – Romero

Cristian Romero instantly impressed at Tottenham since he joined, initially on a loan deal, last season and has continued to be impressive ever since with his crunching challenges and imposing physicality improving Tottenham’s defence last season, when he was fit.

Romero hasn’t been fit as frequently as everyone surrounding Tottenham may have liked, the Argentine defender has missed 25 games across the past two seasons (TransferMarkt), with Davinson Sanchez often being the man coming into to deputy for him.

Although Sanchez put in some impressive displays, especially towards the end of last season when Tottenham had their sprint finish left for the top four, but most Spurs fans are more than aware of Davinson’s tendencies of switching off or pulling the rest of the team into a moment of danger.

What do Tottenham miss most though when Romero isn’t available? Well, Romero is a lot more pro-active without the ball and aggressive in possession than Davinson Sanchez, Romero may only average 0.1 progressive passes per 90 more than Sanchez but it’s his work off the ball that stands out.

Romero averages 14.84 pressures per 90 (FBRef), whereas Sanchez only averages 10.18 (FBRef), this shows that Romero likes to press his opponent and win back the ball early rather than holding his position, giving his opposing player time.

When Romero’s successfully executes this press it results in a turnover in possession and often a counterattack, something which Conte’s Tottenham team have become reliant on and are lethal at doing.

It’s hard to compensate for Romero when he is injured as his game is so specific and can’t really be matched by anyone else, but if you were to try and make up for Romero’s aggressive defending and pressing ability then maybe you would give Djed Spence a chance a wing-back as he could try and utilise his pace when winning the ball to cause a counterattack.

2 – Lloris

Tottenham’s captain is my number two on the list, the Frenchman has been an incredible servant for the club and puts in great goalkeeping performances every week.

Despite the Frenchman not being the most modern goalkeeper due to his slight discomfort on the ball and lack of accurate distribution with his feet it’s undeniable that Hugo is still one of the best shot-stoppers around.

His presence in the Tottenham net is also an undervalued aspect of his game, the 35-year-old has plenty of experience and is even a World Cup winner. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Tottenham fans will be having sleepless nights about Lloris’ fitness ahead of their busy upcoming fixture list.

Although Tottenham did buy a new back-up goalkeeper this season in Fraser Forster it’s still a big drop-off from Lloris’ level.

These reasons aren’t the only points that make Lloris number two on this list, it’s also the fact that changing goalkeepers can be such a risk, even if it’s for the short term.

Lloris has had the benefit of rhythm and consistency for most the time that he’s been at Tottenham, which is why we rarely see the Frenchman look unsettled or make a comedy of errors.

An array of big clubs have tried to toy around with their goalkeepers over the years: for example, Chelsea paid a world-record fee of £72 million for Kepa Arrizabalaga (Mirror), all for the Spaniard to be ultimately underwhelming and find himself dropped within a couple of seasons. Liverpool struggled with Karius and even Man City struggled with Claudio Bravo before landing upon Ederson.

As you can see changing keepers, especially for big clubs with lots of pressure, is a big deal and often can end miserably; therefore, Spurs will be hoping that Lloris continues to defy his age and stay a constant fixture in this Tottenham team.

1 – Kane

Who else? Harry Kane is now, as he always has been, vital to this Tottenham team. It’s crazy to think that a little over a year ago Kane was trying to push his way into getting a move to Man City, now there are talks of a new contract for the striker (Football.London) and he seems to be happier than ever at N17.

Kane’s way of playing has kept evolving throughout the years, in 2020-2021 Kane was dropping extremely deep to link up play under Jose Mourinho, allowing him to grab the Golden Playmaker award as well as the Golden Boot that season.

Kane is still dropping deep and using his passing ability to its full capabilities for Spurs but is now seemingly not as deep and is making sure he can be on the end of Tottenham’s attacks, not just creating them.

Kane already has seven goals and assists to his name this Premier League season (Premier League) and is proving that under Conte he can be a real threat.

Kane obviously is far from being an injury-free player and in the past has struggled often with ankle injuries, suffering with five of the kind across 3 years (Evening Standard).

However, more recently Kane has seemed to be coping better with the number of games he’s played and hasn’t sustained an injury since April of last year, likely due to the ‘new personal physiotherapist’ that the England captain has hired to help his injury worries (Evening Standard).

Due to Kane’s unique style of play it makes it very hard to replace him in this Tottenham side, even though Spurs forked out £50 million for Richarlison (The Guardian) he is still a drop in quality from Kane and would undoubtedly cause a shift in the way that Tottenham play.

An honourable mention:

Heung-Min Son: If the South Korean had started the season at the same incredible levels to which he ended last season with then he would undoubtedly find himself on this list.

Nevertheless, Son has started the season slowly, barring his mesmerising hat-trick against Leicester, and it’s still yet to be seen how long it will take Son to fully get back to his best across a 90-minute period.

Son also seems to be a player that could be compensated for if he did sustain an injury as Richarlison has looked extremely lively when he’s featured as well as Dejan Kulusevski, Tottenham may no longer have an out-and-out reliance on Son to be scoring.

Plus, it seems illogical to include Son in a list of players that Tottenham would miss if they were injured when many fans were calling for Son to be dropped from the starting eleven just a matter of weeks ago.

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