The tabloid screeching regarding Spurs in this month’s transfer window is in full throat—a “clearout” of many of the Magnificent Seven, an exodus, an overhaul are the terms employed. Really? For a team that just drew and won against two of the four teams ahead of it in the table? That has not lost in their last six league fixtures? That has just played its most dynamic 90 minutes of football—against the leaders—in perhaps three seasons?
Calm down, folks. Let’s look at this with a bit more clinical approach. If one assumes that Spurs advance one further round in all three cup competitions, but no further, that would still mean 27 more games between now and the middle of May—added to the 31 Spurs have played in the first half of the season. A bit of Europa and/or FA good fortune and could easily result in another 31 more. In the first 31 games, due to injury and some rotation changes by Mauricio Pochettino, no fewer than 23 players have appeared in at least 10 games—and that doesn’t count our #2 keeper (Vorm) nor our current starting right back (Walker). The simple fact is that a squad of 23-25 players is necessary to handle the demands of four separate competitions and the inevitability of injury. And soon, and for a month we will be missing the presence of Nabil Bentaleb to the African Cup of Nations.
So if players leave, there must be sufficient bodies remaining. As of now, the only confirmed addition to the squad is DeAndre Yedlin, though he is joining a group of three other right backs, or at least until Eric Dier is reclassified as a center back as opposed to a fullback. Let’s take the three major outfield areas one by one (since, contrary to various unfounded rumours, Hugo Lloris is going nowhere for now).
Poch has found his pairing for the center in Fazio and Vertonghen. Younis Kaboul, Eric Dier and Vlad Chiriches are back-ups— could Chiriches be expendable since he is certainly no longer needed at right back? On the left Rose and Davies form an improving duo. I suspect the manager rather likes the competition he has spawned—Rose responded to being left out of the lineup for a stretch with perhaps his best overall performance in a Spurs kit on Sunday. On the right, Walker is obviously top of the group and Kyle Naughton most likely to be transferred with Yedlin, Dier and Chiriches ready for rotation. But what would Poch do if either Fazio or Vertonghen suffered a serious injury? Can he trust his captain to fill in exclusively, and if so, is Dier—so young– an acceptable sub then? I suspect our Romanian may be with us for the remainder of the year—let’s not forget it was his clearance that saved the United game. I would think if Yedlin impresses in training that Dier could be a candidate for a loan spell—but again we would be taking a risk in central defence by doing so.
Given the impending loss of Bentaleb for much of January and at least part of February, the trio of Ryan Mason, Benjamin Stambouli and Mousa Dembele are going nowhere. Poch likes to play a 4-2-3-1 and with Kane’s star turn, he is now able to set that formation pretty much every game. Lately Paulinho has been employed as a late substitute, but one certainly would think this has been as much to advertise his skills to a Brazilian club that might wish for his return. The other question revolves around Etienne Capoue, who has not seen the turf since the Stoke game in early November after starting a dozen times. It is pretty obvious that Poch has soured on the Frenchman, yet some metrics such as Who Scored.com rate him more highly than any of his holding midfield teammates. The disappointments and, we can only theorize, the internal problems of Capoue’s play the past season and a half have probably lessened his market value—but for now he seems like an afterthought within the current squad. Ryan Mason’s calf injury may afford him one more opportunity to play the next couple of weeks—and I suppose he and Dembele could be rotated into games depending on the needs of the moment—Belgian for aggression; French for protection. Fairly or not, he has fallen behind not only the two academy graduates but also Stambouli and Dembele and maybe even Paulinho.
On the wings, it is pretty apparent that Chadli, Lamela and Townsend are all favored by Pochettino. Despite missing the Chelsea game, Erik Lamela has played in more games—27—than anyone else on the team. Nacer Chadli was a revelation on Sunday, and Andros Townsend has put two solid games together for the first time since early last season. Having seen him play for the USA national team and the Seattle Sounders, I can report that while he is technically a back, DeAndre Yedlin has the pace and the mentality to play on the right wing, whether an overlapping defender or not. I suspect this is one area where Pochettino, Baldini and Levy would gladly pocket the money from an Aaron Lennon transfer to be used to shore up the defence or even to purchase another striker should Soldado depart. Lennon is simply not the player he once was—he has started only three games of the last fifteen and not played at all for three weeks so I would think Poch has observed his weaker form in training. Obviously Christian Eriksen—our best all-around player—is set—we can only hope he remains healthy for another four and a half months.
We have our top striker, of course—but even in his current Superman cape, Harry Kane cannot play every game. Burnley Monday will present Pochettino with an interesting decision—there is ample time to recover before a Saturday journey across the Thames to Selhurst Park—but wouldn’t this be a good time to keep Kane on the bench and allow either Soldado or Adebayor one more chance to sparkle? And perhaps showcase one or both for a club fingering their checkbook? (Though I wonder just how much value Ade possesses these days) Yet I cannot see the logic of letting one go without another player coming back in return from somewhere. The risk of facing a February-May busy schedule with but two strikers would seem to be unnecessary. The real question is whether Poch is now confident enough in Kane to keep the status quo—presuming Adebayor’s head and spirit are still present and accounted for—on the theory, in the American vernacular, that “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Surely Soldado could still depart for warmer climes in the summer and be none the sadder and Spurs could have more freedom to find a striker that could supplement Kane for the longer-term then as well.
My fix? Jettison Naughton and some combination of Paulinho, Lennon and Capoue. Keep the three strikers and use the money to purchase, if possible, both a) a solid central defender and b) an attacking midfielder to spell Eriksen. If we lose 3 players, we would still have the following:
Goalkeepers (2): Lloris, Vorm
Defenders (9): Walker, Fazio, Vertonghen, Davies, Rose, Dier, Chiriches, Kaboul, Yedlin
Midfielders (9): Bentaleb, Mason, Dembele, Stambouli, (Capoue or Paulinho), Eriksen, Chadli, Townsend, Lamela
Forwards (3): Kane, Soldado, Adebayor
Add a central defender and an attacking midfielder and there’s our squad of 25 to take on the world. And maybe finish Top Four, or go deep in a Europa run, or win the League Cup or FA cup at Wembley. Or all of the above if the “Harry-Kane” keeps blowing. I think our manager rather likes his squad but understands he can still bolster it in a couple of key areas—my guess is Bobby will keep soldiering on and Ade may salute yet again at the Lane.
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