Opinion: Tottenham and the need for a first 22

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Antonio Conte
Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

October 1 (Premier League), October 4/5 (Champions League), October 8 (PL), October 11/12 (CL), Oct 15(PL), Oct 19 (PL), Oct 22 (PL), Oct 25/26 (CL), Oct 29(PL), Nov 1/2 (CL), Nov 5 (PL), Nov 8/9 (Carabao Cup), Nov 12 (PL). Then the World Cup.

OK, the point may be slightly laboured, but that is one of the crazy runs of fixtures that Tottenham face this upcoming season. It is a season like none in the history of football and we, as fans, need to adjust our mind-set accordingly.

This is a ‘world’s not flat moment’ for teams in the Premier League, the season where moving away from numbering players 1-11 has never been more justified.

Just imagine asking any single outfield player to play all those matches; it would just not be possible. And that is what supporters have to understand and even embrace when clubs are making decisions on signings and sales this summer.

It is clear from the initial recruitment from Fabio Paratici and Antonio Conte that this thought process is very much at the forefront of their minds. Ivan Perisic was chosen as the player to strengthen the left-wing back position, but his overall versatility could prove just as important. Perisic can play multiple positions and it will be no surprise to see him as one of the front 3 at various points during the season.

Ivan Perisic
(Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

In previous years, a central midfield pool that already contains Bentancur, Hojbjerg and Skipp may not have been considered a priority to upgrade. The arrival of Yves Bissouma, however, allows a fully-fit squad to properly rotate during busy periods without significantly impacting the quality on the pitch. With fixtures so close to one another, a one-month injury could suddenly mean a player misses 10 matches and, with complete respect to Harry Winks, Spurs had to ensure that any enforced changes in this position did not mean significantly weakening the team.

One of the key focuses now is in the forward positions and this seems to be where Spurs fans are wrestling most with when deciding who should be signed. Let’s be clear, it is extremely unlikely that a player will immediately come in and replace our favoured triumvirate of Deki, Son and Kane. This does not mean, however, that the position cannot be strengthened by a player that may not start the first match of the season.

Raphinha
(Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)

Twitter and Tottenham forums are currently full of debates around players like Raphinha and Richarlison, citing the fact that they would not improve the starting XI so should not be signed for a large portion of the summer budget.

Richarlison, in particular, seems to be dividing opinion. This is a player that can play all the positions across the front 3. A player that has been the catalyst to save a struggling Premier League team, at times dragging them single-handedly through matches. A Brazilian international. Someone who can cover and, at times, allow Harry Kane his first rest since about 2015. He would be a fantastic signing and this would not change just because that lot down the road have signed some players that may embolden them to not avoid any matches this season.

The quality of the teams not in the Champions League also needs to be considered when building a squad that will be able to compete on all fronts this season. West Ham, Man United and Arsenal will all be able to use their mid-week fixtures to heavily rotate their squads, whilst a wedged Newcastle, injury-free Leicester and improving Aston Villa will all have designs on fighting for European places with greater rest periods than the teams in Europe.

We all want to be in the Champions League, but being in it will be especially difficult this season and re-enforce the need to have as many quality players in the squad as possible this season. Let’s not be worried if a defender signs that plays as a right or central centre-back because we have Romero and Dier, let’s be glad that the club are finally realising that you cannot rely on players that wouldn’t be wanted by other top half Premier League teams. Blagging simply isn’t possible any longer.

It is widely reported that Antonio Conte had little to no faith in the majority of players not in his starting XI this season. That he looked at his bench and looked back at his tiring team and thought changing it wouldn’t improve things (Evening Standard). With the advent of 5 subs this season, Spurs finally seem to be trying to create a squad with options. A squad that Conte can trust.

It is up to us as fans now to judge players on whether they are good enough for a first 22 rather than a first XI. There are still people out there who think the world is flat despite the evidence; let’s not be those people. Let’s embrace change and trust Paratici and Conte to give us the best opportunity to excel next season. Because it’s going to be a crazy one.

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