Another Tottenham Hotspur new era beckons, with another manager axed and new man in the hot seat. Spurs are a team in transition once again, which all started with the departure of Mauricio Pochettino. He came so close to achieving glory that it shattered the squad in the process.
Many of the 2016/7 squad that were famously undefeated at White Hart Lane have moved on to new challenges. Only a handful remain. The rest of the squad has been filled with less than convincing replacements. This article explores four players that Tottenham should build around going forward. With Antonio Conte now at the helm, life as a Spurs fan is more exciting than a high stakes live casino draw with plenty to be positive about.
Four Core Spurs Players That Can Take Club to Next Level
Tottenham Hotspur New Era Beckons Under Conte
A centre-back vacuum occurred when Jan Vertonghen and then Toby Alderweireld left Spurs after years of impeccable service. The likes of Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier have tried to fill the boots of the Belgians but they can’t quite cut it. They are both error-prone and lack the consistency to perform at the highest levels.
But since Cristian Romero entered the fold, Spurs have at least looked a little stronger in defence. He can play out from the back and read the game just as Vertonghen and Alderweireld did.
Against West Ham United he came to blows with Pablo Fornals. After he took Fornals down, he stooped to have the last word. Spurs fans may never know what he said to Fornals but the travelling fans loved the fierce display from the centre-back. He showed that he really does have the fire and the aggression when it is needed the most in derby matches.
Romero is the start of a new defence but he still needs another high-quality partner. Dier is having a more consistent spell alongside Romero. But it feels a little reminiscent of Ledley King propping up an otherwise unstable defence.
Another defender to build around is Emerson Royal. He is another new signing that is quickly fitting in well at the club. Tottenham have not had a top-performing right-back since Kyle Walker and even he had his days. Royal brings a combination of speed and physicality, great for defending but also for bombing forward. His final ball is also top-notch, he just needs Harry Kane to stop brooding over his inevitable move and to start knocking his crosses into the net.
Royal has been showing some great flashes around the edge of the box on the attack. He possesses great ball control and isn’t afraid to cut inside or beat his man on the outside. Sometimes wingbacks feel a little predictable but Royal brings a good kind of chaos when attacking rather than when defending.
Son has always stepped up in Kane’s absence and now he is becoming the club’s poster boy. And rightfully so. Son is a phenomenal attacker with two great feet and the ability to carve out chances by himself and also bring his teammates into the game. In 206 Premier League appearances he has scored 74 goals and notched 40 assists.
At 29, Son really is hitting his peak but keeps going from strength to strength – having scored his biggest league goal tally last season (17). Following in the footsteps of his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo, Son does have similar features to his game (his immense dribbling ability and his eye for goal) and will hopefully emulate Ronaldo’s longevity.
It does feel odd to leave out Kane from this core to build around. After all, he links up so beautifully with Son. Fabio Paratici will have to recruit an alternative that allows Son to flourish and score freely without his English counterpart.
A key to the puzzle of life after Kane could be in the magic feet of Tanguy Ndombele. He has frustrated fans and managers alike since his arrival in North London. His bumper £60m deal has not seen such an eye-watering return. But the Frenchman has given teasing glimpses into his fantastic ability on the ball. But successive managers in Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo have been unable to get the best out of him. He seems to play better with more freedom.
Ndombele said: “Of course, I always feel good when I’m playing with freedom out on the pitch,”
“At the end of the day though, I’m a player that can adapt to different positions. I’ve played as the number six, closer to the defence, or if I’m playing the number eight role or the number 10, I’m always able to adapt to those different positions.
Brilliant players can adapt to play in different positions, and Ndombele can be that versatile figure in midfield for Spurs. When he joined the club, fans hailed him as similar to Mousa Dembele not in name, but in playing style.
Like Dembele, Ndombele can carry the ball forward with ease. He’s not shy of a tackle, although he initially struggled with the Premier League’s physicality. What Ndombele has that Dembele rarely showed in his later years at Spurs was the ability to play higher up the pitch and to drive into the box and score goals (Ndombele, 103 Premier League appearances, 12 goals, Dembele 304, 14).
Spurs can still get a great return from the Frenchman. But he needs the freedom to operate. This means Paratici must recruit some ball winners and more disciplined midfielders to allow Ndombele to get creative.
Pochettino brought a glimmer of hope to Tottenham fans that the club could finally achieve something. They came so close, but now it feels as if the ‘painful rebuild’ he warned fans about needs to be started in earnest with a firesale. The frustrating part is that there are some top players at the club, and the likes of Romero, Royal, Son and Ndombele can play a key role in establishing a new, successful Tottenham squad.