For the second consecutive season, it seems likely that Chelsea will arrive between Tottenham and the Premier League title. Chelsea came from 2-0 disadvantage in the stormy Battle of the Bridge last year and hand Leicester the title, even if their fans will be even more happy if they beat West Brom on Friday night to wrap up their title triumph.
Spurs can at least point to progress this season, after overcoming Arsenal in their passage from the third to the second. Have easily usurped their total of 70 points last season and edged closer towards winning their first title since 1961. This season came against a rampant Chelsea side – who are on course to win a record number of matches in a Premier League season, but the form of other teams, and can no longer be an excuse for the Spurs. Instead, they need to fill in the gaps of a team that should do much better next season in the Champions League, in order to do better in the summer transfer window is a must.
While Victor Wanyama has proved to be a successful acquisition, the recruitment of under Mauricio Little has been patchy. It is the one area of his management that could still be questioned. Former head of recruitment Paul Mitchell has a great influence in the identification of transfer targets, but Little insisted that his job title was changed from first team coach to manager last summer and he has always been involved in all aspects of the club.
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Little might be keen to distance himself from some purchases, but not least, the decision to spend £30m on Moussa Sissoko and £17m Vincent Jansson. While Dele Alli and Toby Alderweireld are arriving during Little kingdom, so also Federico Fazio, Benjamin Stambouli, Kevin Wimmer, Clinton Mua N Jie and Georges-Kévin N Koudou, none of which has had an impact.
Team depth will be crucial for the Spurs as they compete on multiple fronts next season, even if they are still short when it comes to a top-class wing. The void left by Gareth Bale was thought to be filled by the £26m signing Érik Lamela, even if he has lost most of this season with a hip injury. Link to Wilfried Zaha will persist, and, while that does not inspire great confidence, with some, has made a lot of progress this season and would be a significant upgrade on Moussa Sissoko.
Spurs had wanted to Zaha before they broke their transfer record for Sissoko, and while he can be frustrating at times, there is much more of a method to his game with the ball at the foot of the Cross, which is not so much a dribbler as a bulldozer. Zaha has also added to a final product that Sissoko can not match, scoring six goals this season, showing nine assists – a target only perfected at Spurs by the creator-in-chief Christian Eriksen.
Little values of physicality, so that the Ivory Coast international, measures the mold, while rumors of a move for Ross Barkley will continue to persist after Ronald Koeman has given him another ultimatum this week. Spurs’ apparent interest may seem strange, given that the players have at their disposal, with Eriksen very much the first choice No10. England has not yet been able to host Alli and Barkley in the same team, that might discourage Little, but Barkley’s ability to play from the right may appeal to the Tottenham.
Barkley was hit by a more important role this season, with five of its 12 goals in the contributions coming in 10 starts from the right side. The rating of 7.70 in these apparitions has been much better than his modest 7.00 rating from 20 starts in a central position, suggesting that it may develop into an effective inside forward.
Tottenham do not have a replacement for Harry Kane, who missed a decent chunk of this season through injury. There is the desire for Jansson to do well – it’s almost paternalistic – but Tottenham can’t afford to be too patient, if they want to take the next step. Spurs fans give new signings time to bed – and they were equally kind Roberto Soldado – but for all of Jansson’s commendable work rate, a return of a goal to open the game in 809 minutes of championship action is disastrous.
Strangely, the last piece of the puzzle for a side that already boasts the team’s best defense – assuming that their demand for full backs stay – may be another central defender. While Kane’s absence has no effect for their title tilt not to lose the nine matches he has lost and won six of them – they look vulnerable when Jan Vertonghen or Toby Alderweireld are missing. They played five games without Vertonghen this season and has won only two of them; they have played eight without Alderweireld and won only four.
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Convince a top-quality centre-back to come to the club to provide cover for Vertonghen and Alderweireld will be easier said than done. The two options most often mentioned are the Burnley Michael Keane and Hull’s Harry Maguire. Keane has tried a mature, very central, to forge a good partnership with Ben Mee in that it does not take drastic measures often. Keane has made just 0.8 tackles per game and committed only 0.4 fouls in the media; he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. It is not a coincidence that Keane and Mee the rank of the second level in the Premier League for the directed distances (176).
Maguire is the more bullish. He looks to press the opposition forward and has made more than twice as many tackles per game (1.8) Keane. Despite what seems to be a somewhat awkward style, he is good to come out from the back with the ball, unlike Vertonghen, and has completed the most dribbles of any center in the league this season (29). That may seem like a trivial statistic for a centre-half, but the Spurs need a player who can break past the opposition’s first line of defense, lure opponents out of their rigid structure and break them down.
Tottenham are unlikely to spend as much money as the club of Manchester or Arsenal this summer, but says more about the state of the other clubs that their lack of ambition. They already have the best defense in the league (having conceded only 23 goals in 35 games), physically imposing midfield, one of the most technically gifted players in the league in Eriksen, the best young player in the country in Alli, and a striker that has scored more than 20 goals in each of the last three Premier League seasons.
They are within touching distance of winning their first Premier League title, then you don’t need a particular summer in the transfer window. That you do not want to upset a strong team spirit with the signature big ego, even on the biggest wages, but, when they act in the transfer window, they need to invest their money more wisely than they have done in the last few seasons.
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