With a new stadium to pay for, and with arguably one of the best starting lineups in the league when everyone’s fit, it seems unlikely that there’ll be excessive spending at Spurs in the January window. But big clubs constantly need to improve, and Spurs will be looking to take advantage of their domestic position to attract one or two gems. Josh Brown and Tom Dowsett discuss further:
JB: First and foremost, are there any deficiencies in the current squad that Mauricio Pochettino will be looking to fill?
TD: Every squad can be improved, and Spurs are no exception. Backups in key positions will be the focus, with a creative midfielder to deputise under Christian Eriksen the primary aim. Arguments could also be made for the need of a versatile player as another option in both attacking midfield and up front, while the lack of depth in central midfield when Mousa Dembele isn’t fit—as has been the case fairly often this year—could be an issue. However, I think Harry Winks is more than capable of stepping up in the Belgian’s absence as he has done so far this season; the youngster’s passing ability and understanding of the game demonstrate a maturity well beyond his years.
One potential concern for Tottenham is Kevin Wimmer’s apparent dissatisfaction with his lack of game time, with reports saying that he could be looking to move on. Finding a young, quick, left-footed centre-back who is comfortable on the ball and also happy with a place on the bench behind the seldom-rotated Jan Vertonghen presents a serious challenge to the club’s scouting team, which will be under pressure to find the right player in an inflated January market.
JB: Tom has hit the nail on the head there. Spurs won’t be bringing in any big signings in January, and certainly nobody that will jump straight into the first team. Harry Winks is an outrageous talent at the club and certainly one that will benefit from added game time, though I’m unsure as to how well he’ll be able to fill the gap left by Mousa Dembele, who was rated as the best box-to-box midfielder in the world last year. Kevin Wimmer’s reported unhappiness must be a cause for concern, though I can’t see the Austrian leaving the club permanently in January; while not Pochettino’s typical style, a loan to another Premier League club to guarantee minutes would probably be the most beneficial for all parties.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if Spurs look at bringing in a young right-back to cover for Kieran Trippier’s probable departure in the summer, though Kyle Walker-Peters’ rapid development could mean he’s set to deputise should Trippier leave. Spurs have generally scouted sensibly in January in the past two seasons, purchasing Dele Alli and coming close to tying down Frenchman Moussa Dembele—now at Celtic—at low costs. Hopefully this trend continues.
TD: With financial restrictions facing the club, will Tottenham be able to compete for the top four—let alone the title—without significantly strengthening in this window, as other sides around them are likely to do?
JB: Well, with everyone fit, Spurs can go toe-to-toe with every team in the league. The issue is keeping everyone fit and in good condition, which will only prove more challenging as the season wears on and Spurs are tied down by cup competitions, both domestically and on the European stage. It’s impossible for the current squad to fight on three different fronts this season, given the lack of depth, though extraordinary luck in FA Cup ties could make this strain easier to bear. If this luck isn’t forthcoming, then Pochettino will have to bomb out of at least one competition to really compete in the league.
What’s more encouraging relative to other clubs is that Spurs are one of the few sides who are still improving, though they’ve also found consistency in the past month with six consecutive wins. Combine this with an undeniable difference in quality with teams sitting lower on the table (meaning resting players are less likely to affect results), and Spurs look like one of the strongest teams on paper. So, I fully expect the squad to be challenging for the top four come the end of the season—even if they don’t sign anyone in January—and with the right players coming in, they could well be in with a shout for the title. As it stands, however, they are an injury to Harry Kane away from having to give up dreams of the league title.
Perhaps the larger concern is that with a new stadium to pay for, and a remarkably strict wage structure, Spurs will be behind their big-spending rivals for the foreseeable future. This makes sensible scouting all the more important; Spurs must look for value in a transfer market that values Christian Benteke at £30m. The inflated prices that Premier League clubs pay for players isn’t anything new, but it’s certainly something that the North London outfit will have to contend with. The new stadium, and Mauricio Pochettino’s project, will attract players, but convincing clubs to let them go will—I expect—proves a huge hurdle. Spurs mightn’t be able to match the extortionate fees paid out by their main rivals in Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool, so must look for ways to get the most out of their money with astute purchases similar to Toby Alderweireld, Dele Alli and Victor Wanyama. We don’t need another Moussa Sissoko.
TD: Josh has made a few very good points there—value is the name of the game when it comes to Tottenham Hotspur not just in this window, but also for the next few years as the stadium is built. The key to understanding the January window is—as Josh mentioned—the parity between the top teams. There is a clear group of six clubs challenging for the title; I think credit is owed to the Tottenham’s recruitment team, as well as Pochettino and his management team, that Spurs have managed to achieve such performances on a comparatively low budget, even when we include the odd expensive transfer failure. The question is whether Spurs can continue to challenge with this ‘Big Six’ over the next few years of financial austerity; persistent qualification to the Champions League is crucial, not just with the added income but also as a transfer bargaining tool.
JB: It’s all very well discussing what Spurs need and how they might be able to achieve it, but questions remain, as ever, over who the Lilywhites will go for. So, which players would you like Spurs to target in the rest of the window?
JB: The prospect of signing Nicolas Gaitan on loan from Atletico Madrid has been the only rumour so far to really pique my interest. The Argentine would match up with fellow countrymen Erik Lamela and Mauricio Pochettino, and—provided that he’s fit enough to fit into the high-energy pressing that has characterised Pochettino’s sides in his relatively short managerial career—would give Spurs an extra dimension in the final third.
Gaitan is blessed with great vision and the ability to pick a pass, making him an ideal replacement of sorts for Christian Eriksen. Gaitan’s experience on either wing would also provide Spurs with another wing option. A loan deal seems perfect to see if the Argentine is suited to the Premier League and Spurs’ own style of play, though would be very difficult to achieve—Atletico are unlikely to let any of their first team members depart as they’re currently under a transfer embargo, and can’t bring replacements in.
Elsewhere, another Argentine—Sebastien Driussi, of River Plate—is said to interest Pochettino, and it makes sense to bring in another striker in light of Vincent Janssen’s poor form. The 20-year-old striker, whose only experiences of senior football have been in the Argentine Primera Division, would definitely be a gamble. However, this may be a gamble that could benefit Spurs in the long run, especially with the talented Shayon Harrison waiting in the club’s academy should the transfer go horribly wrong. What’s refreshing from a Spurs perspective is that not signing anyone in this window would sit fairly comfortably with me—not something I’ve said often!
TD: The question of who Spurs should sign is a much more difficult one to answer now than it has been in recent years; such is the current quality of the squad. Pochettino must now cherry-pick the players he wants to bring in, and Levy must back his manager in the market.
Previous interest shown in Saido Berahino was rebuffed publicly by West Brom chairman Jeremy Pearce, though with Berahino’s situation as it is, I would be open to the possibility of buying him now on the cheap. The youngster clearly has immense potential—he scored 20 goals in the 45 games he played in the 2014/15 season—though he has been less than fantastic since then. If some kind of agreement could be made to lure Berahino to the club, either for a reduced fee now or on a Bosman in the summer, then he could well be a valuable addition to the squad.
Berahino’s goal-scoring ability from central positions could be of greater benefit than the currently subpar Vincent Janssen, while he is also no stranger to playing behind the striker in wider positions and could be useful in covering for the likes of Erik Lamela. With first team appearances for West Brom being limited so far this season, Berahino won’t be fit enough to play the high-intensity game that Pochettino demands. But with much being made of the Argentine’s ability to get the very best out of young talent, Hotspur Way may well be the best place for the 23-year-old to revitalise his career. Of course, Spurs will have to act early—rumoured interest from Stoke City may be enough for Berahino to leave West Brom—but a move looks very doable.