Tottenham Hotspur Season Preview: the new lane

With the 2018-19 Premier League season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to Tottenham Hotspur fan Anna (@annaxysports) from YouTube channel Spurs XY.

It feels as though Tottenham hold two main ideals: to develop untapped potential and to become part of English football’s elite. Can the club stay true to both?

We have a manager who enjoys developing young talent, or untapped potential, and we have been very successful in this during the last few seasons. At the same time the construction of the new stadium is testament to the desire to be competitive with the top teams in England. I think we can stay true to both ideals, especially as the increased revenue stream from the new stadium will not immediately translate to greater spending power. Ultimately it is my personal view that we will continue on this upward track as long as Pochettino remains as manager.

You move into your new stadium in September. Does the fact it’s named the ‘Tottenham Hotspur Stadium’ rather than after a sponsor help you keep that sense of identity?

For most Spurs fans the stadium will always be known as “The Lane”. The fact that the new stadium has been developed virtually on the footprint of the old White Hart Lane only further enhances that identity. I am sure we will get a naming right sponsor in due course and the delay may be due to sponsors waiting to see the NFL link up in action, as well as the club’s desire to attract a deal that properly reflects the “state of the art” nature of the new stadium.

Equally, you’ve not signed any players so far this summer. Has the complications over the stadium move disrupted the recruitment process?

It would be easy to use the stadium project as an excuse for lack of activity in the transfer market but this has always been our way of doing business. We don’t have the backing of oil rich states and have always tended to do our business after the fat cats have feasted. The club have been at pains to say that adequate funds will be made available for transfers, even though we can probably only expect a nominal net spend. I suspect that we have been very active behind the scenes but are probably working to release certain players prior to bringing in new recruits.

Captain Hugo Lloris won the World Cup with France this summer. Is this a sign of the club’s growing stature within the footballing world?

Obviously, it was great to see Hugo lift the World Cup, but the fact that we had 9 first team players involved in the semi-finals is, I think, a greater indication of the club’s growing international stature.

Kieran Trippier won plenty of plaudits for his performances for England in Russia. What he perhaps lacks in pace, do you feel he makes up for in intelligence and quality of delivery?

In a word, yes. Kieran Trippier is probably the most improved player at the club over that last 12 months and it was great to see the recognition he got for his performances in Russia. When you consider that he was far from being the number one right back after Kyle Walker left and is now England’s first choice right wing back speaks volumes for his progression. His delivery has always been very good and he is now taking, and scoring from, set pieces. I also thought that we saw in Russia some very good defending from him against quality opponents and his reading of the game has improved to offset any lack of pace.

Toby Alderweireld didn’t play as often as he might have liked last season. Are you happy with Jan Vertonghan and Davinson Sanchez as your first choice centre-back pairing?

Alderweireld and Vertonghen were, for me, the best centre back partnership in the premiership over the last couple of seasons. After Toby was injured against Real Madrid, Davinson Sanchez stepped in and, for a 21 year-old in his first season in a new league, was absolutely outstanding. Given the choice I would love to see the 3 of them playing together at the back, but it seems increasingly likely that Alderweireld will be leaving the club. This will probably necessitate a replacement being brought in, but if Pochettino decides to play with a back 4 then I would have no worries about Vertonghen and Sanchez as a centre-back pairing.

Ben Davies strikes me as a tad conservative. Are you hoping Danny Rose can get back to full fitness this term?

I rate Ben Davies and felt his game continually improved last season with him also contributing with 6 assists and 2 goals. Obviously, we would all want Danny Rose to get back to his form pre-injury when he was arguably the best left wing back in the country, but I actually feel that Davies will start the season as our first choice left back/left wing back.

You quite often started with Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele together in central midfield last season. Given that neither are especially mobile, is that an area you feel you could improve?

Yes, I think that central midfield is an area that we should focus on, especially if Mousa Dembele decides to look for pastures new. We have Victor Wanyama, as well as Harry Winks returning from ankle surgery but, personally, I would love us to bring in a young version of Luka Modric – a deeper lying play-maker. We have been heavily linked with Jack Grealish but I have not seen enough of him to know whether he could – with Pochettino’s coaching – fulfil this role.

Only Kevin De Bruyne played more key passes in the Premier League last season than Christian Eriksen. How heavily do you rely on him for creativity?

Tremendously. Eriksen is the heart-beat of all our best football and we have suffered from a dearth of creativity whenever he has not been available. I really feel we have a need for cover in this area, even if just someone who can come in and give him a break for the odd game.

Lucas Moura joined from PSG in January. Are you hoping he’ll add some width down that right-hand side?

Yes – width, pace, trickery and goals. I think most Spurs fans enjoyed his cameos last season and I am excited to see what he will be able to provide with a full pre-season under his belt.

When Harry Kane first broke through, he looked very keen to get involved in the build-up play whereas now, he seems more goal-orientated. Would you agree?

I am not sure that I would. In the World Cup he was frequently dropping deep to assist in the build-up, although that was possibly due to a lack of creativity in the England side. His work ethic is such that he will frequently be seen dropping into space to receive the ball as well as defending from the front (and working back to our own area). The fact that he still manages to score the number of goals that he does is, I think, testament to his desire to work for the team as well as his fitness levels.

Heung-Min Son has looked hugely impressive over the last couple of seasons. Is he somebody who can deputize up top when Kane is unavailable?

Yes, when Harry Kane missed out through injury last season it was Son who led the line and chipped in with vital goals. Son, however, is likely to miss several weeks early in the season due to South Korea competing in the Asian games, so the likes of Lamela and Moura should get more game time, but personally I would like us to have a proper back up for Harry Kane.

Right-back Kyle Walker-Peters made his first appearances for you last season while Josh Onomah was popular on loan at Aston Villa. Are they the academy graduates who excite you most?

Kyle Walker-Peters was MOM in the first game of last season and also did well at the end of the season. I think he has a great future, while the likes of Josh Onomah and Cameron Carter-Vickers, who were both on loan all last season, will be looking to establish themselves in the first team squad. There has always been a lot of excitement about the undoubted potential of Marcus Edwards, but he didn’t seem to do that well out on loan last season and it could well be make or break time for him.

Spurs aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the Premier League season as a whole? Any other teams you’re looking forward to watching?

I think it will be as competitive as ever. The Manchester clubs have already spent big again, as have Liverpool, while Chelsea and Arsenal will be under new management and striving to get back into the Champions League. While I am only really interested in how Spurs perform I thought Fulham played some good football in the second half of last season and I think they and Wolves will both do well in the Premier League.

Where will you finish?

Top 4 again. Playing our first few games away will not help, but with 2 or 3 quality signings added to the squad that did so well last season and a return to playing at The Lane, I have to be positive. Come On You Spurs

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Tying Harry Kane down to a new contract is a positive from Tottenham Hotspur’s summer, although the squad hasn’t been strengthened further, perhaps partly due to the new stadium. Jan Vertonghen should continue to thrive at centre-back alongside Davinson Sanchez, but the reliance on Christian Eriksen for creativity could hinder their quest for another top four berth. 5th