Soccer

Tottenham Hotspur transfer priorities: Can Antonio Conte build depth behind the Kane, Kulusevski, Son attack?

Spurs had to be almost perfect down the stretch to secure Champions League soccer for next season, and even then, they still needed help from Arsenal to get the job done. But everything lined up as Antonio Conte accomplished the goal that he was hired to do, finishing fourth in the Premier League and ending a two year absence from Europe’s elite competition for the London side. 

Conte has been rewarded with a considerable budget and at least for now, he’s agreed to stay on as the manager of Spurs. While that could change at any moment due to Conte’s volatility, all is well for the first time in a long time at Tottenham. Years of bad transfers, managers getting fired, and almost wasting one of the best attacking cores in Europe can be righted if Conte gets his targets.

This is a team that will need help to compete for the title but with Sadio Mane pushing for a Liverpool exit, there could be openings at the top of the league and Conte knows a thing or two about winning, having four Scudettos and one Premier League title to his name. But what does he need to bring glory to Tottenham?

Here, we break down the Tottenham Hotspur senior men’s roster and try to figure out what is going to happen this summer and what is not:

Tottenham goalkeeper outlook

  • Staying: Hugo Lloris
  • Joining: Fraser Forster
  • Uncertain Future: Brandon Austin, Alfie Whiteman
  • Leaving: Pierluigi Gollini

Hugo Lloris has signed a contract extension and any qualms about his future have now been put to rest. While he’s not a perfect goalkeeper, under Conte, an above average shot stopper is all that’s needed because the defense funnels shots to positions that make a keeper’s job easy. Lloris can make mistakes at times but none are usually big enough to cause the team to lose, and they almost all come when he’s forced to come charging off his line. It’s all about keeping it simple and positioning the defense well in front of Lloris.

The team will consider themselves lucky that Golllini was only on loan from Atalanta as he never seemed comfortable in his limited appearances in England. Because of this, it was easy to decline the purchase option and send him back to Italy. With a replacement already secured in the form of Fraser Forster who brings similar qualities to Lloris, there isn’t much business needed at the position this summer. When it comes to the younger keepers Brandon Austin is more likely to stick around but either could go on loan and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Ideal moves: It has been a while since Spurs have had a third keeper that felt like a true replacement to Lloris who isn’t getting any younger, so if Conte isn’t sold on Austin’s potential, it would make sense to look for a talented keeper to groom.

Tottenham defensive outlook

  • Staying: Cristian Romero, Davidson Sanchez, Eric Dier, Ben Davies, Matt Doherty, Emerson Royal, Ryan Sessegnon
  • Joining: Ivan Perisic
  • Uncertain Future: Joe Rodon, Japhet Tanganga
  • Possibly Leaving: Sergio Reguilon, Cameron Carter-Vickers

Conte’s arrival turned the defense from one of the team’s weaknesses into one of their biggest strengths. Romero, Dier, and Davies were able to form a formidable trio at the back while Sanchez stepped in as needed. One of the biggest questions is if Sanchez wants to move elsewhere to be a starter but with so many games due to Champions League commitments, Spurs will need to be able to go six deep at the back to feel safe about things. Conte used a shallow rotation of defensive players due to not having a full preseason with the team but Joe Rodon may be someone who has something to gain from a Conte preseason.

Already excelling alongside Davies with Wales, the pieces are there for Rodon to be a good defender, he just needs to put it all together and get a chance with Spurs. For Tanganga, it’s almost the opposite, as he has gotten chances but been inconsistent when they’ve come. AC Milan were reportedly interested in a loan move for him in January and it may benefit both club and player if it’s still on the table this summer.

Wing back has already gotten an upgrade with Perisic joining from Inter Milan. While he’s able to play both winger and wing back, he’s expected to start on the left side of the defense offering quite an upgrade on the combination of Reguilon and Sessegnon. While Perisic is 33, he has shown no signs of slowing down logging almost 3000 minutes in Serie A scoring eight goals and assisting six more. Since Spurs didn’t have a left back they were confident in last season, they build from the right more than they’d like but that will be changing with the quality that Perisic brings to the flank.

In with the new does mean that someone’s the odd man out and that feels like it will be Reguilon. He does everything that Conte wants in a fullback, until he has to make a decision in the final third. Sessegnon isn’t polished but the end of season run that he went on shows that he can get the job done in a pinch. As a backup learning the trade from Perisic, it could be a great chance for Sessegnon while Reguilon is sold to make room elsewhere. Royal’s play after Doherty’s injury has earned him another year in London while Doherty’s ability to play both left and right will go a long way with a lengthy slate of games.

Ideal moves: Conte is chasing one of his old players in Alessandro Bastoni. One of the most talented young defenders in Serie A, Bastoni could immediately step in to start in place of Ben Davies on the left of the back three. They share similar qualities but Bastoni is more mobile and a better presence in the air than Davies helping open the left side more in the buildup. Davies won’t fade out of the team though as he’d be critical depth and can also play at wing back when needed but as Conte will need to go two deep everywhere, center back is an important spot to add. It feels like the team is going Bastoni or bust in that role but it remains to be seen what will happen there.

Adding another right back is also an area to improve if Doherty doesn’t recover from injury as expected. If Nottingham Forest can’t come to an agreement with Middlesbrough for Djed Spence, Spurs will could swoop in as they’ve been watching the talented defender for a few years now.  

Tottenham Midfield outlook

  • Staying: Oliver Skipp, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Rodrigo Bentancur
  • Uncertain Future: Harry Winks
  • Possibly Leaving: Giovani Lo Celso
  • Loan Candidates: Tanguy Ndombele, Pape Sarr

Oliver Skipp has a right to feel hard done as his groin injury that kept him out since January likely cost him a starting role in the midfield to Rodrigo Bentancur. At the time, Bentancur was struggling to get up to speed to England while Skipp was rolling along helping keep possession ticking. Skipp was rewarded with a new contract to show that Conte and the backroom staff value him highly. Along with Hojbjerg and Bentancur, Skipp makes up the untouchable core of Tottenham’s midfield but after that things get murky. 

Harry Winks got quite a few minutes early in Conte’s reign but then was relegated to clean up duty by the end of the season. Lo Celso has all the makings of a Conte ten that could back up Harry Kane but he has one foot in Villarreal as Spurs look to close the door on a failed transfer. The team may be stuck with Ndombele next season as it gets harder by the day for someone to take him and his wages and Sarr had a mixed season in France while on loan to Metz. With a strong preseason, he may be able to stick with the team due to having skill on the ball that could make him useful but I’d see a loan as being more likely. 

Ideal moves: It’s weird looking at midfield moves since most of the players coming in would need to be okay with sitting at least 40 percent of the time. Adding Christian Eriksen on a free transfer is a move that makes sense but it would also be strange that his new role would be essentially backing up Harry Kane as opposed to setting him up each game, though wen Eriksen played for Conte at Inter he did spend time behind two strikers so he would also be able to drop deeper if needed giving Spurs a proper way to break down teams in a low block. 

Another box to box midfielder is likely needed too and Weston McKennie is a name that has bounced around to fill that void. While he’d be a fun addition, adding McKennie and Bastoni feels like a summer of wild spending even if Daniel Levy has provided Conte with additional funds. Sarr will likely determine if another midfielder is needed or not.

Tottenham Attack outlook

  • Staying: Harry Kane, Heung-min Son, Dejan Kulusevski
  • Uncertain Future: Lucas Moura, Steven Bergwijn, Bryan Gil
  • Possibly Leaving: Jack Clarke
  • Loan Candidates: Troy Parrott, Dane Scarlett

With Harry Kane back on board, the attack is as good as any in the league. Son is the reigning golden boot co-winner after a 23 goal season while Kane dropped deeper and scored 17 goals, assisting nine more. If Kulusevski can build on an exhilarating half-season that saw him score five goals and assist eight, there’s no reason why the front three won’t keep up with Manchester City and Liverpool when healthy. 

That’s a good start but it won’t be enough across all competitions with a trio of wingers behind them that have uncertain futures. Ajax would like Bergwijn to add to their attack but as he can fill in on the wing or backup Kane at striker, Spurs can’t let him go without a proper replacement. With how he has performed in cameos Bergwijn deserves to start somewhere but he certainly has a role in London next season if he wants it. 

Moura and Gil are in tougher situations as they’re talented but don’t fit the current system. Moura’s work rate helps as an option to close out games but the difference in the front three between him and Kulusevski is pretty drastic. Gil never got to start his life at Spurs after being purchased for Nuno Espirito Santo and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sold back to Spain.

Ideal moves: Another season where a proper backup to Harry Kane is needed. Even with Champions League to offer, Spurs are in a tough spot because Kane won’t be rotated except in the cup competitions which rules out all of the top forward options. The Conte reunion train would love to find a way to get Romelu Lukaku on the roster but it’s unlikely for multiple reasons. Looking at realistic forward options, possible Arsenal target Gabriel Jesus checks a few boxes, and being able to play on the wing is a nice bonus. 

Richarlison is someone who can truly check both boxes. Even if Moura and Bergwijn were to leave, the Brazilian can start centrally or on the wing with ease bringing a finishers touch and a bit of petulance that winning teams need to turn a close game. It’s a different challenge than leading Everton away from the relegation zone but he’s fit for a top side in the world.

All of these options are going to be expensive though, on top of what the team is looking at in defense, and the addition of Perisic. Exactly how deep into his pockets is Daniel Levy going to be willing to reach?



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