After a disappointing start to the 2019-20 campaign, long-time managerial legend Jose Mourinho came into Tottenham Hotspur to solve all the problems they had under Mauricio Pochettino (which were actually few and far between before 2019-20). Now after half a season in charge, Mourinho will be hoping to instill his philosophies on the team to a greater extent in 2020-21, as the club charge forward in hopes of a top four finish. But with a general lack of money (in comparison to other top sides) and Tottenham no longer being as attractive of a team to join, the question about how they are to improve next season looms large as we approach September. On top of that, Spurs have never been big-money spenders and have sometimes preferred to develop their own youth products, like Harry Kane and Harry Winks. Even some of their best players in recent years like Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son joined the club for fees nowhere near the amount the likes of United and City would spend to sign big-name players. So with that, here is a Transfer Market Analysis of Mourinho’s low budget Tottenham team.
ANALYZING PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG
Every year it seems as though Tottenham sign a midfielder. Sometimes it’s a Moussa Sissoko, or a Victor Wanyama; other times they hit the jackpot with a Dele Alli or Christian Eriksen. I have to believe that Pierre Emile Hojbjerg, who has come in for less money than Sissoko, will be somewhere in between the two. He’s an outstanding footballer who does the simple things very well and contributes at both ends of the pitch as a box-to-box midfielder. He can also play as a wide midfielder, ‘number 6’ and even fullback if required. The former Southampton captain is a reliable player and excellent at breaking up play. Hojbjerg made 2.4 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game last season in the league, and demonstrated both a great aerial presence and level of concentration in Ralph Hassenhuttl’s midfield. He can pick out the odd long pass, loves to get forward, and performs well in possession. But in a sea of midfield options, the 25-year old will need to work hard to really establish himself as a regular in Tottenham’s side. He’s a typical Mourinho player, but he also has to contend with Sissoko, Winks, Dier, Lo Celso, Ndombele and a few versatile others like Bergwijn and Dele Alli.
I spoke in our Arsenal Transfer Market Analysis about how Arsenal don’t really have a player who can both break up play and dictate the tempo from midfield. I think Tottenham have found their man in Hojbjerg, I just don’t think he’s anywhere near the level of someone like Thiago Alcantara or Wilfred Ndidi, which are the types of players Tottenham should be trying to sign. Chelsea and Manchester United each have four central midfielders stronger than Hojbjerg. Leicester and Wolves have three. If the Danish international is to be their top midfielder, as sort of a cross between Sissoko and Winks, it’s going to take more than just him to secure a top four finish. Overall, I think the former Bayern Munich player will be important for Mourinho’s team. It was a smart signing, for a cheap price, spent on a player who will be reliable. But I question just how much of a better player he is to any of the central midfielders mentioned above and how critical he can be to the team when they could have gone in for someone with more Champions League experience.
SECURING A STEP UP FROM HARRY WINKS
Signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has certainly filled a gap that Mourinho’s side lacked in 2019-20. Around the time of Euro 2016, many would have predicted Eric Dier to be on his way to being one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. But it hasn’t exactly panned out that way. Mourinho’s preferred midfield pairing in 2019-20 was Winks and Sissoko. However there are still many doubts over Harry Winks. He’s a fantastic player who oozes elegance on the ball. He’s a very efficient passer and his off-the-ball movement is fairly intelligent. But he’s not a Champions League level midfielder; and although Hojbjerg is a great signing, he’s a different type of player to Winks. If Tottenham are to strengthen in one area, it is still to sign a ball-playing midfield maestro. So who should they go in for?
Manuel Locatelli of Serie A’s Sassuolo is an excellent player and already an Italian international at 22-years old. He’s an efficient passer of the ball, like Winks, but more forward thinking, with an eye for the riskier pass. He finished in the top ten in Serie A for average passes per game (64), but also for through balls per game (0.2) and tackles (2.3). Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus will undoubtedly be in search of his signature, especially given comparisons to the former Italian legend himself, but he’s the type of player that a team like Tottenham would absolutely relish.
Donny van de Beek simply cannot be ignored when speaking about the top central midfielders who could be in for a move to the Premier League. I doubt he’d ignore a club like Chelsea or Manchester United if they came calling, but both seem to be sleeping on him right now and Tottenham could easily swoop in with an intriguing offer to secure his signature. Tottenham have achieved success signing players from Eredivisie (and Ajax in particular) in the past with the likes of Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, and Davinson Sanchez. Van de Beek would be another in a long list of impressive signings from Netherlands’ top flight. Despite mostly playing as a ‘number 6’, Van de Beek is however much closer to the Dele Alli mould, than Harry Winks. Although decently creative and very capable going forward, he’s actually not the greatest passer in the world. But given his hard-working nature, tough tackling ability and versatility, he could be an excellent player for Tottenham to keep an eye on.Embed from Getty Images
It’s far from realistic, but Jonjo Shelvey is the exact type of player Tottenham need right now and he would be a fantastic fit for Mourinho’s style of play and defensive-minded tactics. Shelvey is however 28 and doesn’t appear to be leaving Newcastle anytime soon. So our final suggestion to fill the boots of Harry Winks would be to double down on Southampton and go in for their long-time player James Ward-Prowse. Ward-Prowse burst onto the scene at such a young age and although always a great performer, he never really truly established himself among the Premier League’s elite…that is…until this past season. Now 25-years old, Ward-Prowse didn’t miss a single minute of Premier League action last season and performed admirably at the heart of Southampton’s midfield. He improved virtually every number in the statistics books from last season, most notably tackles, interceptions, passes, pass completion rate, long-ball passes and balls won in the air. With all of that in mind, he’s become an incredibly effective midfielder capable of doing both the simple and the difficult. He would be a fantastic addition to Mourinho’s side, and provide an extra presence from set pieces that they’ve lacked since Christian Eriksen fell off the map. If he continues at this rate, a club like Tottenham would be foolish not to make an attempt to secure his signature.
DUNK & DOHERTY?
Out of all areas on the field, Mourinho’s men need strengthening at the back. It’s not as though their back-four will struggle…it’s more about a problem of having strength in depth. A back-four that includes Ben Davies, Serge Aurier, Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez is unquestionably one of the best in the league. With additional options like Ryan Sessengnon, Eric Dier and the impressive Japhet Tanganga, Spurs will be okay even if they don’t make any new signings at the back. But they’ve lost Jan Vertonghen to Benfica on a free transfer and allowed Kyle Walker-Peters to leave for Southampton. So it is no wonder why they have gone in for Matt Doherty and Lewis Dunk. Wolves’ Doherty and Brighton’s Dunk are exactly the types of players Jose Mourinho’s side should be linked with right now. First, they will be cheaper than exports from Serie A, La Liga and the likes. Secondly, they are high quality footballers that will instantly strengthen their side. Doherty has gotten used to playing as a wing-back, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t fulfill a role on Tottenham’s right-hand-side. The underrated Lewis Dunk will be an extraordinary signing for Spurs and provide so much needed steel, awareness and leadership at the back for the club. He’s also unequivocally less prone to errors than a player like Davinson Sanchez. The Brighton captain could genuinely come in and wear the armband in his first season a Spurs, Harry Maguire styled. I’ve been asking for top European sides to take a greater look at players like Lewis Dunk and Matt Doherty. If Tottenham come in with an offer for both players, Mourinho’s men are suddenly top four contenders again.
WILL THEY BAIL OUT GARETH BALE?
I can’t remember the last time Gareth Bale wasn’t linked with a Premier League side in the summer transfer window. Rumours have predominantly revolved around Manchester United in the past, particularly under Jose Mourinho. Now that the Portuguese manager has switched to the Lilywhites, the rumours have continued and Mourinho appears to be interested in providing the Welsh striker with a route out of his Madrid misery. I sincerely doubt they’d spend the money, but Bale would be the best possible singing they could make this summer window.
Tottenham’s problems up front are furthered by the fact that Harry Kane’s hamstrings are about as reliable as Diego Costa’s. Quite simply, he will never get through a full season. Callum Wilson could be a great player to come off-the-bench and would fit into the fantastic off-the-ball movement and running power of players like Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura. But he will also cost a lot more money than it’s worth, with Bournemouth determined to get a big-money deal out of the British striker to alleviate some of their financial concerns heading back to the Championship. They’ve also been linked with the more versatile Joshua King in the past, but that appears to be an unlikelier signing than Wilson at the moment. So with Tottenham potentially unwilling to spend the money required to bring in a player like Gareth Bale or Callum Wilson, we take a look at who they could bring in instead.
Domenico Berardi has been a rising star in Serie A since 2013. But this season everything just clicked together at Sassuolo and he netted 14 goals with 10 assists in 31 games. He’s a player who plays with hunger in his eyes and he’s equally good with his back to goal as he is in front of it. Despite being an undoubtable talent, it seems as though no clubs are tracking his situation at Sassuolo. Tottenham would be a great fit for the player, especially being someone who can play as a right winger or striker.
Marcus Thuram might not want to swap Champions League football at Monchengladbach for the Europa League with Tottenham, but he would be another excellent addition to the side. Given his pace, power and natural running ability, he would be in the same vein as Heung-Min Son and Steven Bergwijn, which would only raise the competition for places. Tottenham will also be kicking themselves for letting young Marcus Edwards go to Vitoria de Guimaraes last season. The 21-year old was one of the best players in Liga NOS. With 7 goals and 5 assists he proved to be Vitoria’s most important player, in only his first season at the club. In sort of a Jadon Sancho mould, Edwards also completed more take-on’s per game than any other player (3.4). The next highest was 2.4. So if Tottenham were able to work their way back into a position where they could get Marcus Edwards back at the club, that would also be an excellent attack-minded signing.
DREAM VS. REALISTIC
Tottenham are currently in a good position to achieve greater success in 2020-21. They still have a stellar squad and the back-four will have more than enough to fulfill Mourinho’s defensive-minded attitude. But in order to challenge with the likes of United and Chelsea again for those top four places, Spurs should look to secure another new central midfielder and another number to bolster their injury-prone defense such as Lewis Dunk or Matt Doherty. Without delving back into the transfer market until January, Mourinho’s men may struggle to really make an impact in the league and Mourinho himself may be in trouble.
So there it is! A transfer market analysis of Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur! Be sure to check out more in this series below and share your thoughts on Twitter @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon.
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