Jose Mourinho has never been someone to hide his grievances over the business of the Premier League schedule. Most recently talking through his issues surrounding the strange balance of fixtures at the end of last season, where Spurs had nine days off before their game against Sheffield United but would follow that up with three games in six days. But if the Portuguese tactician thought that was bad just wait until he catches a glimpse of what could be Tottenham Hotspur’s start to the 2020/21 competitive season.
Despite finishing in 6th position, which would normally guarantee a spot in the Europa League group stages, Spurs must work their way through the Qualifying rounds due to Arsenal’s FA Cup victory. The late start to the domestic season and the impact of coronavirus means that the qualification games, which would normally be over two legs, will be decided in 90 minutes.
Two Carabao cup rounds will also take place during the first month of the season along with four Premier League fixtures, meaning that Spurs could end up playing nine games in 21 days and alongside all the travelling it would be virtually impossible for Mourinho to pick a consistent 11 for all of these fixtures.
So, here’s a few solutions that could help Spurs in this opening month of the season.
The involvement of youth players:
Harry Kane’s first involvement in the senior team was in a Europa League Qualification game, and now look at him. So why not give that opportunity to someone else?
Harvey White, Dennis Cirkin, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Jack Clarke all featured in Spurs four pre-season fixtures with all four showcasing good traits and qualities. In the centre of midfield White excellently imposed himself on the game in the anchor role in midfield and also got a few opportunities to showcase his ability from a dead ball situation.
Carter-Vickers looked composed in the centre of defence and after a successful loan spell at Luton Town could be one to look out for. Cirkin showed great intensity and minus a few small errors was very impressive. Meanwhile at the other end of the pitch, Clarke showed his ability and desire to run at defenders just missing that final pass which Mourinho can definitely work with.
All these players are definitely in with a shout of making appearances in the Carabao cup competition and possibly travelling with the squad for Europa League fixtures coming on in the latter stages of games.
More opportunities for fringe players
Having a good squad depth is absolutely integral to a team’s success, just take a look at Manchester City, Sane gets injured for 9 months but filling in for him is Premier League winner Riyad Mahrez or Ligue 1 winner Bernardo Silva. Having these options is brilliant especially if one of your starting players is injured or needs resting, and for Spurs in this opening month it’s the latter that presents some opportunities for players who are possibly use to a spot on the bench.
Starting with possibly the most obvious one, Erik Lamela, undoubtedly one of the most frustrating players to watch for Spurs fans, he has plenty of ability but his decision-making and reliability is a reason why he never seems to be consistently in the starting XI.
Now entering his 8th season at Spurs, the Argentine forward has yet to really make a huge impression on Mourinho, largely in part due to injury problems and then finding himself playing second fiddle to both Lucas Moura and January signing Steven Bergwijn, but these early season fixtures could prove pivotal for Lamela’s game time.
During his time at Spurs, Lamela has netted nine times in the Europa League in 22 games, clearly showcasing it’s a competition he can be prolific in and someone that Jose could rely on if Lucas or Bergwijn need to be rested for a Premier League fixture.
If Lamela can make an impression here then who’s to say he isn’t pushing to be in Mourinho’s starting team weak in weak out.
It wasn’t just Bergwijn who was brought in by the club in January, Portuguese native Gedson Fernandes was signed on an 18-month loan with an option to buy earlier in the window.
Unfortunately for the 20-year-old it hasn’t quite gone to plan for him, struggling to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League and also no one really understanding where his best position is. With only one out and out right back at the club, following Kieran Trippier’s departure, Mourinho admitted that both Gedson and Moussa Sissoko have been utilised there during training games if first choice right-back Serge Aurier was unavailable.
Spurs fans got a glimpse of what Gedson could provide in that position in their opening pre-season friendly against Ipswich Town and the majority were impressed with what they saw. His ability to make driving runs from the deeper position on the right-hand-side suits how Spurs want to play and he looked comfortable that far forward with the ball.
However, Gedson struggled in the same position against Reading and then again when played in the ten role against Birmingham City, but when given a deeper role in the midfield seemed much more comfortable.
With the arrival of Matt Doherty and the possibility of Aurier departing Spurs the option could be open for him to play as an understudy right-back if he improves defensively while also giving cover in a midfield role which would most likely involve him performing box to box.
Finally, two defenders plagued with injury in the recent months who could become crucial during September, Juan Foyth and Japhet Tanganga. The latter burst onto the scene in January earlier this year, making his Premier League debut against Liverpool and then delivering a man of the match performance against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup a few weeks later.
The 21-year-old has been with Spurs since 2009, making his way through the academy and before the season was halted in March, Tanganga played across the entire backline and was instrumental at left-back in the 2-0 win over Manchester City. During the lockdown period Tanganga struggled with back issues and that transpired into the opening five games after the restart but was included in the squad for the final four.
The academy graduate didn’t make an appearance in pre-season still dealing with the back problems so could potentially miss the start of the season but the young defender has more than shown his ability in big games against Liverpool and Man City so could potentially be used in all competitions if a rest or an injury is picked up by a starting defender.
As for Foyth his problems came after he picked up a knee injury in training in June, initially it was feared that he would need surgery but Mourinho squashed those rumours stating he hoped to have him back before the end of the season outlining him as another possible player to provide cover for Aurier.
Despite joining Spurs in 2017 Foyth has only made 32 appearnaces in all competitions for the lilywhites, with his most notable moments coming in the 18/19 season, firstly at Selhurst where he delivered a brilliantly professional performance at the centre of defence and also got the game winning goal and secondly his red card against Bournemouth which came three minutes after he was introduced as a substitute taking Spurs down to nine players.
The 21 year-old, who is Argentina’s first choice right-back, has shown potential glimpses of what he can do but is often bullied off the ball and sometimes makes rash decisions in pressure situations but a quick cameo at left-back against Watford in pre-season may mean he’s on Mourinho’s list for helping out Spurs in the Europa League and Carabao cup games.
Sign a striker
This is the only point that involves Spurs actively going out and bringing someone in but in reality, it’s something the club should’ve done in the summer window last season.
The problem with having the best striker in the world, yep I said it, is that any central striker who comes to the club knows they’re going to play second fiddle and that’s why it seems bringing in someone is so difficult.
It makes no sense to fork out the millions for someone who will sit on the bench for most games, yet in the current market if you want a decent back-up striker that’s what you need to do.
Currently Heung-Min Son and Lucas are the two back up striker options, two players who are normally already starting the game in their preferred position and understandably Kane having to play every game takes a toll on his body almost guaranteeing an injury lay-off period at some point in the season.
Over the recent years, Spurs have tried to bring in back-up strikers but have had no real luck. Roberto Soldado, Vincent Janssen and Fernando Llorente all tried and failed at the job and just simply were not good enough to fill the void left by Kane only managing a combined 22 competitive goals between the three of them.
Tottenham have been linked with what feels like every striker under the sun as it seems everyone knows they’re looking for a one. A few more experienced strikers have been named, with Luis Suarez and Diego Costa mentioned, but Spurs would struggle to pay their wages. Both Callum Wilson and Ollie Watkins were on the docket for Spurs to bring in but both players have since joined other clubs, Wilson for Newcastle and Watkins joining Aston Villa. Meanwhile Habib Diallo from FC Metz is a player that has been strongly linked with a move to Spurs and most recently Aleksandr Milik from Napoli is the newest player to add to the list.
However, currently no striker is close to joining Spurs and in a normal season they have struggled with options in that position, with Kane missing parts of the season normally around Christmas when the footballing schedule is at it’s busiest. But this time for Spurs the busy schedule comes right from the off in September so bringing in a striker and using the full depth of his squad will be crucial to Mourinho’s success in the first month of the new season.
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