Tottenham Hotspur has a drama-free summer before the EPL starts
It’s clear that a team with a habit, even reputation or history, is a fool when their very name is used as the definition for it. “Spursinees” has been a buzzword since the start of the Premier League, which makes it clear what people think of Tottenham. Regardless of whether good things appear on the surface, no matter how they are at their peak, something will happen and it will almost certainly be done by themselves. Nobody cuts their own toes like the Spurs. This is the team that could lose a Champions League spot on the last day of the season when the whole team literally deceiving themselves. Or sour the relationship with maybe best manager they used to have. Or fail to hire another great manager because he wants too much money and power, go around and find another manager who isn’t the right fit for the job, and then have to do it anyway. back to the first guy. And all of this just happened in the last few years!
However, on the eve of the new Premier League season, all was quiet on the Spurs front. No transfer movie has revolved around Harry Kane like this time last year. There is nothing unsettling in the head coach chair, no matter how stable that chair may be when Antonio Conte sits in it. There are high expectations…except they are all perfectly reasonable given the position Spurs finished last year, what they have done this summer and the relative state of the clubs they are perhaps will compete for Champions League spots.
Where there used to be anger, fear, and disgust, there was only excitement, satisfaction, and confidence. What is going on here? We might need Conte to throw something really bad so we can feel settled again.
The serenity surrounding Spurs stems from a rather productive and well-planned summer transfer deal, as well as the fact that they finished fourth last season. It also helped them close the tough line on the outside to take down North London colleague Arsenal. Nothing satisfies them so completely. Spurs knew what they needed to add, moved quickly and things were pretty much settled before they returned to pre-season training.
Depth ahead was assured with Richarlison joining from Everton. While he may not start with Kane, Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski healthy, Spurs will be playing a lot of games with a Champions League commitment (especially this season as the entire group stage will be centered ahead of the World Cup. Cup) and Richarlison can play in any of the three forward positions in Conte’s arrangement. He will not sit on the bench. They added more depth on the flanks with the free transfer of Ivan Perisic, Conte’s darling from Inter, who can become a wide forward or a full-back depending on the moment. Midfield was shortened when Yves Bissouma was arrested from Brighton, and while he resembles Pierre-Emile Hǿjbjerg or Harry Winks, he has the depth for a packed schedule.
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Even defense has been buffeted by the reclamation project of Clément Lenglet, who had his rep pretty much shattered amongst the ruins of Barcelona’s what-have-ya, but is still the player who got to the Nou Camp in the first place and is a regular with the France squad. If anyone can get him to realize his full potential, it’s Conte.
All of this was added to a team that closed with a flourish. Spurs won eight of their last 11 games last season, including getting a draw at Anfield and clubbing both Arsenal and West Ham along the way. They didn’t lose to either Liverpool or City last season, in fact, they beat the latter twice. Once Conte settled in after some pretty heavy turbulence after his introduction to Tottenham (nothing can ever be truly smooth with either him or Spurs), Spurs looked every bit the third-best team in the country, and finished only three points behind Chelsea. Considering how Spurs’ summer has gone and the way Chelsea’s has gone, it’s no wonder that more than a few are wondering if Spurs aren’t going to slip by them this time around while still probably not getting into the gated community of Liverpool and City.
The signing of Richarlison makes Spurs more Son and Kane-injury proof than they’ve ever been. Both are certainly going to miss time somewhere along the line, and usually, that meant the goals dried up for Tottenham. Richarlison is used to leading a line on his own with Everton and can certainly fill that gap if he has to.
If there’s one spot that looks a little short, it’s creativity from midfield. There are a lot of destroyers and fortifiers there without a lot of inspiration, though there’s more in Hǿjbjerg to be mined if they want. But Conte teams prefer to keep the center of midfield a security zone rather than an art museum, preferring to attack at high speeds through the wingbacks and forwards, which Spurs certainly have more than enough of. Perhaps when they run up against teams that are happy to camp around their own box and just give Spurs the ball they may struggle, but that is no guarantee.
Of course, this is Spurs, and this is Conte. When something goes wrong for either of them, it tends to go all wrong in a hurry right behind it. It’s just hard to see where that could fissure from with this team. Chelsea still needs a lot of help after what it lost this summer. Arsenal is looking pretty tasty, but has been just as Spurs-y as Spurs of late and its improvements are no more than what Tottenham has done. No one has any idea what United will be. Conte’s record in Europe is still very spotty, but Spurs aren’t expecting to win the Champions League this season anyway. This is a team that’s completely bought into what Conte is selling, and when that happens trophies tend to follow (see: Juventus, Chelsea, Inter). It may not last long, given Conte’s proclivity for getting antsy pretty quickly, but for now, it sure appears it’s all systems go. And even if he does, former beloved manager Mauricio Pochettino is practically pacing outside of the Tottenham Hotspur stadium waiting to volunteer to take his place.
Spurs a smooth-sailing ship. Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mama.