The players Tottenham should sign and let go to ignite Nuno’s reign

By Seb Stafford-Bloor, The Athletic

Pre-season should be miserable at Tottenham. It should be barbaric and old-fashioned and nasty, and it needs to sear the fat from this team’s flabby soul.

Because these players need it. Last season showed them at a physical deficit. It also exposed how far they’ve descended from the honest and hard-working virtues that once allowed the club to punch above its weight.

But what even is it to be a Tottenham player currently? Nobody really has an answer and the many contradictions of this shambolic summer have done little to cure a growing existential crisis. So, yes, these players need to run and run, but they also need their identity redrawn and that’s a different challenge entirely.


Is Nuno Espirito Santo the coach to cure these psychoses? Nobody really knows. He’s only been given a two-year contract, so that includes Spurs themselves. Nuno has plenty of virtues. He’s an excellent coach and, valid as concerns over the style of his football may be, he’s shown the capacity to adapt to different circumstances and improve players well beyond their assumed potential. In this article by The Athletic’s Wolves reporter Tim Spiers, his man-management is also praised and he’s described as a coach who carefully treads the line between engendering respect and fear.

That’s good but there’s no getting away from the perception that he’s only now at Spurs because Daniel Levy and Fabio Paratici couldn’t sell their project to their initial candidates or changed their minds on some of their initial targets. That’s not an insurmountable problem, but it weakens his position with a group of players who spent last season divided by agendas. Some wanted to be there, some didn’t. Some believed in the coaching, some didn’t. That showed in a very fragile self-belief in 2020-21, during which residual fear and self-loathing were among Tottenham’s defaults.Nuno is a good coach but the squad needs some changes (Photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Those poisons have to be purged. That requires captivating management and charisma. It needs someone capable of selling a vision for the future. If the Portuguese is to be that figure, then his first impression will have to be very strong — to convince the players, but also the supporters, to buy in.

Nuno is not who most Tottenham fans wanted. As soon as the possibility of Mauricio Pochettino returning was teased, and followed by the possibility of Antonio Conte arriving, almost anybody else was going to be underwhelming. The flip-flop over Paulo Fonseca hasn’t helped either, nor did the nonsense with Gennaro Gattuso, and the atmosphere into which Nuno arrives is full of suspicion, negativity and all sorts of other unhelpful energies.

It’s not fair, because he deserves to be judged on the generally excellent work he did at Wolves, but Tottenham are at war with a public who have suffered too many embarrassments over the past two years and, above all else, he needs to start fast. Goals, points, wins; change the conversation.

The Harry Kane-shaped clouds on the horizon will make that difficult, though.

There are few reasons why Kane should stay, but many as to why Tottenham need him to. His goals, assists and effect on the pitch, of course, but also because there’s just no way of spinning his sale as a positive. Not even by reinvesting the vast fee.

Such transfers always bring assumptions about liquidity and result in a tax on whichever players are then pursued. The consequences for Spurs would be protracted negotiations and overspends, probably in combination with one another, leading to a worst-case scenario in which a gang of replacements arrive shortly before the end of the window, none of them enjoy a full pre-season and the team then spends the first six months of the year paralysed by its lack of chemistry.

For a new head coach needing a strong start, that would be as unhelpful a move as it would be possible to make. Tottenham are insistent they won’t sell and you hope that remains the case.


Certain assumptions can be made about Nuno’s likely system and his preferred way of playing — he likes a back three and wing-backs will be very important — but it’s easier to consider what Tottenham need from the perspective of their thematic weaknesses. They need to get better in certain areas, yes, but they also need to improve in broader areas of the game.

The first obstacle is realism: how much money is there? Having been starved of matchday income for such a long time, it’s likely to be a sell-first summer.

Juan Foyth has already gone, sold to Villarreal for £15 million. Serge Aurier, Erik Lamela and Harry Winks have also all expressed an interest in playing their football elsewhere and at least two of them seem likely to depart. The club might also consider this the right moment to move Moussa Sissoko and Lucas Moura, with both headed towards the end of their usefulness.

Cases could be made to keep all five, but then this is a reality of the current situation. The club’s trajectory needs adjusting and that will force difficult decisions. Davinson Sanchez probably belongs on this list too. He was a good player and he might be again, but any revival seems unlikely to happen in north London or in a league within which too many forwards already have his number.

And Toby Alderweireld. He’s reportedly keen to leave and, as a high-earner whose prime is now a memory, that would seem to make sense. Alderweireld remains a good player, one who would be useful to keep, but mismanagement has forced these difficult choices and ultimately the club don’t need an ageing player who isn’t properly invested in their future.


There’s better news in the form of returning loanees: Oliver Skipp and Ryan Sessegnon are back at a time when expectations are low and the pressure will be off any young players.

Both are capable of making a contribution, but also of providing respite. Kane first won hearts and minds during one of these slumps in morale and while Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb never went as far, both helped to cleanse the mood in much the same way. Given the opportunity, Skipp and Sessegnon could be that kind of tonic, and if there is a positive to being in the Europa Conference League this season then it’s the number of extra starts it will likely provide.

A vague positive, then. There’s less good news about the defence, which is an obvious problem, but also the area ahead of it, which is full of issues too.Sessegnon should have a chance to play (Photo: Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Chief among those is an inability to control the game through possession or generate any sort of passing rhythm. Spurs haven’t had any strategic distribution in the middle of the pitch since Christian Eriksen was sold and the failure to replace him has been quietly devastating. Tottenham’s midfield can go forwards and it can fall backwards, but only in a reactive, basketball-like way. It doesn’t build, it doesn’t consolidate or calmly construct moves, and it possesses none of the authority it once did.

There was an interesting piece of commentary from Gary Neville before the end of last season, in which he referred to the side as “basic”. He was likely discussing its overall set-up and its post-Mourinho state, but he could also have been describing its move-construction and the absence of any real strategy from midfield. From that perspective, Spurs are quite basic. They’re much more checkers than chess, two-dimensional rather than three.

A progressive passer would help that; a mid-point between Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s pragmatism and the expression of Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso. That player needs to be comfortable receiving the ball in deep areas, but also adept at moving it up the field and altering the point of attack. They need someone who sees the pitch better, like Mousa Dembele used to do.

Wolfsburg’s Maximilian Arnold does that; he’s a strong personality and a superb passer. With five years left to run on his contract and with the guarantee of Champions League football next year, he’s probably unattainable though.

Marcelo Brozovic isn’t; his future at Inter Milan has become tenuous. Brozovic has that metronomic quality to his distribution. He’s not dissimilar to a young Michael Carrick in the way he pushed passes across the pitch and hisses them between the gaps. He can also play in a midfield three, alongside and in support of more offensive players, and that might be a way of replicating the Moutinho/Dendoncker-Neves unit that Nuno made work at Molineux.

His work with attacking midfielders has actually been excellent. Diogo Jota became a very fine player under him and, prior to injury, Pedro Neto was following the same path. Daniel Podence has also had his moments at Wolves and, together, these little evolutions bode well for Lo Celso and Ndombele, even if Nuno’s arrival is only likely to benefit one or the other.

Behind them, though, the quality of possession does need improving. If budget is a problem, Villarreal veteran Dani Parejo remains one of the best passers in Spain and Atalanta’s Remo Freuler is a very classy player who also has just a year left on his contract. It’s a fixable problem that must not be left unaddressed — nor should the drive towards organic chance creation end there. Developing a healthier possessional rhythm is a good start, but there’s also the need for a player who really knows how to use the ball in attacking areas — who releases his passes at the right time and with the right weight, and who can provide a semi-regular source of goals.kamadaDaichi Kamada would be an interesting signing (Photo: Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Eintracht Frankfurt’s Daichi Kamada should be available. Kamada is a joy to watch. He’s one of those players who manages to be technically impressive without ever really being flamboyant. In fact, that might be why he remains a niche player outside Germany and his native Japan, despite his consistently healthy production in the Bundesliga.

He carries the ball sweetly, with lots of neat little touches and changes of direction, and he exploits passing angles in the attacking third in a way that’s clever and unusual. He also takes up dangerous positions and, as you’d expect from someone who has played for Adi Hutter, is aggressive without the ball and would help restore the high press which has all but vanished from Spurs’ game. If Nuno’s plan is to create anything vaguely similar to his Wolves attack, then Kamada would make a fine third man in the Jota/Podence mould — someone who can create, but who can also profit from the damage done by others.


That would be an excellent move but not the priority; the defence needs investment and it needs it now.

Takehiro Tomiyasu appears close to joining and that’s a start. Somewhere between a centre-half and a right-back, Tomiyasu has that blend of size and mobility that suits playing on the outside of a back three. But the club will have to go further if that area is to have the rebrand it so obviously needs; one player is not going to do it.

Wolfsburg’s Maxence Lacroix is a stylish and thrilling prospect. He’s a fabulous talent who has adapted extremely well to the Bundesliga since arriving from Sochaux and while his growing reputation would command a mighty fee, Lacroix would likely be unattainable for Spurs in a year’s time. Not that they would have anything like a free run at him now, and so that probably leaves Joachim Andersen as a more realistic target. He’s a more developed player, albeit not as luxurious, and while Fulham’s issues last season drew attention towards his abilities without the ball, his passing performance was also relatively healthy.

He’s young, modern and responsible on the ball, and could function in either a back four or in Nuno’s preferred back-three. Andersen is most competent in the traditional defensive disciplines though. He heads, he tackles, he kicks people if he needs to. That resilience is very appealing, particularly to a team with such a soft centre and which, if Alderweireld does leave, is about to become even more flimsy.

But the problems are out wide, too, and the right-back area has been a weakness for some time.

Aurier seems determined to leave and, for the second summer in a row, the club aren’t of mind to discourage him. Matt Doherty has a prior relationship with Nuno and he seems like an obvious beneficiary of his arrival, but his self-belief might just be beyond repair. So, with Japhet Tanganga also better suited to life as a centre-half, investment is of the highest importance.

Stefan Lainer would change the dynamic. He scored a very fine goal against North Macedonia in the European Championship, but that wasn’t really reflective of what he is; he’s actually towards the conservative end of the right-back spectrum. Lainer is a smooth, technical player but he can also defend to a high standard and would have no problem operating as a wing-back.

Tariq Lamptey certainly wouldn’t. He’s obviously a very different player to Lainer and far less experienced, but Nuno’s prior work with wing-backs makes the prospect of that union thrilling. Lamptey is a terrific ball-carrier, probably more so than people realise, and his array of attacking abilities would give Tottenham an aggressive gear-change that they haven’t had now for a long time.

That might be too much work for a single summer. With a newly-appointed head coach, a new technical direction and a march of new players, these next few months promise to be highly disorientating. But this is no longer a situation that needs tweaks and adjustments and, given also how financially aggressive their rivals are likely to be over the coming transfer windows, Tottenham need to commit to a new direction quickly. The bigger that stride is, the better the outcome is likely to be.

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Paleo
Paleo
2 months ago

HK Golden Boot

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  Paleo

Needs one more to share with Ronaldo on five.

AntSpurj
AntSpurj
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Don’t forget Patrik Schick of Czech, I know you dislike the pundits focusing on Ronnie 😀

AntSpurj
AntSpurj
2 months ago
Reply to  AntSpurj

Kane to get 1 sterling to get 2 and all 4 can share, that’ll be nice. Shaw is 1 off top assister too,level in 2nd with Hojbjerg.

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  AntSpurj

Schick. Yes, had a good tournament.

Buy him!

AntSpurj
AntSpurj
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Hahaha , yeah he’s been excellent , is Southgate growing on you yet? His call to take off grealish, ballsy no?

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  AntSpurj

I agree, no.

It was stupid. It surrendered possession. It told Denmark we carried less threat and to come forward.

We were lucky (or he was) Denmark played with 10 men for the last minutes of the match.

AntSpurj
AntSpurj
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Ok. I didn’t see taking off Jack surrendering possession , more that we knew that were coming at us and would leave spaces behind which they did. We nearly caught them out a few times. It wasn’t a popular choice with the country behind Jack and it was the right decision.

AntSpurj
AntSpurj
2 months ago
Reply to  AntSpurj

With how well Denmark played , I never felt they were punchy enough up top for us.

AntSpurj
AntSpurj
2 months ago
Reply to  AntSpurj

Unless it was just for a decent free kick taker.

ronwol196061
ronwol196061
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

I disagree Chauve it wasn’t a defensive shell it was set up for the counter.it was the perfect tactic for the last 15 mins
If anything Denmark didn’t buy it and still.played balanced but it had the same result

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  ronwol196061

Er, Denmark were down to ten men for almost the final half of extra time when Mathias Jensen got injured. Hardly a perfect tactic to rely on a counter in those circumstances, should have camped in their third and pushed for another couple….

ronwol196061
ronwol196061
2 months ago

Give this guy a hand

FB_IMG_1625695733184.jpg
Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  ronwol196061

He’s a rock. The end of the season he was whacked but had put in more minutes than anyone else.

AntSpurj
AntSpurj
2 months ago
Reply to  ronwol196061

Friggin brill is hojbjerg, coolest man to wear a headband since pat cash.

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  AntSpurj

Or Serena Williams… 🤔

AntSpurj
AntSpurj
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn
SeattleSpursGuy
SeattleSpursGuy
2 months ago

LOL. Leyton Orient posts a picture of Harry and says: “We actually had this guy on loan wtf”

DAVID
DAVID
2 months ago

Believe Harry sponsors their first team shirts .
He’s very popular with their fans and was brought up close to their ground .

Northern Spur
Northern Spur
2 months ago

Do we want Westergaard?

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  Northern Spur

No. Too old.

Northern Spur
Northern Spur
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

How old? A lot of players we’re linked with on NN are touching 30.

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  Northern Spur

Ha ha. Newsnow….

My bet is players under 25. That Japanese guy will be typical.

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Unless we go for Jiminez from Wolves.

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Even though he shares my birthday.

Oh no, not Nuno!
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

If he’s your age, then it’s definitely a no.

Chauveljn
2 months ago

Can we employ the chef for the Italy team who made THAT lasagne….

TCY
TCY
2 months ago

Hats off to the Three Lions! You guys (and Spursy) deserved it. Enjoy the time to Sunday. Should be a great national trip.

SeattleSpursGuy
SeattleSpursGuy
2 months ago

Guys, you did it; the wait is over. 65 years without a final? Can’t say that anymore.

Oh no, not Nuno!
Admin
2 months ago

Yep, the time has now arrived for England to lose on penalties in a FINAL!!!

Chauveljn
2 months ago

Yay!

MiT
MiT
2 months ago

LoL !

I seriously think this is England’s title.

Oh no, not Nuno!
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  MiT

I don’t.

MiT
MiT
2 months ago

There was no comparison to the other semifinal. Chiellini is going to melt into a sticky pile of pasta against England’s speed up front.

Spursy
Spursy
2 months ago
Reply to  MiT

Hope so!

ronwol196061
ronwol196061
2 months ago

The Danes passed very well
They did the best they could. England as individuals are better players and driven emotionally
Danes are tech

Paleo
Paleo
2 months ago
Reply to  ronwol196061

They surprised me,much better team than I thought. Got a bit worried at work today,I was feeling very confident as was all the other England fans I heard on talksport,we all know how that normally works out

ronwol196061
ronwol196061
2 months ago
Reply to  Paleo

Paleo enjoy the win!!
The Italy game will be a challenge but take it easy man

Paleo
Paleo
2 months ago
Reply to  ronwol196061

🤪

mystic arnold
mystic arnold
2 months ago

Lets hope Harry turns up for this final unlike the 2 previous finals with us .Also will Doris call a national holiday.

ronwol196061
ronwol196061
2 months ago
Reply to  mystic arnold

His problem is mostly always supply!!

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  ronwol196061

The other problem is he had 2 or 3 strapping defenders and just him in the box.

ronwol196061
ronwol196061
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

True

Oh no, not Nuno!
Admin
2 months ago

If there is one downside, it’s that the fat blond CONman in #10 will use this for his own ends, despite not caring, and knowing f*ck all about football.

mystic arnold
mystic arnold
2 months ago

Yep I expect he will turn up for the final hoping Harry Kane scores a few tries /runs..

Oh no, not Nuno!
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  mystic arnold

Hoping his seat is in the executive grassy knoll section…

MiT
MiT
2 months ago

Whooaaaaa….. nelly !!!

Oh no, not Nuno!
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  MiT

😉

Chauveljn
2 months ago

“Why am I sitting on my own guys?”

“Social distancing sir. Plus the grenade launcher makes rather a mess.”

Chauveljn
2 months ago

Nice photo opportunity in the rose garden.

The Queen should jump in and invite them to Buck House first to reempt the bombastic blond ballsaching bar steward.

ronwol196061
ronwol196061
2 months ago

Phew I thought you meant number 9 number 9
He can’t even provide

Paleo
Paleo
2 months ago

Iron bar

SeattleSpursGuy
SeattleSpursGuy
2 months ago

Sweet Caroline is going to number 1, isn’t it?

Spursy
Spursy
2 months ago

Wow, wow, wow!!!
FINAL, baby!!!

DAVID
DAVID
2 months ago

Those supporters at Wembley must have paid fortunes for tickets tonight, probably worth every penny to be there.

Flat Oeuf
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  DAVID

£3,750 for a CAT A ticket 😅

DAVID
DAVID
2 months ago
Reply to  Flat Oeuf

Ouch!

Oh no, not Nuno!
Admin
2 months ago

I would not have begrudged the Danes if they’d beaten England and gone on to win the Euros for CE.

ronwol196061
ronwol196061
2 months ago

Vikings man,Vikings

Chauveljn
2 months ago

They have been excellent. Never have given them a chance without Eriksen.

Oh no, not Nuno!
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

I think the CE incident helped give them real focus and a desire to do well for him.

Chauveljn
2 months ago

Yes.

Paleo
Paleo
2 months ago

Bollocks to that

SeattleSpursGuy
SeattleSpursGuy
2 months ago

Rabarberhorn, Frøsnapper, Hindbærsnitter, Spandauer, Kanelstang…your boys took a hell of a beating!

ronwol196061
ronwol196061
2 months ago

Italy will be tough. They have also beaten quality teams.
But England us all about pushing the envelope get the emotions up and fight like hell….

Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  ronwol196061

I’d make us underdogs. But who knows? Different sides react to each other differently. This was a tough, attritional Northern European affair.

Paleo
Paleo
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Bookies have us as the favs

Chauveljn
2 months ago

Napoleon famously said:

1625694068758.jpg
Chauveljn
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

Although probably said in French rather than English.

ronwol196061
ronwol196061
2 months ago
Reply to  Chauveljn

He said it with one arm around his back

MiT
MiT
2 months ago

Very happy for all of you. If that is worth anything at all.

That was a fun match.

AntSpurj
AntSpurj
2 months ago
Reply to  MiT

Nice one Mits 👍🍻

61 Spurs Njut 🌰
61 Spurs Njut 🌰
2 months ago
Reply to  MiT

Luv ya!

DAVID
DAVID
2 months ago
Reply to  MiT

Thanks MIT, great to be sharing it with you and the rest of our friends from across the pond.

MiT
MiT
2 months ago
Reply to  DAVID

Truly a fun, well fought match !

Spursy
Spursy
2 months ago
Reply to  MiT

Thanks, Mitty!

61 Spurs Njut 🌰
61 Spurs Njut 🌰
2 months ago

Hats off to the Danish.

Chauveljn
2 months ago

I was surprised Dolberg and Damsgaard were subbed off. Curious.

DAVID
DAVID
2 months ago

Someone tell Paleo…

Paleo
Paleo
2 months ago
Reply to  DAVID

I survived 😀

DAVID
DAVID
2 months ago
Reply to  Paleo

Phew! Imagine what Sunday will be like .

MiT
MiT
2 months ago

All right, Southgate, you freakin pragmatist.

F*ck you, and Thank you.

That was quite fun.

Chauveljn
2 months ago

Shit. The nightmare continues.

Now got to endure the final…. ☹️

Oh no, not Nuno!
Admin
2 months ago

Well, well, whoa funked it eh.

AntSpurj
AntSpurj
2 months ago

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY

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