Tottenham have had a fine league season so far, are currently comfortable in second place and are still looking to catch Chelsea to deliver a shock title win.
However, their season suffered a big setback at the weekend as those pesky lads from Stamford Bridge knocked them out of the FA Cup with a 4-2 victory at Wembley. Spurs were the better side for much of the game, but it was Chelsea’s killer instinct that made the difference in the end – something highlighted by the league leaders’ strength in depth from the bench.
Spurs’ comparative weakness was exposed by the time the full-time whistle had blown. While the Blues were able to bring on Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas to change the game, Tottenham had to rely on the unproven Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and Kyle Walker – the latter’s introduction forcing fellow right-back Kieran Trippier to switch to the left.
With that in mind, Spurs need to add some options to their squad this summer. They have a good thing going on under Mauricio Pochettino, but constantly relying on the same small group of players when you’re trying to compete on various fronts is a risky business. These are six players the Lilywhites should look to sign...
Virgil van Dijk (Southampton)
In recent months, Spurs preferred a 3-4-2-1 formation, which has seen Eric Dier join Belgian duo Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen in the backline. Dier is a good player, but his ideal position is as a defensive central midfielder and he has sometimes proven vulnerable in central defence. Spurs should, therefore, think about bolstering their first choice defensive trio – and there’s no better potential addition than Southampton’s Van Dijk.
The 25-year-old Netherlands international has been an absolute revelation in the Premier League since he joined Saints from Celtic in 2015, and could easily have been in the PFA team of the season had he not been injured earlier in the year.
Van Dijk’s displays in the top flight have attracted attention from the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, but Spurs should do all they can to beat their rivals to his signature. Tottenham signed Victor Wanyama from St. Mary’s last season and stole Alderweireld from under Saints’ noses the year before that, so it wouldn’t go down well, but Van Dijk is one of few players who could actually improve a defence that's already the meanest in the Premier League.
Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht)
Spurs are pretty well-equipped in central midfield, with Mousa Dembele and Wanyama forming arguably the best pairing in the Premier League this season, plus Dier and the currently-injured Harry Winks providing able backup. But if they want to compete at the very top, they’re going to need even more quality (and someone to replace Dembele in the long-term – he turns 30 in the summer).
That replacement could come in the form of his compatriot Tielemans. The 19-year-old Anderlecht star is already a top player and, like Dembele, can play in a deep-lying role or further forward if he’s asked to do so.
Tottenham have been linked with Tielemans before – but they are far from the only team interested. Come this summer the midfielder will be in demand, so they’ll have to move fast to bring him in.
What Spurs have going for them is an existing Belgian contingent that could be used to attract the youngster. Dembele, Alderweireld and Vertonghen are already at White Hart Lane and will know Tielemans from national team duties. That leverage could be exploited to give Spurs the edge in the race to sign him.
Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)
Danny Rose's absence through injury for the past couple of months has highlighted Spurs’ left-back position as one of their weakest in terms of backup. Ben Davies is a decent player, but he lacks Rose's attacking ability. The Welshman signed a new contact at White Hart Lane recently, but it’s hard to imagine him ever making the left-back berth his own.
Pochettino & Co. are said to be looking at Fulham’s Sessegnon to give Spurs a boost in that position – and it’s easy to see why. The Roehampton-born talent has taken to professional football incredibly well, is both English and young – at 16 years old he’s an England U19 international – and fits the Spurs model perfectly.
Dele Alli has proven that signing young players from the Football League can work, and Spurs may look to Sessegnon to follow that model. He could very well become Spurs’ – and England’s – long-term successor to Rose in the years to come.
Naby Keita (RB Leipzig)
The thing about central midfielders – especially in the modern game, when there are so many different types of central midfielder – is that you can never have too many of them. Keita would offer Spurs something different, as the 22-year-old Guinea international has an element of unpredictability about him.
He’s a box-to-box midfielder who is just as effective helping out at the back as he is taking on players and scoring goals at the other end. He’s been a revelation in German football for RB Leipzig, helping them to second place in the Bundesliga table.
Leipzig only signed Keita last year – from Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg, where he won the Austrian title – but he has big ambitions (he wants to be like Lionel Messi, which we’ll label ‘commendable optimism’) and a move to a Premier League club could well be of interest.
Liverpool reportedly have a big interest in the player, so Spurs will be hoping the Reds fail to qualify for the Champions League if they have their eyes on him too. Keita's versatility would be a huge asset to Spurs, as he could slot into any area of midfield in any formation. Useful, considering Pochettino tends to alternate between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-2-1.
Spurs have four top players capable of playing behind the striker: Alli, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Erik Lamela. Lamela, however, is a long-term injury concern – and in the event of a crock occurring when they’re playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, Spurs are currently having to rely on inexperienced players like Josh Onomah and Nkoudou. Reinforcements would be welcome.
In an ideal world, this particular slot would be taken by either Ross Barkley or Wilfried Zaha. Sadly, if Spurs want to buy five or six players, Barkley and Zaha are no-nos, as their statuses as established Premier League stars would mean Spurs’ entire budget being used up on them (and the inconsistency of both players could be slightly off-putting).
That said, Bruma is hardly a poor replacement. He’s an incredibly skilled winger who knows where the goal is, and it’s only a matter of time before the 22-year-old receives a senior international cap for Portugal. Spurs have already been linked with him and are, in fact, tipped to make a move for the Galatasaray star this summer.
For the £12 million he would likely cost, Bruma would be worth the risk. He has ambitions to emulate his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo, and if he was to display even a fraction of the Real Madrid star’s ability, he’d be a fantastic signing for the north London side.
Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)
Like the aforementioned Keita, Werner has starred in the RB Leipzig team that has risen to second in the Bundesliga.
Spurs had a major interest in signing him before he joined Leipzig from Stuttgart – and it’s a move Spurs must be regretting not making happen.
Werner has scored 17 goals in 28 Bundesliga appearances this season and made his senior international debut for Germany earlier this year. With Vincent Janssen struggling, the German forward would provide great competition for Harry Kane and add some real depth to Spurs’ attacking ranks.
If Tottenham were to sell the likes of Kevin Wimmer and Moussa Sissoko, then start next season with a team of Lloris; Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Van Dijk; Rose, Dembele, Wanyama, Walker; Eriksen, Alli; Kane – and still be able to consider the likes of Vorm, Davies, Trippier, Dier, Tielemans, Keita, Bruma, Son and Werner too? Things would look very exciting indeed for a Wembley 2017/18 season.