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One glaring problem Ange Postecoglou has with Tottenham squad is already clear in pre-season

The Tottenham players are back in pre-season training at Hotspur Way and one at least temporary gap in the squad is very clear.

Ange Postecoglou and his reshuffled coaching staff have been putting the returning Spurs stars through their paces at the Enfield training complex after their summer holidays came to a close. The non-international players were back on Saturday for their initial testing with the sports science staff before Sunday brought the return of training sessions under Postecoglou and his coaching staff.

The staff features newcomers Nick Montgomery and Sergio Raimundo as well as newly-promoted senior assistant coach Matt Wells, along with Ryan Mason, Mile Jedinak and goalkeeping coach Rob Burch. They were working on Sunday and Monday with senior players outfield players James Maddison, Pedro Porro, Yves Bissouma, Richarlison, Dejan Kulusevski, Ben Davies, Pape Matar Sarr, Destiny Udogie, Brennan Johnson, Manor Solomon, Emerson Royal, Oliver Skipp, Bryan Gil and Timo Werner, who had his loan spell from RB Leipzig extended to the end of next season.

New signings Archie Gray and Lucas Bergvall have also been settling into their new home, while senior loan players such as Sergio Reguilon, Djed Spence and Alejo Veliz were also back in the mix. Academy products Dane Scarlett, Jamie Donley, Mikey Moore, George Abbott, Tyrese Hall, Luca Gunter and returning loan players Alfie Devine and Ashley Phillips were also involved.

Tottenham captain Son Heung-min returned on Monday, his 32nd birthday, as his international duties with South Korea saw him playing later into June than many of his team-mates.

However, one glance across those who have been taking part in pre-season so far shows one glaring misbalance within the squad Postecoglou has at his disposal during pre-season.

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It comes because of the tournament football this summer, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Micky van de Ven, Radu Dragusin and Guglielmo Vicario having been involved at Euro 2024 and Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso and Rodrigo Bentancur in action at the Copa America in the USA.

The main issue that comes from those absentees is that it means Postecoglou only has one natural centre-back for much of pre-season at his disposal in Phillips, who turned 19 a fortnight ago and spent the second half of last season on loan at Plymouth where he won their Young Player of the Season award.

Defenders Joe Rodon and Eric Dier both left the club this summer, the former to Leeds and the latter to Bayern Munich at the end of his contract, while Japhet Tanganga was released at the conclusion of his deal.

Ordinarily that would hand an opportunity for game time to Alfie Dorrington, but the talented 19-year-old academy centre-back is currently recovering from hamstring surgery and may not be back in training until August or potentially September, depending on how cautious the club are with him after a couple of lengthy absences last season.

As he did during the previous campaign, Postecoglou will have to turn to full-backs Ben Davies and Emerson Royal to fill in at centre-back for as long as possible alongside Phillips, who will at least get the chance to show the Australian how much he has developed in the past six months. Emerson has also been linked with an exit from Spurs, with AC Milan in particular keen on taking the Brazilian right-back to Italy.

Radu Dragusin is likely to be the first of the centre-backs to return with the Romanian having exited the Euros to Van de Ven's Netherlands in the round of 16 on July 2. With players offered three weeks off after international tournaments, if they choose to take that full amount of time, Spurs' first game of their pre-season tour to Asia will see them play Vissel Kobe in Tokyo on July 27, which could mean Dragusin could potentially link up with the squad for that match in Japan.

However, unless the 22-year-old Romanian, who shone at the Euros, chooses to cut short his holidays, Postecoglou will be forming a makeshift central defence for the friendlies at Hearts and QPR, as well as in any behind-closed-doors training ground friendlies in the days ahead. Versatile U21s captain and midfielder Abbott can also play in the middle of the backline if required and did that as well as playing at right-back last season for the U21s at times.

While they have not been shown training with the squad in the first few days, Postecoglou could look to others in the U21s' Premier League 2-winning side for reinforcements for the weeks ahead. Dante Cassanova, 20, played much of the second half of the season at centre-back for Wayne Burnett's side, while right-back Tyrell Ashcroft filled in at times around Dorrington's second hamstring injury.

Postecoglou also said that he wants the club to sign a new centre-back this summer to add another senior option to that of Romero, Van de Ven, Dragusin as well as Phillips and Dorrington.

"If you’re saying 'is it an area we can strengthen?', yes it’s an area we will probably look at," the Spurs boss said back in March. "With all these things it’s about trying to strengthen the group as much as anything else. If you think about when I first arrived, we had maybe six or seven centre-backs at the club. So it’s not just numbers. It's more about the ability of those players to play the football we want and to fit in to what we're trying to build here.

"I think it is an area of the park we will look to strengthen, but I think we’ll look to strengthen all areas of the park come the end of the season. That’s planning that’s already underway, and other people are in charge of it at the moment."

Listen to the latest episode of Gold & Guest Talk Tottenham featuring lots of chat on pre-season so far, click here for in depth Spurs chat on your preferred podcast platform.

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