Written By Eoghan Mullan (@EMullan95)
Pre-season has yet to start at Hotspur Way however Spurs fans find themselves in an unfamiliar scenario. Two signings were confirmed before the summer transfer window officially opened in the shape of Ivan Perisic and Fraser Forster arriving on free transfers. Both transfers will provide a wealth of much needed experience to Antonio Conte’s side and address two areas of concern. A backup goalkeeper has been on the agenda in recent seasons and experiments with Paolo Gazzaninga, Joe Hart and Pierluigi Gollini have proven unsuccessful. He may not get the majority of fans excited however Fraser Forster will arrive at Tottenham with the knowledge that he will be playing second fiddle to captain Hugo Lloris and will bring both premier league and champions league experience.
Ivan Perisic however is a signing that should excite Tottenham fans. A world cup runner up, Serie A, Bundesliga and Champions League winner is a player that will match the energy and passion of Antonio Conte. Perisic was a pivotal player in Conte’s season in charge of Inter Milan in 20/21 who went on to win the Serie A. It is expected that he will slot in at left wingback this upcoming season, but his ability, experience and threat playing further forward will be a welcomed option for a Tottenham team that often struggled for goal scorers other than Kane and Son.
A week into the window, Tottenham confirmed the signature of Yves Bissouma from Brighton for a fee in the region of £25million. Bissouma has often been a standout player for Brighton and has shown his ability to mix it up against top sides in England. The 25 year old Mali international will undoubtedly improve the midfield and provide competition for standout performers Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur. The former played every minute of premier league football in 20/21, followed by a leading role in Denmarks Euro 2020 campaign. Early in the 21/22 season, the Dane appeared jaded and struggled for form but gradually improved to become a key figure for Tottenham in the second half of the 21/22 season, featuring in 36 of 38 premier league matches. The arrival of Bissouma will allow Conte to rotate his midfielders more often without impacting on quality and could also see the development of a rigorous midfield partnership. According to WhoScored, both Bissouma and Hojbjerg were ranked in the top two for the completion of successful tackles out of all premier league midfielders since 20/21. This will provide Tottenham with the option of playing two central midfielders that are notoriously hard to get past and offer protection to an already strong defence.
Despite a busy start to the window, Tottenham are expected to continue activity over the coming weeks. It has been reported that Conte wants his signings in early, preferably before the team jet of to South Korea on the 10th of July for their pre-season tour. So where else does Antonio Conte want to improve his team? It is rumoured that Tottenham have been searching for a left sided centre back, right wing back and another attacker before outgoings are even replaced. Let’s take a look at who might be arriving at Hotspur Way this summer.
Left Sided Centre Back
Conte tends to favour playing with a back three and requires his wide centre backs to be comfortable on the ball. Ben Davies was outstanding at times last season and won’t give up his place without a fight. However, with a gruelling fixture schedule and participation in Champions League football, Conte would like to have quality options for rotation. It’s no secret that Conte and Fabio Paratici had looked at Allesandro Bastoni of Inter Milan as their primary target but prising him from his boyhood club appears too much of a task this summer. Other targets include RB Leipzigs Joško Gvardiol and Villarreal’s Pau Torres. The former looks set to sign a new deal with the German club and is courted by the majority of top teams in Europe. His signature would command a high transfer fee and appears to be out of Tottenham’s reach this summer. The latter came close to joining Spurs last summer, but he opted to remain with Villarreal due to their participation in the Champion’s League. Paratici is known to appreciate Torres’s quality and may attempt to close a deal by including Giovani Lo Celso who played on loan at Villarreal last season and both parties are keen to make the stay permanent. Pau Torres is a left footed centre back who is comfortable with the ball at his feet, can start an attack with accurate long passes and has exceptional ability to carry the ball from deep driving his team further forward. However, the Spaniards aerial ability is a weakness and may prompt Tottenham to consider alternative options.
In recent weeks, they have been linked with the likes of Evan N’Dicka (Frankfurt), Piero Hincapié (Bayer Leverkusen) and Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), all of which are left footed centre backs with differences in style. It is clear however that this is an area that they wish to improve on and no doubt other targets will appear in the coming weeks.
Right Wing Back
A position that gained plenty of attention and criticism is that of right wing back. Last season, Conte experimented with multiple players and appeared to have finally settled with Matt Doherty. The Irish man struggled for form since signing in the 20/21 season but found form under Conte after starring particularly in matches vs Everton and Leeds prior to suffering a knee injury against Aston Villa ruling him out for the rest of the season. In 6 games, Doherty contributed to 2 goals and 3 assists which changed the opinions of many fans. It is anticipated that Doherty will remain with Tottenham in this upcoming season and will be given the opportunity to feature heavily.
Emerson Royal the Brazilian full back signed last summer under Nuno Espirito Santo from Barcelona and started his time well. Since Conte’s arrival, he has been in and out of the team and been required to play in the right wing back position. To the frustration of fans, Emerson’s attacking ability in particular crossing has often been questioned. Criticism was directed towards Emerson however he was a signing that has mainly played in a full back position and the emphasis on attacking is not a role he favours. Royal’s agent has claimed in recent weeks that his client would like to remain in London and is enjoying life at Tottenham, however reports in Spain have linked Atletico Madrid with a move for his services. It’s unknown whether this deal may happen, but it will most definitely be a consideration for Conte and Paratici if they can recoup some of the £25million they committed to signing him.
A signing which Tottenham appear close to finalising is Middlesborough’s Djed Spence. The England under 21 international enjoyed a fantastic season on loan with Nottingham Forest, gaining promotion to the Premier League and starring in FA Cup matches vs Arsenal, Leicester and Liverpool highlighting his ability to compete with premier league level players. Daniel Levy is currently negotiation with Middlesborough for his transfer and it looks likely that he will be the next arrival at Hotspur Way this summer, for a fee in the region of £15million. The 21-year-old has the ability to run up and down the right flank with great speed, desire and quality which should excite Spurs fans. He is far from the finished article but likes to dribble with the ball and stretch the opposition with runs off of the ball. It’s unknown whether he will arrive to be the number one at right wing back, but will no doubt be given the opportunity to demonstrate his ability over the course of the season.
Barring a disaster, Tottenham should complete the signing of Spence however other targets that have been rumoured include Shaktar’s Brazilian Dodo, Lens’s Jonathan Clauss and Torino’s Wilfried Singo. All three offer different sets of qualities but it is unlikely any moves will materialise this window.
Tottenham relied heavily upon Heung Son Min last season, who had one of his best seasons in a Spurs shirt obtaining the top goalscorer award. Harry Kane required time to adapt from a hectic summer and came into form in the second half of the season. The January signing of Dejan Kulusevksi has been a hit with fans. The Swede’s performances earned high praise and a starting spot on the right of the front three. The current front three was hard to displace last season, often leaving Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn frustrated with limited game time. Tottenham have signed various forwards over the years to provide an able back up to Harry Kane and Son, but finally look set to commit a large transfer fee towards another attacker to not only deputise, but to compete and rotate.
Everton’s Richarlison is being heavily linked to Tottenham in recent weeks, who would offer the ability of playing in any position across the front three. The forward would drastically improve upon Tottenham’s current backups and provide another dimension to the attacking style should Kane or Son require a rest or become injured. (Ed – Since writing this article it looks like Spurs have signed him for £50m.)
Another forward has been requested by Conte and it is anticipated that it would not be a replacement for any outgoings. Therefore, any sales are likely to be replaced this summer. Steven Bergwijn is heavily courted by Ajax and recently been linked with Everton. Lucas Moura has highlighted his preference to stay at Tottenham and looks likely to remain for the upcoming season.
Other attacking targets include Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, who is admired greatly by his former coach Antonio Conte. A deal for the Argentine is highly unlikely which has led to other targets being considered. Gabriel Jesus was looked at, but Tottenham didn’t firm up their interest and it was likely that he would swap Man City’s bench for Tottenham’s. Paolo Dybala is a free agent and was subject to a bid from Spurs in 2019 however looks set to join Inter Milan this summer. Other names that have appeared include Lyon’s Lucas Paqueta, Nicolo Zaniolo of Roma and Ajax’s Brazilian winger Antony. Many of these haven’t materialised beyond the rumour stage but could be an option for Tottenham to explore later in the transfer window once they have addressed key areas before looking at replacing any sales.
It’s clear that Tottenham are determined to back Antonio Conte ahead of the 2022/23 season, especially with the recent injection of £150million from the owners which has excited fans greatly. Pre-season is set to get underway next week and Conte will run his eye over existing and new players when they jet off to South Korea. Whether Paratici can deliver more signings ahead of the tour is another question, but it’s likely to get busier in North London with new additions arriving in anticipation for a congested season.