Yes it is almost that time again – the much awaited and oft dreaded start of a new Premier League season.
For those of us that are long suffering Spurs fans we always seem to approach this time of year with less expectation and more fear. Last season was a case in point – fully expecting Gareth Bale to leave while still hoping something could be done to get him to stay. And then the seven major signings all designed to replace him – which they patently didn´t.
This summer has been one of quiet contemplation. A few players out: Gomes, Livermore and Siggy in particular along with a few youngsters being released or loaned out, while we have brought in a mix of youth and experience. Youth in the form of a couple of British defenders – Davies and Dier – and experience in the shape of Dutch keeper Vorm.
But at least we seem to have resisted any and all attempts to lure our biggest stars away – Lloris has signed a new contract and Barcelona´s stalking of Vertonghen seems to have evaporated now they have secured Vermaelen. Although some supporters would have liked to see the back of our Brazilian pair (and I am not one of them) they are still with us.
However, the squad has yet to fully take shape. At the moment we have too many over 21 year old players to fit into the 25 man squad which has to be named at the beginning of September
Three goalkeepers, three right backs, four left backs, five CDs (excluding Dier who is under age) six if you include Khumalo but he hardly counts, thirteen midfielders (excluding Bentaleb – again under age ) and three strikers (again this does not include Kane but does include Obika).
All of which adds up to 31 players so technically we need to get rid of six players (by permanent sale or loan) or risk having to keep them but not register or play them, all before we buy anyone else, unless of course they – like the American Yedlin – are still under age.
So who will leave?
From defence, the likelihood is that Dawson is once again deemed surplus to requirements, just as he has been for the past two seasons, while Benny is fourth choice left back – he is now even behind Fryers – so he is likely to depart, but having head butted an international colleague whilst in Brazil his temperament is very much in doubt, and there are apparently no takers – not even from League One let alone the Championship. A player with one year left on his contract so we have to pay him yet no way we can play him.
Of the midfielders included in the thirteen, Carroll looks like he is already on his way to Derby on loan, while others such as Mason and Ceballos will soon follow but there are still too many.
If we aim to get someone like Depay then perhaps two of Lennon, Townsend and Chadli need to leave, if Schneiderlin comes in then surely one of Sandro or Capoue will have to depart.
Up top, Obika simply is not good enough and must leave. He is now almost 24 and when on loan at Charlton last year only played ten times, scoring three times. Not good enough by a long way.
To be fair, the other three strikers may not be good enough either but until we find someone better it seems as if we are left with Adebayor, Soldado and Kane as our goalscoring options.
So what of our main signing this summer – the new Manager?
Looking at our pre-season matches the shape of Pochettino´s team does not appear to have altered too greatly from what went before – four at the back with one striker and a flexible mix of five in midfield. Taking the Schalke game as an example we seemed to play 126.96.36.199 for much of the first half with Bentaleb sitting in front of his defenders, Holtby doing the box to box bit with Lamela, Eriksen and Lennon all interchanging in support of Ade.
What was there – certainly early on – was a different drive and approach. The high pressing game, the intent to win the ball back and move it forward quickly, and most importantly getting the ball and players into the opposition penalty area – something we rarely did under our last two Managers.
The philosophy that Pochettino had at Southampton seems to be getting through to many of the players but a few – in particular the four that were in the final stages of the World Cup (Dembele, Chadli, Vertonghen and Paulinho) – have not had the same level of training as the rest, they are probably not at a fitness level to match the others. And that could be significant.
Can the Manager bring these players into the starting line up immediately or does he need them to prove their fitness?
In the past Tottenham players have gone onto the pitch believing they were simply fit enough to play a Premier League game. But that is not the Pochettino way. He wants every one of his players to be as fit as they can be – not just fit enough. Afterall, when Carl Froch got into the ring recently at Wembley against George Groves he wasn´t just fit enough – he was as fit he could be and then he trained even more.
That is how our players should treat training ahead of the season. That is the Pochettino way.
Will it work? We will begin to find out in one week´s time.