It’s been an uncharacteristically busy January for Spurs, with José Mourinho attempting to clear up some of the mess that was left for him, whilst attempting to do some forward-planning. He’s not done all the business that he’ll have wanted to do, but, *shrugs*, I guess that’s January?
Steven Bergwijn is the headline-grabbing new-boy, joining from PSV for £27m, but Giovani Lo Celso’s move being made permanent (£27.2m) is arguably the main event. Gedson Fernandes completes the trio of new arrivals, with several players heading out. Let’s note here that Toby Alderweireld signed a new contract in December (‘like a new signing’!), otherwise he might have been heading out in this window too.
Christian Eriksen *did* finally complete a permanent move away, joining Inter for £16.9m. Danny Rose has left for Newcastle United on an initial loan (but it’s hard to imagine that he’ll play for us again). Kyle Walker-Peters has joined Southampton on loan in search of regular game-time.
Youngsters Tashan Oakley-Boothe (Stoke City) and Paris Maghoma (Brentford) have been allowed to leave permanently whilst we have also sent out some younger players to gain experience on loan:
- Kazaiah Sterling – Leyton Orient
- Anthony Georgiou – Bolton Wanderers
- Timothy Eyoma – Lincoln City
- Brandon Austin – Viborg FF
- Cameron Carter-Vickers – Luton Town
- Armando Shashoua – CD Atlético Baleares
- Jack Clarke – QPR
I was hoping that both Troy Parrott and Oliver Skipp would be heading out, but it would seem not – the story around Parrott a particularly interesting one. Excuse the pretty technical detail that follows, but I think it’s worth noting.
Mourinho said of Parrott in early January:
“He’s 17 years old. I don’t think at the age of 17 it’s good for you to go on loan to a Championship club or to go abroad to another country. My feeling is one thing is when you are 20 if you need that step when you are 19/20, another thing is when you are 17. When you are 17 you are a baby. 17 you just have to be in your father club where you feel at home, where you are at home, where you train and develop with the first team.”
Shortly afterwards, Dan Kilpatrick wrote that he expected Parrott to sign a new, long-term contract after he turned 18 on 4th February. The suggestion from some (and my own assumption too) was that Spurs were quietly applying their rule, again, whereby players are not allowed out on loan until they commit their futures to the club. This all appeared slightly strange to me because, at 17, Parrott is able to sign on for a maximum of three years, and one would think that tying him down and sending him out on loan to get regular games between now and May would benefit him hugely in the future.
It all got a little stranger on deadline day, though, when Dan tweeted an update on Parrott’s situation:
Dan is an excellent reporter with good links to the club and so we can safely assume that this information is entirely accurate. But it seems like a bit of a smokescreen from Spurs.
The reason I say that is that, in terms of the Premier League, Parrott only needs to be at an FA-registered club for 36 months prior to his 21st birthday in order to be considered homegrown*. He is on-course to achieve this (unless we are planning to loan him out to a European club for three years!).
In terms of the Champions League, Parrott can be – and has been – named in Spurs’ Champions League List A Squad. He cannot be included on List B – the ‘freebie’ list of young players – as, although he signed for Spurs in 2017, there were some issues with his registration** and so he has not technically been eligible to play for Spurs for the requisite two years in order to be eligible for List B inclusion.
If teams name a 25-man Champions League squad, eight of the players must be ‘locally trained’, be that ‘club-trained’ or ‘association-trained’***. Club-trained means that they’ve been at the club for three full seasons by the age of 21 (continuously or not). Association-trained is the same, but any club registered with the FA. Parrott is well on-course to become club-trained, but is not there yet.
Perhaps the club view is that that by stopping him going on loan now they can include him as a ‘freebie’ on their Champions League squad next season; a rather short-termist approach, I would argue.
Having not signed a striker, though, my hope is that Parrott signs a long-term contract when he turns 18 on Tuesday and actually starts getting minutes – he’s more than capable at this point.
At the start of January I would have identified a defensive midfielder, full-backs, and a forward as the crucial positions to bolster, and we have not addressed any of these issues. But things have changed since then, and I certainly feel more confident about midfield and full-back areas (though not so much the forward).
Serge Aurier’s continued improvement, as well as Mourinho’s intelligent use of him (as I explain in the clip below) mean that we should be okay on the right until the summer. The emergence of Japhet Tanganga, and his flexibility in playing well on the left as well as the right (or at centre-back, his primary position), plus the return of Ben Davies add up to give us stability on the left too.
Mourinho has been using Harry Winks at the base of midfield, sometimes in a two, sometimes in a three – I suspect that the three will become the norm as we transition to 4-3-3. Whilst Winks is certainly lacking in some defensive skills, once Tanguy Ndombele returns he will have a midfield partner who can cover some of those deficiencies, whilst Giovani Lo Celso’s tenacity and pressing will significantly lessen the load on Winks too. This three-man combination is – in my opinion – the best we can muster at the moment. Without meaning to be cruel to Moussa Sissoko, his absence means that we are no longer seeing the Winks/Sissoko midfield combination which has haunted me for a year – it really does not work. Once Sissoko returns I would hope that he plays on the right or not at all. Winks, Ndombele and Lo Celso, with Gedson and Dier providing back-up/rotation – is not a disaster by any stretch (though, granted, a top quality defensive midfielder would elevate it significantly).
The lack of striker is the big disappointment from the window, but this statement comes with two caveats:
- I don’t think Harry Kane’s absence would be as keenly felt were we playing Dele or Son Heung-min or even Erik Lamela up front and not Lucas Moura who, in my eyes, does a pretty poor impression of a striker.
- I would really like to see Troy Parrott get some minutes, as mentioned above.
Whilst it’s a pity that we didn’t get a striker deal over the line, I can appreciate that January is a tricky time to land longer-term targets. So the option seemed to be to get someone in short-term (Krzysztof Piątek, Willian José, Olivier Giroud, etc etc) or no-one at all. Watching Manchester United scrabbling around to sign Odion Ighalo in the last minutes of the window in no way made me feel envious, but it did highlight the real challenge of striker-buying at this point in time. Ighalo may well bang in 8-10 goals over the next four months and make me look foolish, but I’m going to say I’d have rather passed than signed him.
I would like to end by talking about the Development Squad, and the radical change we have seen since José Mourinho became manager. Mauricio Pochettino was seen by some as a keen developer of youth players, but for much of his tenure this was not the case. I have spoken previously about how much he has hindered the development of many players with his rigidity in terms of wanting the best youth players to train with the first team squad rather than play games with the Under-23s or out on loan, and his inflexibility in not letting many out on loan more generally.
Mourinho’s introduction has totally overhauled things already; whether that is of his own doing, whether John McDermott is simply being allowed to do things differently or whether it is a combination of both is unknown, but here are the main changes:
- Japhet Tanganga was brought into the first team. You can only imagine the knock-on effect that this has in terms of mentality – it gives hope of a renewed pathway into the first team for all of our young players and totally changes the perception around being an Academy player at Tottenham Hotspur.
- Dennis Cirkin has been on the bench. Pochettino would very occasionally draft in younger players that he liked, but Mourinho identified Cirkin very early on and seems keen to give him prolonged exposure.
- Tashan Oakley-Boothe and Paris Maghoma have been sold. These are good players who likely aren’t good enough for Spurs and who were taking up spaces in the Under-23s (and, honestly, they were stagnating like you wouldn’t believe) which could go to players who need to step up from the Under-18s in order to develop. This decision allows the two players to go and forge a career elsewhere, which is great for them. We got fees for both, presumably nominal, but a fee is a fee.
- We have let players out on loan. Kyle Walker-Peters will finally get to play some regular football. We have also loaned out Kazaiah Sterling, Anthony Georgiou, TJ Eyoma, Brandon Austin, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Armando Shashoua, Jack Clarke. Obviously some of these were on loan before, but some are going out for the first time, which is great. All of the 97-born, 98-born and 99-born players are now out on loan or in the first team squad (Tanganga, Whiteman) except for Jonathan Dinzeyi.
- The knock-on effect of these sales and loans internally is that the Under-23 team can now be remodelled to include some of those Under-18s who need to be tested at a higher-level, including Kion Etete, who is impressing so far since moving from Notts County.
This is quite a remarkable turn-around in such a short space of time and fills me with a lot of hope that we are back on track in terms of developing our young players. Identifying those players who aren’t good enough for us but have some value and can be sold for profit, start their careers elsewhere and become actual footballers as opposed to theoretical footballers is a crucial part of managing the Development Squad. I felt as though Mauricio Pochettino never quite had a handle on it and I am already seeing that Mourinho certainly has.
One final thing. It emerged last week that our Academy players were apparently using social media to say goodbye to our talented 18-year old centre-back, Luis Binks.
I have not quite been able to get to the bottom of whether he’s left permanently or on-loan and it’s odd that nothing was announced yesterday. Binks shares an agent with Thierry Henry and there was a suggestion that perhaps he could be off to Montreal Impact, where Henry is coaching. Watch this space, I guess.
If you’re interested in all of this stuff on the youth teams, I urge you to listen to my friend, and youth football expert Carl Hurst on Ledley Kings Knä.
*You can read about the Premier League homegrown regulations in their 2019/20 Premier League squads confirmed article.
**Credit to Reddit user Imbasauce: ‘Troy transfered to us from Dublin on July 2017 (he’s 15years and 5months). According to Fifa rules regarding ‘Protection of Minors’, EU Nationals can only transfer when he reaches the age of 16. This means he couldn’t register with the club officially during his first year.’
***You can read about the Champions League regulations on club-trained and association-trained players in their 2019/20 regulations.