Released/retained players confirmed

Following my article from a month ago, Spurs have now confirmed their released and retained players lists as per Premier League rules.

There are a few points of interest:

  • Spurs confirmed the release of Michel Vorm (35), Dylan Duncan (20), Charlie Freeman (19), Tom Glover (21), Connor Ogilvie (23) & Jamie Reynolds (19) have all left the club.
  • Spurs did not confirm the release of Fernando Llorente (his contract expires at the end of the month); however, he is noted on the released list.
  • Spurs include new signing Kion Etete on their retained players list. He has joined from Notts County, and is 17, so in the same age range of next year’s 2nd year Academy scholars. However, he joins Troy Parrott and Harvey White has second year scholars who already have professional contracts.
  • Spurs have given new contracts to Jack Roles (20) and Japhet Tanganga (20).
  • Spurs have also offered new contracts to Shayon Harrison (21) and George Marsh (20).

That last bullet point was perhaps the biggest surprise, as many youth watchers expected both to move on, though Marsh has been included in many of Mauricio Pochettino’s match-day squads so perhaps he has kicked on behind the scenes or just has something that Pochettino admires.

I am very pleased that Roles and Tanganga have been given contract extensions as both are players I like and who I think — at the very least — will hold some value in the future. I would expect both to be sent out on loan next season.

I had thought that Jonathan De Bie and Brandon Austin were out of contract this summer based upon contract details listed on the web, but either that information was incorrect or options to extend their contracts were triggered.

Spurs’ other young signing, 15-year old goalkeeper Isak Midttun Solberg (from Bryne FK), is not listed, as he is joining the Academy as a first year scholar.

I still suspect a number of other Development Squad players to move on permanently this summer as the club makes space for the large second year group who have now become professionals. The other alternative is to make full use of the loan system which would be a shift in policy.

Finally, if you are interested in what Kion Etete is like, here are a couple of videos of the young striker in action:

A hat-trick for Notts County reserves.

Released/retained players

In the first week of June Spurs will announce their released and retained players, and there are some decisions to make both with those whose contracts are expiring, and those caught between academy and first team.

In terms of the first team, we have two players whose contracts are expiring: Michel Vorm (35) and Fernando Llorente (34). I think we can safely assume that Vorm will be leaving, but there is a big question mark over Llorente, particularly given his impact in the Champions League. Personally I think if we have the squad space then he should be kept on, but what makes that difficult is that we won’t necessarily know until the end of the transfer window how the squad is shaping up. It would be pretty awful planning if we were to extend his contract and then end up not being able to name him in the 25-man squad, Γ  la Vincent Janssen. But that also assumes that we might buy some players, sooooo…

Then we come onto the Development Squad players, and I think there’s a real point of interest here. In doing some research for this article I found the below tweet that I made in June 2018.

Nick Tsaroulla, after a year without a club, has joined Championship side Brentford this week ahead of next season. Tsaroulla was an excellent left-back in our Under-18s and then Under-23s who suffered an injury away from the pitch and was ultimately released. I was surprised, as Spurs had previously stuck by injured players (Joe Pritchard as an example, but there have been others) and, besides, I thought Tsaroulla was good. I think in hindsight we should have kept hold of Tsaroulla and released the others mentioned in my tweet above.

Those I mentioned will presumably all be released or sold this summer (Jaden Brown already joined Huddersfield in January on a free transfer). I think you could reasonably say that we have wasted a year’s worth (or 6 months’ worth in Brown’s case) of time, wages and potential opportunities for others on Tom Glover, Shayon Harrison, Shilow Tracey and Brown. Harrison and Glover have spent some of the season away on loan — Glover at Helsingborg, making 0 appearances, and Harrison at Melbourne City FC, making 11 appearances. But ultimately we made poor judgement calls and I personally think this is more evidence of mismanagement of the Development Squad players, and I personally believe that more oversight is required of that group.

I would support the introduction of an Academy Progression Manager to oversee everything from Post-Scholarship to first team integration, setting up individual progression plans and arranging loans if deemed necessary. As it stands, too many players are stagnating or regressing. Speaking of which…

A number of the current scholars have been sharing pictures on social media of themselves signing their first professional contracts — a proud moment for them and their families! It seems that pretty much all of the second year scholars have signed professional contracts, the only question marks perhaps being Jeremie Mukendie and Elliot Thorpe, who have not played a lot of football this season for various reasons. This means that the Development Squad will be seeing the introduction of the following players next season:

  • Phoenix Patterson
  • Rodel Richards
  • Maxwell Statham
  • Jubril Okedina
  • Armando Shashoua
  • Brooklyn Lyons-Foster
  • Joshua Oluwayemi
  • Maurizio Pochettino
  • Rayan Clarke
  • Paris Maghoma
  • Maximus Tainio
  • Jamie Bowden
  • Dilan Markanday
  • Jeremie Mukendie – TBC
  • Elliot Thorpe – TBC

It’s worth noting that Oliver Skipp is also in this age group (2000/2001 born) but, of course, he has already become a first team squad member.

So what can we say about this? Well, we’ve offered more (mostly one-year) pro contracts than possibly ever before. It’s a strong group, but some of those offered contracts are arguably at an ability level at which in previous seasons would have seen them released or offered an extension of their scholarship to really prove themselves capable at Under-18 level before progressing or moving on.

This most likely supports what many youth-watchers had already been thinking: that a clear-out of the Under-23s/Development Squad will be happening. The following players are out of contract this summer:

  • Connor Ogilvie (23)
  • Shayon Harrison (21)
  • Tom Glover (21)
  • Brandon Austin (20)
  • George Marsh (20)
  • Dylan Duncan (20)
  • Jack Roles (20)
  • Japhet Tanganga (20)
  • Charlie Freeman (19)
  • Jonathan De Bie (18)

I think we can expect most of these players to leave. Sadly, Roles — who has 13 goals and 6 assists in 19 matches this season — has not been offered a contract, and is being courted by multiple clubs from Premier League to League One. Marsh has been included in first team squads, so may get a contract extension on that basis, and hopefully young goalkeepers Austin and De Bie will be kept on too.

Aside from these players, we have decisions to take on:

  • Luke Amos (22) – contract expiry: 2021
  • Anthony Georgiou (22) – contract expiry: 2020
  • Kyle Walker-Peters (22) – contract expiry: 2023
  • Joshua Onomah (22) – contract expiry: 2021
  • Cameron Carter Vickers (21) – contract expiry: 2021
  • Shilow Tracey (21) – contract expiry: 2020
  • Alfie Whiteman (20) – contract expiry: 2020
  • Kazaiah Sterling (20) – contract expiry: 2021
  • Marcus Edwards (20) – contract expiry: 2020
  • Sam Shashoua (19) – contract expiry: 2020
  • Jonathan Dinzeyi (19) – contract expiry: unknown
  • Jamie Reynolds (19) – contract expiry: unknown
  • TJ Eyoma (19) – contract expiry: 2021
  • Tashan Oakley-Boothe (19) – contract expiry: 2021
  • Tariq Hinds (18) – contract expiry: unknown

Some of the decisions may be taken out of the club’s hands. The agents of Sterling, Edwards, Shashoua and Georgiou forced the issue with loans last season, meaning that each now has experience of professional football on their CV and they may look for permanent moves. Conversely, Walker-Peters has staggeringly played nearly as many minutes for the England Under-21s as he has at any level for Spurs since August 2017.

I would think that this is the summer that Onomah and Carter-Vickers move on and if Walker-Peters stays it would surely only be because he’s received assurances of significant game-time next season. Amos has had an injury-disrupted season and may give it another year given the positive impression he made in pre-season last summer.

Of the development squad players, I could foresee Dinzeyi and Reynolds being released (incidentally Reynolds has been injured for a lot of the season but has shown some potential at left-back), whilst I think Hinds will be kept on; he’s a very competent right-back with a degree of potential.

I await our released and retained lists with baited breath and hope that the presumed clear-out marks the beginning of a new strategy for our Development Squad players, hopefully involving more strategic loans, more involvement on the first team bench, and the use of fringe players (like Skipp and Walker-Peters) in alternative competitions (PL2, Checkatrade Trophy, etc).

This is even more vital because of the position we have got ourselves into with the number of homegrown players required to enable us to name a 25-man squad (see this piece from last year for further information). What we don’t want is to have to spend big money on inflated transfer fees for homegrown players who are potentially no better than players we could have developed from within, and I think that’s a genuine risk right now.

To finish, have a listen to our unapologetically jubilant post-Champions League semi-final podcast:

Tactics and numbers

I thought I’d give this a nice, simple title which clearly represents the content. And, actually, the content is fairly simple as well. I tweeted a few things yesterday that I thought may also be of interest to people who don’t use Twitter.

Tactical analysis of Ajax (1st leg)

Have a click on the below to see my annotated images. I talk about the goal we conceded, the team shape, and the more assertive pressing in the second half.

Numbers

I regularly tweet goals and assists per minute as I think it gives an interesting picture of the contribution of our attacking players. The updated numbers illustrate a couple of interesting points.


Firstly, the real number one for the Premier League-only numbers is Kyle Walker-Peters with 94.7. But as he’s only played 284 Premier League minutes (in which he has 3 assists) it felt wrong to include him.

Secondly, I’m no Fernando Llorente fan but you really can’t argue with those numbers. The style we play when he’s on the pitch may not always be pretty, but it seems to have been highly effective.

And, finally, Son Heung-min is an absolute hero and, in my opinion, our Player of the Year.

More numbers

And in researching this I also looked at total numbers of minutes played across the squad. It’s worth noting that these are out of a possible 4,860 minutes in total (54 matches):

  • Alderweireld 4,048
  • Eriksen 3,769
  • Lloris 3,589
  • Kane 3,252
  • Son 3,069
  • Sissoko 3,067
  • Sanchez 2,932
  • Trippier 2,913
  • Lucas 2,878
  • Vertonghen 2,718
  • Dele 2,657
  • Winks 2,651
  • Davies 2,604
  • Rose 2,301
  • Dier 1,777
  • Lamela 1,464
  • Aurier 1,358
  • Foyth 1,256
  • Llorente 1,117
  • Gazzaniga 990
  • Wanyama 849
  • Dembele 706
  • Walker-Peters 615
  • Skipp 389
  • Vorm 279
  • Nkoudou 121
  • Marsh 25
  • Janssen 23
  • Eyoma 11
  • Sterling 9
  • Amos 2

I doubt there are many midfielders who have played as many minutes as Christian Eriksen. For comparison, Liverpool’s central midfielder with the most minutes is Georginio Wijnaldum with 3367, then James Milner with 2601, then Fabinho with 2466. Their midfield depth allows much more rotation, whereas we’ve been restricted by injuries and — let’s face it — don’t really have a natural Eriksen rotation.

Interestingly, Bernardo Silva has played 3755 minutes for Manchester City, another amazing effort, particularly considering that he’s a player like Eriksen who regularly runs 12km or more per match.

I was surprised Harry Winks had amassed as many minutes as he has as it has felt like a real injury-hit season for him. We’ve mismanaged him towards the end; his latest issue is reportedly a direct result of being pushed too far. This was inevitably given the lack of signings and the lack of proper integration of the likes of Oliver Skipp.

Ben Davies and Danny Rose have pretty much shared the total minutes evenly, which is probably what Mauricio Pochettino would want.

Hopefully this has been of interest and, of course, if this is the kind of #content you enjoy, consider following me on Twitter as well as listening to The Extra Inch podcast.

Adversity adspurscity

As a Spurs fan for over thirty years I’ve become accustomed to our clutching of defeat from the jaws of victory; to my team falling at the final hurdle; to inevitable, reliable, reassuring mediocrity. And so what Mauricio Pochettino has brought to the club — although including the occasional spattering of all the above — has been a real breath of fresh air.

We compete until the last. We are — ‘on our day’, as the expression goes — a match for anyone. And we’re sometimes a match for anyone even when it’s not our day, as Wednesday showed.

Our captain and talisman missing. Our pair of England centre-mids injured. Dele and Victor Wanyama a long way from peak fitness. The resurgent Moussa Sissoko going off in the first half. No Erik Lamela or Serge Aurier to call upon from the bench. But that didn’t stop our masterful Mauricio getting a tune from our boys. Speaking of a tune…

When everything was going against them he made them believe. And that’s sort of encapsulated this season. No stadium. No signings. No Harry Kane for long periods. No Son Heung-min (my Player of the Season) over a hectic, crucial period. Eric Dier and Harry Winks plagued by injuries all year.

Despite everything we are clinging onto the top four and now, of course, we’ve progressed to the SEMI-FINALS OF THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE! It still doesn’t feel real.

It almost under-sells Pochettino, though, to distil our season into that one match, no matter how exciting, engaging and enthralling it was.



And the reason I say that is that, once again, Pochettino has kicked on as a coach. Stay with me on this, because I think we’d all agree that we’ve fallen back a little in terms of our on-pitch performances and play-style.

But he’s doing more with less. Again. And he’s doing it by using a multitude of formations, some of which are changed in-game. He’s responding to opposition managers’ tactics (notably against Liverpool and Manchester City most recently). He’s often heavily rotating the side and managing it just about right (notably against Huddersfield most recently) and he’s even starting to integrate young players, with Juan Foyth, Oliver Skipp and Kyle Walker-Peters starting to feel like genuinely trusted players rather than token inclusions. All are expected to be in the 18 today.

Systems-wise, Pochettino used at least three in Wednesday’s incredible game. I’ve often described Pochettino’s formations as ‘calculated gambles’. With the narrow diamond that we started with, we essentially gave up the width but gave ourselves two pacy attacking players directly up against City’s centre-backs. And rarely, in my experience of watching Spurs, has such a knife edge been illustrated within the opening few minutes of a match.

City destroyed us down the flanks. They created overloads around the immobile Victor Wanyama before quickly getting the balls into the channels to take advantage of our full-backs having moved narrow, leaving a ludicrous amount of space which they exploited. Our full-backs were made to look sub-standard, mostly by the system, but partly due to poor decision-making. But, equally, Lucas and Son were hugely threatening and Son scoring twice with Lucas leading the charge forward for each goal showed that Pochettino did have a definite game-plan.

Moussa Sissoko and Dele had struggled defensively alongside Wanyama in the diamond, with Sissoko unable to cut-out the pass for the opening goal and Dele likewise regularly being caught ahead of the ball. And whilst Sissoko’s injury and our subsequent change fixed the midfield problem, it introduced Fernando Llorente too early in the game and negated most of our threat. We moved to a flat(ter) midfield four, which had been largely successful in the first leg, with Son shunted out to the left. The full-backs suddenly had protection and grew into their tasks as a result. But with Llorente up-front, we were playing with a target man who needs players around him.

Llorente is a skilful footballer who has a great touch and can link well with others, but he is painfully one-paced, and is unable to hold the ball up when he is isolated in the same way that Harry Kane, or even Son Heung-min nowadays, are able to. He is a threat from set pieces, though, and this proved vital as Pochettino’s second calculated gamble *just about* paid off too.

Spurs’ 4-4-2 shape against Man City

After City’s fourth goal around the hour mark we switched again, and this change ultimately saw us get the vital third goal. We pushed Son forward on the right, had Lucas on the left with Llorente up front, Eriksen floating behind in a 4-2-3-1-ish shape. Just prior to the breakthrough, Son popped up in the middle and made a darting run forward to the right, where he won a corner, and from this we won a second from which Llorente scored.

After our goal we replaced Lucas Moura with Ben Davies and played Rose ahead of Davies on the left, before bringing on Davinson Sanchez and finishing the match in a back five.

Pochettino made his tactical changes at just the right times in this match. Given the plethora of attacking talent Pep Guardiola had at his disposal, they might have expected to get more from this game. However, the issue was not with their attack. After all, they did score four. The problem was with their defence. Aymeric Laporte made uncharacteristic errors, but Fernandinho being left out was a big risk, and one wonders if Spurs’ first two goals might have been negated had he been on the pitch.