Infinite content

What you find with football club content is that when things are not going well, the amount of content related to that club increases. This week I have fallen into the trap myself! Let me assure you that this is (mostly) coincidence in my case. And yet I did find it relatively easy to get my words out this week; hindsight is a wonderful thing, etc etc etc.

I’ve been writing my gloves off (that’s not a saying, I know) these past couple of weeks and I thought I would plonk some links down here in order to aggregate some of it as there’s a chance you’ll have missed some. And, to be honest, a couple of these pieces are things I’m fairly happy with – which is a rare thing with me and my writing. So, going from the most recent:

I wrote this for 90min on how Pochettino may want to freshen up the team.

I wrote this for Paddy Power on what’s gone wrong and how we move forward.

And last week I’d written this, again for Paddy Power, on how Poch could do with cheering up a bit.

And aside from writing, we’ve released several episodes of The Extra Inch podcast, including a recent one where we dissected Southampton and then couldn’t bear to dissect Bayern. That episode, ‘The Extra Flinch‘, has had far fewer listens than usual; I wonder why?! Anyway, have a listen to the podcast if you’ve not before – it’s on iTunes, Spotify, Acast. If you enjoy listening it would be lovely if you’d leave a review! Here’s what some fine, fine people have said about us on iTunes.

iTunes Reviews for The Extra Inch
iTunes Reviews for The Extra Inch


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DESK-LLLC

Spurs are potentially about to have a very welcome selection dilemma. With Son Heung-min poised to return from his suspension, Lucas Moura coming off the bench to secure a point in the last game, Dele returning from injury and Giovani Lo Celso building fitness, Spurs are about to inject their attacking midfield with real talent. Whether that is offset by the sale of Christian Eriksen remains to be seen, but irrespective of that, Mauricio Pochettino has some choices to make.

Spurs fans dubbed the preferred front four DESK (Dele, Eriksen, Son, Kane) last year, though the number of games that they actually all appeared in together was disappointingly low. It will be fascinating to see come the end of the year whether Pochettino decides, once again, on a ‘clutch’ foursome or whether with more choice, comes more flexibility.

For example, this weekend Spurs play Newcastle, who had below 40% possession in each of their first two matches, at home to Arsenal and away at Norwich. They tended to sit relatively deep, attempt to be compact, and use Almirón’s ball-carrying ability and Joelinton’s hold-up play to counter. With the space behind the defence restricted, some of the qualities of Lucas and Son in particular may be negated.

Lucas has mostly been used as a forward, often the most advanced, with Harry Kane (or another) dropping deeper. This can stretch a defence and create more space for schemers to work in. But if a defence is already filling the space he would run into he can become reliant on other abilities – trying to run at players and commit them – and potentially a bit one-dimensional. Meanwhile, while some of Son’s skillset can be negated by a defence sitting deep, he does offer lethal shooting ability from range from either foot, so can be useful against teams that park the bus. It could be ‘either/or’ with Son and Lucas for much of the season once again.

With Dele, Spurs have a player who has a well-rounded skillset, particularly after a year of playing a different role, as described by Nathan A Clark for StatsBomb. He can hold it up, he can attack from wide, he can play deeper. This flexibility means that he has something to offer against most styles of play the Premier League can offer.

The same may be said about new boy Giovani Lo Celso, who played in a double pivot for Paris Saint-Germain and showed considerable defensive abilities, before playing a far, far more advanced role for Real Betis, a season in which he returned 14 goals and six assists. He offers nice flexibility to Pochettino, but one would think that initially he may play a more advanced role, with less defensive responsibility, in order to ease him in.

Erik Lamela has starred the season with a goal, an assist and plenty of running. He covered the most ground for Spurs in their opening match against Aston Villa, and ran further than that and also clocked the top speed of 33.75km/h against Manchester City. Lamela is a curiosity; he has a wonderful attitude, and clearly possesses plenty of talent, but has never found the consistency to go with it. He does most of his best work between the defensive and midfield lines: buzzing around, elbows flailing, chaos ensuing.

And then we come to Christian Eriksen, perhaps the most unique of Spurs’ attacking midfielders. Eriksen is the composer, the maestro. Like most of Spurs’ players, he offers versatility. I wrote back in July that I hoped Tanguy Ndombele’s introduction could allow Eriksen to re-find his truly elite productivity from a more advanced role. I still feel as though that is ideal, and yet Eriksen does a bit of everything. He’s often the one lingering outside the box to pick up the pieces when a cross or shot is cleared. He keeps things moving, finds a new space, demands the ball again, and then tries to play a creative pass. He dictates the tempo, the shape, he chooses when the killer ball is played, and he also has the ability to be on the end of a killer ball.

Whether Eriksen is still at Spurs come the end of the window, we have a fascinating collection of skillsets to squeeze into the team, and I for one look forward to Mauricio Pochettino to find the right blend.


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25-Man Squad – August 2019

With under 24 hours to go until the close of the transfer window I thought I would revisit the 25-man squad situation which I outlined previously here.

As it stands we have 24 players who would need to be named in our 25-man squad. And this is all fine because we have nine homegrown players.

Hugo Lloris 26/12/1986 32
Jan Vertonghen 24/04/1987 32
Toby Alderweireld 02/03/1989 30
Moussa Sissoko 16/08/1989 29
Danny Rose (HG) 02/07/1990 29
Victor Wanyama 25/06/1991 28
Paulo Gazzaniga 02/01/1992 27
Christian Eriksen 14/02/1992 27
Erik Lamela 04/03/1992 27
Heung-min Son  08/07/1992 27
Lucas Moura 13/08/1992 26
Serge Aurier 24/12/1992 26
Ben Davies (HG) 24/04/1993 26
Harry Kane (HG) 28/07/1993 26
Eric Dier 15/01/1994 25
Georges-Kévin N’Koudou 13/02/1995 24
Harry Winks (HG) 02/02/1996 23
Dele Alli (HG) 11/04/1996 23
Davinson Sánchez 12/06/1996 23
Tanguy Ndombele 28/12/1996 22
Anthony Georgiou (HG) 24/02/1997 22
Kyle Walker-Peters (HG) 13/04/1997 22
Joshua Onomah (HG) 27/04/1997 22
Cameron Carter-Vickers (HG) 31/12/1997 21

Basically all of this means that we can sign one more non-homegrown player without worrying a jot about the squad. If we were to sign more than one more player, someone would have to be left out of the squad. This should not be a problem with Onomah likely to move on permanently, and Georgiou and Carter-Vickers likely to move on loan.

We have 15 non-homegrown players currently, but that includes Nkoudou who is likely to leave. We can name 17 in our Premier League squad. So the only thing that may get us into a bit of bother is if we were to go on a major spree and not manage to offload anyone. Otherwise, we have squad space and need not worry.

25-Man Squad – June 2019

This summer will likely see Spurs re-build the squad both from the top-down and bottom up. By that I mean that we will need to add first team-ready additions in at two or three key areas, but also prepare for the future, with one eye on the home grown players rule.

There’s a slight misconception about the requirement itself — people tend to think that clubs must name eight home grown players in their squads. That’s not strictly true. We could name fewer than eight home grown players, but would need to also name fewer than 25 players in our squad — for example, if we only have seven home grown players, we can name a 24-man squad, 6/23, 5/22, etc. 

A home grown player is defined as one whom, irrespective of nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to The Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons, or 36 months, before his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21). Source: Premier League.

Spurs will not need to name players who are under 21 on our squad list, though, so could augment the list with youngsters. This would mean that we could manage with, say, a 22-man squad with just five homegrown players, but would need plenty of under-21 players who are ready to play. For the 2019/20 campaign, players considered ‘under 21’ will have been born on or after 1st January 1998. This means that for the coming season we still have a number of ‘freebies’ who are fairly well-known names: Juan Foyth, Alfie Whiteman, George Marsh, Marcus Edwards, Oliver Skipp, and Troy Parrott (presented in age order). Of these, one would expect Foyth and Skipp to be included in Pochettino’s thinking on a regular basis, with the others a bit of a mystery at this stage.

Going back to the over-21s, Spurs currently have 12 home grown players who would need to be named in order to be included in the Premier League squad list. But of those, only five or six are expected to remain next season: Danny Rose, Ben Davies, Harry Kane, Harry Winks, Dele Alli and possibly Kyle Walker-Peters.

Kieran Trippier, Luke Amos, Anthony Georgiou, Joshua Onomah, Shayon Harrison and Cameron Carter-Vickers are all expected to be either sold or loaned out. Until this happens, though, there are a lot of variables to consider, so it is difficult to speculate too much on the final make-up of the list.

One other consideration is the Champions League. The Champions League rules are a little different — have a look at page 40 of their regulations. UEFA don’t just want clubs to have players trained elsewhere in the FA structure — they have additional requirements for club-trained players. They want to encourage clubs to bring through their own young players.

It is clear to see why Spurs may want to revert back to the previous policy of signing young, English players. Not only are those players going to make life easier for future squad structure, but England is producing genuinely world-class talent now. Whereas clubs used to look for value in Europe, the value may now be right under our noses, and it’s important that Premier League clubs appreciate just how vibrant and competitive the Football League is and how good some of the elite players both are and can be. 

We have signalled our intent to look towards the Championship with the signing of Jack Clarke, but this could continue across the summer, with a number of other players linked as well.

That said, our own talent pool is brewing beneath the first team and, as we can see, that’s important for the Champions League regs. There are players, some already mentioned above, who could have an impact. But, as with many other Premier League clubs, creating the runway to get them from second year scholar (age 17/18) to first team is an issue for Spurs, and probably the next piece in the jigsaw once the recruitment is dealt with. One key method could be forming a strategic partnership with a Football League club, and there is a chance that QPR could be one such partnership.

With Mark Warburton, a Spurs fan who has some historic links with Spurs (from the NextGen Series days), now in charge at QPR, it may become a formalised route. Luke Amos, the 22-year old midfielder, is likely to be sent to Loftus Road for the season. They have also picked up Dylan Duncan, released last month by Spurs, as a free transfer to add to a wider group of players previously at Spurs (Massimo Luongo, Aramide Oteh, Grant Hall, Charlie Owens). Perhaps this partnership will strengthen through more loans and these players can return to Spurs with minutes under their belt and a report card from a man that the club’s hierarchy respects.

Longer-term, I do think Spurs need to focus on that link between Academy and first team. Even if the quality of players coming through is ultimately not ‘good enough’ for when we want our first team to be, young talent can be used to pad out the squad, and can be highly profitable in terms of onward sales. To me it seems to be a bit of a no-brainer to try to develop in this area.

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.