Some Pre-Season Thoughts

There’s a bit to talk about!

Everyone’s had their say on the Harry Kane situation, but just to add mine to the mix: it’s so disappointing. Obviously I understand the predicament he’s in. Obviously. He’s the best player in a team which was good but has got worse. But he signed the contract! And he did that for enormous personal gain. This stance is so utterly disrespectful to his teammates, to his brand new manager (poor Nuno!) and to us, as fans. The interview with Gary Neville took the shine off Kane for me and this latest episode has meant that he’s plummeted in my estimation. As Nathan put it on The Extra Inch: “Kane is doing himself so much harm for fuck all in return, so it’s not only shit, it’s also stupid.” Until City actually offer what he’s worth he’s going nowhere and so this could ultimately end up leading to the most embarrassing, uncomfortable climbdown since Wayne Rooney had to do something similar. If they ultimately pay up then *shrug*, he goes with disdain. It needn’t have been like this.

I’ve seen a lot of negative reaction to our pre-season match against Chelsea, but I thought the performance against a strong team was reasonably encouraging. To put it in context, I’m fully expecting Chelsea to challenge for the title, whereas I have us pinned for 4th with Kane and 5th/6th without him. We started on the front foot and, with ten minutes gone, I was encouraged. Chelsea then took control and had a strong 30-35 minutes where they dominated the ball and we couldn’t get a foothold or hold the ball in their half (Lucas Moura is particularly infuriating in those circumstances). For me, Dele was the only bright spot in the first half — he was playing some nice, creative passes and his pass selection felt very Nuno’d. By that I mean that I’d rarely seen him play so many switches and it was interesting to see him playing this role. Personally, I don’t think Dele is at his best as an 8 in a 4-3-3 but he’s done a more than adequate job in pre-season and, without Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso, he is essentially the only genuinely creative midfielder we have.

Anyway, the balance of the game changed in the second half, and we were good! Harry Winks had the strongest half of football he’s had in a fair old while, moving the ball quickly and efficiently. We created some nice attacks and should have had a penalty but it ended up 2-2 against, as I say, a genuinely strong team. We’ve got a lot of first teamers to come back in and signings to be made and so this was just fine.

Jubril Okedina signed for Cambridge permanently today; check out the replies to this — really feel good stuff. I’m a bit surprised if I’m honest. He made a leap last year and I thought we’d try to get him a loan at a higher level and go from there. From a career point of view, though, this is a brilliant move for him and I am pleased for him that he has a home and can focus on developing there. I hope we got a sell-on percentage installed in the deal and I hope he goes from strength to strength.

It looks like Dennis Cirkin is on his way out too. I really rated Cirkin. It’s not exactly been a year of progression for him and, in some ways, I think he might have been a victim of his own success. Had he not been spotted and ‘fast tracked’ by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, perhaps he’d have had a year out on loan and we’d have seen some progression. As it is, I’m not sure he’s kicked on has hoped, albeit with some personal tragedy having made the last year a truly difficult one for him. All that said, he is a really talented boy and he’s definitely one who could rise to the top in time, so I hope we’ve covered ourselves with clauses all over the shop. I hope he smashes it at Sunderland.


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The First Days of Nuno

It would be completely reasonable to think that the idea that that the Spurs training ground is suddenly a happy camp again is projection on my part. I feel happier about Spurs, so I assume that the whole place feels happier. But I do have a bit of intel on this and, yeah, it’s happier. The mood has been transformed, I’m told.

From the fans’ perspective, we’ve had three enjoyable pre-season matches (one draw, two convincing wins) with some well-coached attacks and some of the club’s most promising youngsters involved. We’ve also had our beloved Son Heung-min sign a lengthy new contract and subsequently give one of the most wholesome and delightful interviews seen on Spurs’ social channels. Things feel good!

The transfer business has kicked into gear in the past week, with Pierluigi Gollini and Bryan Gil coming in and Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela leaving. Negotiations for Cristian Romero continue, Takehiro Tomiyasu seems to be the passing of a medical away from signing, whilst several players have reportedly been told to find new clubs. We’ll know a lot more about the shape of the squad by this time next week but my view is that things are moving in the right direction.

We’re also starting to understand the shape of the tactics a lot better by now, despite Nuno Espírito Santo’s claims that pre-season friendlies would be a fitness exercise. So what can we see so far?

Well, this is frequently our attacking shape – a line (ish) of four or five (in this case five) players spread roughly evenly across the pitch in advanced areas, able to move towards the ball to receive (as Dele is doing here, receiving on the half-turn), or run in behind, as Steven Bergwijn is beginning to do on the near-side and Nile John is doing on the far-side.

Spurs’ attacking shape vs MK Dons

And this is interesting. Here we see our narrow 4-3-3 defensive shape. Nile John is contesting for the ball. He is successful in doing so; note Sergio Reguilón’s position as the far-side full-back. Firstly, he is on the outside of his man — he is close enough to cover round if needs be, but this is a position that allows him to burst forward if we are successful in winning possession.

Spurs’ defensive shape vs MK Dons

And, yeah, that’s what happens – John successfully wins the ball and offloads it to Oliver Skipp. I jokingly called Skipp ‘The Scan Man’ in one of the videos I recorded on him with Nathan because he’s always scanning; that, is he’s constantly turning his head and checking his position in relation to those around him. Once you notice it you can’t stop noticing it. Here, Skipp scans, receives and scans, and switches the ball across to the opposite side of the pitch with his second touch.

Notice the ground Reguilón has gobbled up in three seconds. Winning the ball in midfield seems to be a trigger for the full-backs to quickly join the attacks and create overloads. There’s another example of this in the Leyton Orient match when Winks wins possession and Maksim Paskotši gets on his bike – but he’s a little slower off the mark than Reguilón, perhaps because Paskotši is primarily a centre-back by trade. Reguilón overlaps Bergwijn and is played in beyond the defence; he should score, but his shot is that of a man who is playing his first match of pre-season.

Spurs in transition vs MK Dons

Our first two goals came from through-balls finding Son making well-timed runs beyond the defence. This has been a feature of pre-season so far too — Dane Scarlett’s goal vs Leyton Orient, Son’s goal vs Colchester (he makes a great run from in to out for our third too), and the two here — lots of runs, lots of players looking for early passes. Lucas Moura has been notably exceptional at getting his head up and picking out a runner.

The next two matches will be much sterner tests, obviously, and they might also be the first run-outs for a few players. I think it’s important to bear that very much in mind and not jump to too many conclusions off the back of them. Hopefully we’ll see similar patterns and cohesiveness in attack.


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And So It Begins

It’s the day of our first pre-season match! Our first glimpse at Are [sic] Boys since Ryan Mason’s Vibes XI twatted Leicester 4-2.

We face Leyton Orient for the JE3 Trophy, in honour of Justin Edinburgh. Justin, our former left-back who then went on to be manager of Orient, died of cardiac arrest aged just 49. You can support the Justin Edinburgh 3 Foundation here.

My initial hope was to watch today’s game and to try to catch a few potential blueprints for the style that Nuno Espírito Santo will introduce this season. However, at his press conference he was keen to separate the fitness work that is currently ongoing, from the tactical work which will follow.

We have to be really careful and how we want to play. Now we have to prepare the players in terms of fitness, in terms of mentality, the focus so then we’ll put our ideas together.

Now it’s about preparing themselves to be able to do whatever comes in situations, to become faster, to become stronger, competitive and intense in every action. Then will come the moment that to deliver our idea, how we’re going to play, the lines of the ball, how we’re going to defend, but we have to be organised and that’s the main point.

These two weeks has been a focus on fitness and we work fitness inside of the game, without separating, so if we want to prepare fitness we have to be intense in our training sessions, inside of the game, but like I said, the players have been great. Fantastic.

Every word Nuno Espirito Santo said on Harry Kane, transfers, how Tottenham will play and more‘, 16 July 2021

It has been really interesting to watch the pre-season training clips released so far, which are quite markedly different from what I’ve seen at Spurs in the recent past. There is a real focus on drills in which the players are grappling with one another in some way before doing something with the ball. Or, in the most recent clip, tethered to some sort of resistance machine to ensure that they are working harder to achieve the task set out for them.

Some of the ITK suggests that NES found our players too easy to knock off the ball. Even disregarding that — because, let’s face it, it could be complete nonsense — it does seem clear that the coaching team are focussing on adding a base layer of core strength to the players. Nuno’s own words — ‘to become faster, … stronger, competitive and intense’ — imply that perhaps he saw a weakness there. We know from previous reporting that the squad was not in peak condition last season and so this seems like a sensible place to start.

So I am not expecting to see too much in terms of key tactical approaches today, but we might get an idea of intended team shape, and we might see some young players in action, as so many of the first teamers are still away. Nile John seems pretty prominent in the training videos so far — it’d be great to see him play a part in the middle of midfield. And TJ Eyoma, who did so well at Lincoln City last season, has a chance to show how far he has grown as a player on his gap yah.


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Squad Building

This is the fun bit of the off-season — the hope! Wondering how your squad will look, welcoming new players, waving off old players who you’re a bit sick of. Though it must be said that Spurs have done very little business so far, selling Juan Foyth (who I definitely was not sick of) and releasing a bunch of young players. Elliot Thorpe is about to join Hoffenheim having rejected a contract. That’s a loss in my opinion; I mentioned him in The Fonseca Files (Part 2) as someone who could play a part in pre-season.

I published Home Grown Players (HGP) Quota – Summer 2021 Transfer Window earlier, in which I look at how the HGP quota impacts upon our squad building. Things don’t look too bad, though some forward planning in terms of bringing through more ‘club-trained’ players would be useful for future European campaigns. We clearly do need a mass clear-out this summer, though. Not just to recoup wage funds or to build a transfer kitty, but to ensure that we do not go into the season with high-earners unable to be listed in our Premier League squad.

I’ve used my fine friend Nathan A Clark‘s squad depth chart format to look at ours as it stands. I’ve added in an ‘up for sale’ section, in which I’ve optimistically left out Harry Kane. I’ve generally included youth players who have been seen training with the first team.

Spurs Depth Chart as of 15 July 2021

I think this shows neatly how much work there is to do. Not just in terms of the player sales to finalise, but in terms of filling first team squad gaps. I make it eight first teamers (including Dele, including Kane). You can make an argument to include Rodon in there, but certainly not based on what his opportunities at Spurs so far.

If we sign Takehiro Tomiyasu, as expected, he’ll slip into this in the same way that Davies and Tanganga do — a hybrid FB/CB. I have watched some scouting clips and he strikes me as quite similar in style to Vedran Ćorluka, who I was very fond of. He’s not especially good in the air for a tall player, but he’s very handy on the deck. He’s an aggressive, ‘handsy’ defender who uses the ball well both through his passing and dribbling out. He is both-footed in a way which is unusual, i.e. he can pass and dribble with his left foot, to the extent that, before the reports emerged suggesting that he was being signed to play a defensive right-back role, I had ear-marked him for the left sided centre-back in a back three.

And so onto Kane. Rumours emerged this week that we are chasing Danny Ings in order to play with two up front. Putting a player alongside Kane to do some of his running for him is eminently sensible. But I can’t shake this feeling that a story about us wanting to sign Ings ‘to play with Kane’, days after rumours that we’ve decided that we will not accept any offers for Kane is a bit suspicious and that perhaps we are letting these stories emerge to avoid paying a ‘Kane tax’ on any incoming replacement… or maybe I’m over-thinking it all.

I suspect I may be revisiting the depth chart prior to 15 August, particularly once we’ve seen a few pre-season games and have an idea of which formation(s) we might be using.


I am the host of The Extra Inch; a Spurs podcast that delves into the analytical side of Tottenham games. Check us out! If you already follow the podcast, consider becoming an xSub for additional content, including videos, and extra podcasts.

I recently added a Donate button to this site. It’s on the ‘About‘ page. I explain why on there. Cheers!

Home Grown Players (HGP) Quota – Summer 2021 Transfer Window

Each year I write about the 25-man squad and the implications of the home grown players rule and how it will impact on Spurs’ transfer strategy. The home grown player numbers could impact on how many signings Fabio Paratici can make, the nature of those signings and/or the size of our squad for the rest of the season.

The Premier League ‘Home Grown Players (HGP)’ Rule

The misconception about the requirement itself is that clubs must name eight home grown players in their squads. We could name fewer than eight HGPs, but would need to also name fewer than 25 players in our squad — for example, if we only have seven HGPs, we can name a 24-man squad, 6/23, 5/22, etc. 

Remember, an HGP 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.

As ever, we will not need to name players who are under 21 on our squad list, so could augment our squad with youngsters. This would mean that we could manage with, say, a 22-man squad with just five HGPs, but would need plenty of under 21 players who are ready to play. For the 2021/22 campaign, players considered ‘under 21’ will have been born on or after 1st January 2000. This means that for the current season we still have a number of ‘freebies’ who are fairly well-known names, the likes of: TJ Eyoma, Ryan Sessegnon, Oliver Skipp, Jubril Okedina, Jack Clarke, Harvey White, Troy Parrott, Dennis Cirkin, Nile John, Dane Scarlett and Alfie Devine. Some of these players will ultimately be sent out on loan, of course.

From this season, Brandon Austin, Japhet Tanganga and Tobi Omole would need to be named on our squad list should we wish to use them as they were all born before 1st January 2000. The fact that they are considered home grown is useful, though I would suspect that only Tanganga will be named in the initial squad list.

The Europa League ‘Home Grown Players (HGP)’ Rule

The Europa Conference League rules are a little different to the Premier League rules — have a look at article 45 (‘Player Lists’) of the 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.

If we want to name a ‘full’ (25-man) squad in the Europa League, we would need at least four ‘association-trained’ players (we have lots) and four ‘club-trained’ players (we currently have: Harry Kane, Harry Winks, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Alfie Whiteman, Brandon Austin, Japhet Tanganga). Austin is on-loan at Orlando City until December.

Players under 21 can be included on List B so long as they have been ‘eligible to play for the club concerned for any uninterrupted period of two years since his 15th birthday by the time he is registered with UEFA, or a total of three consecutive years with a maximum of one loan period to a club from the same association for a period not longer than one year.’ This excludes Sessegnon and Clarke due to their loans, and Devine is also not eligible for List B as he only joined us last year. All three would need to be included on List A should we wish to use them.

Summary

We currently have 26 players who would need to be named on the Premier League squad list if we wanted to play them. Many of these players are expected to leave and so it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions about whether HGP will be an issue for us at this point; but probably not.

As ever, it’s a slightly more delicate situation in the UEFA competition due to the relatively low number of club-trained players. Depending on how the summer transfer activity goes, we may end up having to select a slightly smaller squad than the maximum allowed. This is unlikely to cause an issue, though, as it is expected that a lot of young players (who will be on List B) will be used in the Conference League in order to give them experience.

#PlayerDOBAgeStatusPL HGPEL Locally Trained
1Hugo Lloris26/12/198634   
2Joe Hart19/04/198734 YAssociation
3Toby Alderweireld02/03/198932   
4Moussa Sissoko16/08/198931   
5Matt Doherty16/02/199229 YAssociation
6Erik Lamela04/03/199229   
7Son Heung-min 08/07/199229   
8Lucas Moura13/08/199228   
9Serge Aurier24/12/199228   
10Ben Davies24/04/199328 Y 
11Harry Kane28/07/199327 YClub
12Eric Dier15/01/199427   
13Pierre-Emile Højbjerg05/08/199525   
14Harry Winks02/02/199625 YClub
15Giovani Lo Celso09/04/199625   
16Dele 11/04/199625 YAssociation
17Davinson Sánchez12/06/199625   
18Sergio Reguilón16/12/199624   
19Tanguy Ndombele28/12/199624   
20Steven Bergwijn08/10/199723   
21Joe Rodon22/10/199723 Y 
22Cameron Carter-Vickers31/12/199723 YClub
23Alfie Whiteman02/10/199822 YClub
24Brandon Austin08/01/199922On-loanYClub
25Japhet Tanganga02/05/199922 YClub
26Tobi Omole17/12/199921 YAssociation
27Ryan Sessegnon18/05/200021 YAssociation
28Jack Clarke23/11/200020 YAssociation
29Alfie Devine01/08/200416 YAssociation
Spurs’ over-21 (and UEFA List A under-21) players, ordered by DOB

I am the host of The Extra Inch; a Spurs podcast that delves into the analytical side of Tottenham games. Check us out! If you already follow the podcast, consider becoming an xSub for additional content, including videos, and extra podcasts.

I recently added a Donate button to this site. It’s on the ‘About‘ page. I explain why on there. Cheers!