Afternoon. One last blog before I sun it up for two weeks.
Mauricio brutally stated the names of the players that are not in his plans, including the forgotten man, Nabil Bentaleb.
Here's a player that was thrown into the deep end without any real coaching astuteness and he performed with admirable brilliance whilst more experienced players around him suffered mental capitulation. It was a baptism of fire. He was ridiculously maligned for being Tim Sherwood's big 'f**ck you' selection. A petty reason to hate on him. Nabil was mature beyond his years, composed and controlled, during a fairly turgid spell where form was lost and identity was ghosting away from us. He was, on occasions, out of his depth mostly because of the lack of protection he had and that missing astuteness from the coach. He still lacked experience. Yet still, it remained an exceptional introduction into the mad mad world of Tottenham Hotspur.
Then things changed. As they do.
A second test of character that he's failed to conquer. Injuries aside, the new coach and his new players meant Nabil had to fight his way back into contention. There were rumours of an attitude problem and then the suggestion he was turning it around and aligning himself to the new order. Yet here we are. It hasn't worked out. Not if you take Pochettino and his broken English at face value.
Is/was Bentaleb a myth? Only appeared good thanks to circumstance? Harsh. His temperament and his maturity were traits of positivist. His football skills far more cultured than one or two other players we've seen promoted from youth (academy or otherwise).
His appearances last season were not good enough to stake a fresh claim. It's unfair to expect him to quickly slot back in. I expect when you're considered the golden child to then find yourself merely worthy of copper when compared to shiny new nuggets (Dier and Alli) - I guess it can be demoralising. A sense of escape in the back of the mind could well influence your ability to produce the required fight back. I'm not saying there was petulance, I don't know, but if it was me - the frustration could leave me a touch bitter. It's cut throat, especially at Spurs now where there is no culture of comfort. You have to prove yourself worthy for a place - no matter your name or history.
I had him marked down as the player to watch for last season, someone likely to be imperative. We never expected Dele Alli and Eric Dier, not in the manner they fashioned. That's the great thing about football. You think you know how it will pan out, you panic about one thing, screaming pestilence and then not long after you're astonished at how healthy it all appears to be.
Hopefully Nabil will go out on loan, rediscover form and come back better for it. That's my hope.
However, it has got me thinking about our squad. Clinton N'Jie is supposedly injured (which is why he's not travelled to Down Under) but Pochettino might well be separating him from the players that he's stated as not goners (Nabil, along with Alex Pritchard and Federico Fazio). With the likes of Tom Carroll and Ryan Mason still involved and the obvious question marks around rotation - do we have enough to cater for the momentum we can not afford to surrender at pivotal moments this up and coming season?
Here's a snapshot.
Surplus: Yedlin, Fazio
Requirements? I'd add another CB into the mix, but Spurs are more likely to promote
from within to cover the central two. Jan is injured, Wimmer is more than capable. So once Jan is back, we have three quality players for two positions - so arguably, that's enough to rotate. The counter to that is, another injury, and we're back with just two. Dier could potentially deputise if we're in a state of emergency. As long as there's no injuries in midfield. It's very reliant on other players keeping form and fitness.
Still, it's one thing wanting depth but reality means you can't have 4 class CB's all demanding to play week in week out. You'll have problems keeping them all happy and more importantly keeping it tight and fluid (with ye old momentum in mind) .
Backups: Carroll (Yes, I know, perhaps not a traditional DM but he's been used to tidy up and keep the ball moving forward), Mason
We could do with more. Something tells me we won't be getting one, not in terms of a top level defensive midfielder (and by defensive I don't mean players that only sit deep, attack is of course the best way to defend. You might not class Demeble as a traditional DM or the aforementioned Carroll - who tends to provide a makeshift Eriksen impression). And let's not pretend Wanyama hasn't signed. That's three quality players for two positions.
Alli could also support. Eriksen too - but both are final third players rather than marshalling and tidying up / winning back the ball grafters. That's the crushing thing about Nabil. He fits the role perfectly in terms of what we know he's capable of. It seems that he isn't deemed the right player (for the moment). Which means there's a gap. Or is there?
Ryan Mason is often an easy scapegoat, but his commitment and indoctrination to the Poch way appears to have won him favours. Unless of course you believe the stories of other clubs seeking to bid for him. If he leaves along with Nabil, then there's no certifiable 4th option.
Those that don't scapegoat but prefer to anchor themselves to pound for pound comparisons will simply say with ample honesty that Mason isn't up to scratch when compared to our first team starters. So an upgrade is required. Again, ideally, you'd look at someone of Nabil's ilk - young and not someone that would demand a starting role (although in his brave new world, if you make the right impact you can own your position - so you need to have the desire to believe you could force yourself into the starting eleven).
Again, on paper, it works. Like I mentioned, we have three top drawer central midfielders. And Mason.
On paper there are no injuries or suspensions or a maddening May fixture list. Much like last season, we have the players to compete but regardless of the power of synergy, we didn't have enough of them available towards the end of our campaign. It's not just about having options, it's about having worthy options. Like Wimmer deputising for Vertonghen. We lose one of the three main guys in midfield and Mason has to step up, like he has before with plentiful controversy. Is it enough?
Surplus? Chadli, N'Jie, Pritchard
Backup: Onomah, Winks
Next gen: Edwards
Add Georges-Kévin N'Koudou with the possibility of N'Jie leaving on loan and we're still relatively strong here. Son will settle and give us a more direct outlet. Lamela continues to grow stronger and more influential. Eriksen is key. Alli is that fire in our belly. We could still do with more. It's possible that's where N'Koudou comes in to assist. But there's no guarantee as we've seen with N'Jie. Has he been signed to hit the ground running? Again to mention the dreaded injuries, but they've hurt us before, upsetting the transition of new players into the team. I feel there's an opportunity for one more attacking midfielder. What type of midfielder is the big question and one that is bound to create frustration.
I wrote recently we could do with a player that can galvanise. Someone to bring something extra. We need a little width, a player that can beat players (N'Koudou fits into this category). We could do with another Eriksen too. Someone to make us tick. Unless you lean towards a viable Plan B and different type of tempo. We had Luka Modric once upon a time. We didn't have a suitable like for like replacement for him if he was missing. Because, how do you possibly source another Luka? You can't. You just have to find alternate ways in getting the ball into positions of fortune.
Are we unnecessarily looking out when we should look in? Is the youngster Marcus Edwards a potential option?
He can play wide or central. He could be another one of those unexpected gems. Should a club of our stature be seeking academy players as answers to pertinent questions? Hell yeah. Isn't the whole point to produce our own players? If they're good enough of course, though should be considered. Otherwise it's a touch suicidal - especially with the league and CL to contend with. Considering how much goes into training and preparation, if the lad is involved then that answers one question in particular: He's good enough.
So ideally, we need N'Koudo confirmed. We also shouldn't forget about how important Son can be for us this season. Meaning, if Edwards is involved, we might be okay in this department too. Although if Chadli departs, a more experienced acquisition would do well with bolstering our attack. Still, with Lamela, N'Koudo, Alli and Son - that's four already along with Eriksen conducting. Add the academy option and I'm back to thinking 'we're okay in this department'. Just about.
Just about is poking the tip in. We need to be balls deep. Half measures lead to issues of surrender. So, you can see why I'm a little conflicted here.
Surplus? N'Jie gets a mention here too
Another option upfront wouldn't be too shabby, but considering how we play, having a third striker that might consider themselves a first team starter isn't going to work. So I doubt we'll bring in someone to sit on the bench just in case. It's a risk, which makes me think if N'Jie shouldn't been loaned out. I'm guessing there will be no movement here unless disaster strikes and January becomes a desperate attempt at finding a resolution. Otherwise, rotation is king.
So, in conclusion:
Dream world, we would be supreme if we signed (in addition to the real world):
1 Centre-back, 1 defensive midfielder, 1 attacking midfielder, 1 striker
In the real world so far we've got:
1 defensive midfielder (Wanyama), 1 striker (Janssen), 1 attacking midfielder (N'Koudou)
Ideally, what we need to still focus on in the transfer market:
Another attacking midfielder. If you wish to bound yourselves to the reality of Daniel Levy's expenditure limits and Pochettino's tightly streamlined squad ethics, one more player is feasible. So, perhaps expect another (in addition to N'Koundo being announced). Based on my rambles here, it's more or less as good as we can expect it to be in terms of depth and management of viable options that can retain a sense of competitiveness (and not feel like players signed to plug a hole if required...like a Fazio).
I'm sure you have your own opinions. We do have to be realistic but also appreciate that having a big fat squad of players has never helped us in the past and isn't the answer for the present day either.
We need to rotate but do so with strength.
Three weeks to go.