Is now the time for Tottenham Hotspur to target experience over potential?

By the time you read this the title may have been confirmed as heading to West London. The only serious challengers to Chelsea on a consistent basis this season have been Tottenham Hotspur.

Even if they do as it now seems miss out on the title, Tottenham have had an excellent campaign, having built on the previous season and in the process broke or set a number of records.

Thirteen straight victories and one match away from being unbeaten all season at home, as well as at least fifty points in what has been a glorious fair well to ‘The Lane’.

A best ever Premier League points return which already equals their top division points total [of the 1984/5 season] in fewer games.

The fact that Tottenham have done this with arguably less squad depth than other ‘top six’ teams and with at times injuries to a number of key players – such as Harry Kane, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Erik Lamela – has made their achievements perhaps even more impressive.

One of the main reasons is the manager Mauricio Pochettino, the belief he has instilled in his players (and in himself) and the unity and strength of purpose which runs through the squad.

There have been disappointments during the season, mainly in Europe, but the Spurs trajectory is very much seen on an upward curve.

In saying that, Tottenham will need to progress again. The upward trajectory has to have a destination, which for most will be silverware and establishment in the top four by way of again challenging for the title.

This will not be easy with Spurs contesting on multiple fronts and with the money likely to be spent by their rivals.

Spurs have been said to have punched above their weight, ranking sixth in financial muscle in the Premier League. Alternatively perhaps they have just boxed more cleverly than others.

Of course, not every transfer – for any team – is guaranteed to be successful but Victor Wanyama at the third of the price of Granit Xhaka, Alderweireld around the same price as Gabriel and Eric Dier and Dele Alli at just £4.25 million and £5 million respectively shows just how astute Tottenham can be.

Coupled with this is the willingness to promote youth players. Harry Winks this season has started to establish himself in the first team and both Cameron Carter-Vickers and Joshua Onomah have made inroads.

There are more in the wings – Kyle Walker-Peters and Marcus Edwards may make debuts next season with others such as Luke Amos and Jack Roles having the chance of cup appearances.

The benefit is multifaceted. The youth players can see that opportunities exist, may work harder to ensure it does and are more willing to buy in to the manager’s ethos.

For the club, a player coming through the youth ranks means no transfer fee to pay. For the fans, the pleasure is seeing one of their own make it.

The core, the majority of this team, are likely to stay mainly due to the belief in what is happening at Tottenham under their manager, evidenced by the number of new contracts signed by existing players [the familiar Pochettino arm around the shoulder photo].

However, irrespective of squad unity any team is likely to go through a few changes in players during the summer and Spurs will not be an exception as they look to strengthen ahead of next season. The question may be who.

This is always a balancing act. The areas that need strengthening; the players coming through from the Academy; available finances and keeping hold of existing players or who the manager is willing to let go.

In this there are growing rumours that Kyle Walker maybe leaving, with Kieran Trippier showing to be a more than capable replacement, and, considering they’re lack of impact this season,

Kevin Wimmer and Moussa Sissoko may also be considered surplus to requirements.

Pochettino is reported to have stated a preference for any potential recruits to be “Premier League ready”.

This would suggest an acknowledgement that to mount a challenge in both Europe and the Premier League next season, Pochettino is looking to players who can make immediate impact rather than maybe requiring a season to assimilate as seen by Son Heung-Min’s progress this season and potentially Vincent Janssen’s next.

Spurs have recently tended to recruit younger players, and there are a number of good younger players in the league.

Harry Maguire, Alfie Mawson, Michael Keane and Mason Holgate have made their mark this season for their respective clubs in defence.

Nathan Redmond and Josh King have at times lit up the south coast going forward, yet the two players most connected with a move to Spurs have been Wilfried Zaha and Ross Barkley.

At 24 and 23 respectively they both have the age profile that has recently been preferred.

At this point in time should Pochettino be targeting players with more experience?

The Spurs squad are the youngest in the League and whilst there is an exciting blend of youth and experience do Tottenham now need to recruit players not just with experience but those with know-how of winning silverware to help get that first trophy for this talented Spurs team.

If Sissoko was sold, should Spurs sign the talented (but inconsistent) Wilfried Zaha or target Willian, who is said to be available? Zaha has won a Community Shield; Willian has won 15 trophies.

There is a history with Willian that Spurs fan may not enjoy but if by signing Willian he helps take this Spurs team to silverware?

Is assimilation to the league and club more difficult if you are younger than if you are older and with more life experience?  This may negate the need for “Premier League readiness”.

For example, if Kyle Walker was sold, Adam Smith at Bournemouth and Cedric Soares at Southampton both could be considered capable replacements, yet would the likes of a Stephan Lichtsteiner with his experience in Europe and in winning trophies be a good shorter term option to rotate with Trippier?

The other aspect of signing older experienced players is the potential impact on the Spurs Development Squad.

Firstly, could youth players learn more from older experienced players; would Walker-Peters benefit more from having a Lichsteiner or (with all due respect) an Adam Smith to learn from?

Secondly and arguably more importantly, signing such players might not necessarily hinder the progress path for some of the very promising younger players Spurs have.

What message would Spurs send to Onomah and Edwards for instance by signing 23 year-old Ross Barkley? With Barkley, Alli and Eriksen how would either see opportunities to crack the first team?

Spurs have used the loan system well to their benefit. Players have been sent on loan to develop at an increasing higher level of club and to see if they do have the ability and character to make the grade – Harry Kane again being the recent standard setter.

Onomah may well follow that path. If Spurs have signed an older, experienced player but on the shorter term he can do so in the knowledge there will still be opportunities for him to make it at the club.

Spurs are an exciting young team and have shown to themselves to have title challenging credentials.

Yet the only player to have a league title in one of the five big leagues is Toby Alderweireld with Atletico Madrid in 2013-14 and even then the Belgian made only 12 La Liga appearances.

Is now the time for Spurs to bring in the know-how for this talented squad to win silverware together?

Then, with the experience of that first silverware behind them and given the young age of so many players, Spurs could go on to be a force for a number of years.

(Author’s note: Many thanks to Chris Miller for his knowledge and insight on the Spurs youth players)

The Author

Alan Robins

Love all things football. Blogger. Views my own

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