Once again, Tottenham have arrived at a pivotal moment in Antonio Conte’s tenure, writes the 90min.
The Italian worked wonders during his first few months at the club to restore the Lilywhites as a Champions League outfit, and it was the club’s work in the 2022 January transfer window that facilitated their late season push for fourth spot.
The signings of Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur from Juventus were nothing short of masterstrokes, and Spurs could do with conducting more similarly astute pieces of business this winter after a mixed summer window which initially promised so much.
The club are supposedly willing to back their manager in January, with Conte keen to bring in a couple of new arrivals in key positions as he attempts to secure another top-four berth.
Here are the areas Tottenham must address in the January transfer window.
Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini. Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Gary Cahill. Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij, Alessandro Bastoni. Conte has worked with some brilliant defences during his managerial career and turned others into incredibly stout units.
The Italian initially worked his magic with a vulnerable Spurs backline, but their defence has been nothing short of abysmal this season. Cristian Romero’s wandering eye for the World Cup certainly hasn’t helped, nor has Eric Dier’s form falling off a cliff after his England recall, but this was a position the club should’ve spent heavily on in the summer and all they could muster was a Clement Lenglet loan.
To his credit, Lenglet has barely put a foot wrong since arriving, but Conte needs more… much more.
Spurs require two established defenders if they’re to match their manager’s ambition: Romero and two others.
Perhaps they could reignite their interest in Bastoni, who hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons with Inter thus far, while De Vrij is a possibility for the central centre-back position.
Sporting CP’s Goncalo Inacio and Napoli’s Kim Min-jae are two other names worth exploring.
“Club signing” Djed Spence was the saviour in the eyes of many Spurs supporters, but the young wing-back has barely got a look in since arriving from Middlesbrough in the summer.
Emerson Royal has continued to operate as Conte’s first-choice wing-back down the right, but the Brazilian’s technical deficiencies and attacking incompetence have been sources of much frustration at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Matt Doherty is certainly a better option than Emerson, but the Irishman is yet to find his groove after returning from a long-term injury in the autumn.
Despite having several options, right wing-back is the club’s priority this winter. It’s a position that’s crucial to the success of Conte-led sides, and Spurs have to get it right in January at the third time of asking.
The Lilywhites need greater technique in their build-up and a more efficient performer in the final third. Sporting CP’s Pedro Porro supposedly impressed the Tottenham manager during their Champions League meetings, and the Spaniard would be a great addition.
Spurs fans are clamouring for the club to bring in a creator of James Maddison’s ilk, but Conte’s devotion to the 3-4-3 means it doesn’t make too much sense signing a player of the England international’s profile.
The Lilywhites are worryingly reliant on Kulusevski for a source of innovation in central areas and there’s no denying that Conte’s side needs another creative spark. Thus, signing a bonafide Kulusevski deputy wouldn’t go amiss.
The likes of Rennes’ Lovro Majer, Atalanta’s Ruslan Malinovskyi and even Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech fit the bill in that regard.
However, Spurs could also go down the Maddison route and sign a high-quality midfielder that’s capable of providing a creative spark when functioning in Conte’s pivot or a three-man midfield when the boss goes 3-5-2. Ghana international Mohammed Kudus must be looked at by Fabio Paratici and company.