Tottenham made history last summer, but not the desirable kind.
The north Londoners became the first club in the Premier League era not to sign a new player in the summer transfer window.
A number of possible reasons have been formulated since: the budget for the new stadium has left nothing left for transfers; Spurs were out-priced by selling clubs; Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t like making signings for the sake of it and was happy with his squad.
All of those are probably valid to some extent, but it hasn’t made Tottenham’s lack of spending any easier to swallow for Spurs fans, particularly when the gaps in the current squad are considered.
Tottenham’s season has been a promising one regardless; they have qualified for Champions League knock-out stages and are one game away from a League Cup final.
But with the injuries piling up and more than one player seemingly on the verge of an exit, Spurs may need to buy this month in order to ensure their season doesn’t capitulate.
So we’ve come up with some potential signings – two dream acquisitions, two realistic selections and a couple of wildcards – and suggested which would be the best for Tottenham.
Dream: Adrien Rabiot, Frenkie de Jong
At the time of writing, Mousa Dembele is on the verge of leaving Spurs for the Chinese Super League. His exit, coupled with Victor Wanyama’s ongoing knee problem, has left Pochettino with a major issue in central midfield.
Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko have been playing regularly in recent weeks, putting in a string of impressive performances together (especially Sissoko). But if Tottenham are to compete for the Premier League title, they need a high-class central midfielder who will move ahead of Winks and Sissoko in the pecking order.
Two names immediately come to mind. Adrien Rabiot is set to leave Paris Saint-Germain after turning down a contract offer from the French champions, while Frenkie de Jong is being tipped as one of Europe’s future leading midfielders. Both have been linked with Spurs in some capacity.
Just two years separate the players, but Rabiot is far more experienced. The 23-year-old has won titles in France and competed regularly in the Champions League. There’s little doubt, however, that De Jong has the potential to be a regular for a top European side, too.
Either player would be an ideal replacement for Dembele, who – when fully fit – had the ability to win a midfield battle singlehandedly. Tottenham have missed that sense of control at times this term.
Squawka Suggests: Frenkie de Jong
Rabiot’s reportedly big wage demands could price Spurs out of a move (he is more likely to join Barcelona). But we’re talking about a dream move here, so that’s not exactly relevant. What should push Tottenham in the direction of De Jong is his massive potential to improve – only two players have completed more passes than the 21-year-old in the Eredivisie this season.
What’s more, Davinson Sanchez, Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen all left the Amsterdam Arena for Spurs. Strengthening their relationship with Ajax further can only be a good thing.
Realistic: Abdoulaye Doucoure, David Brooks
Barcelona have been linked with De Jong as well as Rabiot, so Spurs may have trouble attracting two of Europe’s prestige central midfielders. Indeed, they might be better served looking closer to home.
Players currently plying their trade at Premier League sides outside of the top six could be more attainable, particularly when it comes to wages. Abdoulaye Doucoure signed a new five-year contract with Watford in August so he won’t be cheap, but his salary will surely be more affordable than Rabiot’s.
This week Doucoure made his intentions about his future clear. The midfielder has intimated a desire to leave Watford and play Champions League football.
If Spurs can strengthen their grip on third or fourth spot by the end of the month, they could be an attractive prospect for Doucoure, despite reported interest from PSG.
Tottenham’s need for a central midfielder is evident, but a failed move for Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish last summer hinted Pochettino also wants more of an attacking option. Next to nothing has been said in the media about Spurs going back in for Grealish; perhaps they should look elsewhere for that position.
Bournemouth’s David Brooks would be perfect. Young and versatile, the 21-year-old would develop further under Pochettino and add another creative option to the Spurs squad.
Squawka Suggests: Abdoulaye Doucoure
Brooks only joined Bournemouth in the summer, meaning Tottenham’s chances of having an offer accepted this month are far less likely than Watford allowing Doucoure to leave.
The recruitment of a commanding central midfielder is more of an urgent requirement than a Brooks-type. On top of that, at 26 years of age Doucoure – who has scored three goals and provided five assists in the Premier League this term – is more experienced than Brooks, making him a more suitable replacement for Dembele.
Wildcard: Cengiz Ünder, Ben Chilwell
If the suggestions up to this point haven’t emphasised it enough already, central midfield is Spurs’ biggest problem position. But other areas of the squad also need looking at. Tottenham need a versatile forward who can provide back-up and support for Harry Kane, plus a left-back.
Calls for a new left-back may seem odd given Spurs already possess Danny Rose and Ben Davies. However, there are issues with both current options. Tottenham can no longer rely on Rose’s fitness, while the Welshman’s shortcomings have been exposed this season.
A long-term solution is needed and Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell ticks all the boxes. Young, English full-backs are Pochettino’s speciality when it comes to development; past examples include Luke Shaw, Nathaniel Clyne, Kyle Walker and Rose.
Chilwell’s nationality means Leicester could demand a huge fee for his services. It’s the kind of risk Spurs must take if they want to compete with Manchester City and Liverpool. And it isn’t the only risk they must go through with.
Quality support for Kane has been needed for some time. Vincent Janssen and Fernando Llorente have failed to provide it over the last two-and-a-half seasons. As a result, Tottenham may have to spend a bit bigger this time to get the right kind of support.
Roma forward Cengiz Ünder, who was linked with Spurs before he moved to Italy in the summer of 2017, could be on the move – according to ESPN reports – and Tottenham still apparently hold an interest. The Turkey international can play out wide, through the middle or in behind a main striker – he’s exactly what is required.
Squawka Suggests: Cengiz Ünder
Kane’s recent injury makes buying an attacker a more pressing issue than a new left-back. Ünder has only scored three Serie A goals this term, but he has assisted six and has created 2.53 chances per 90 league minutes.
Much has been said about Kane dropping slightly deeper this season. Ünder could come in for the injured Kane and play the No.10 role when needed. He could also double up with Kane, allowing the England captain to play further forward. There would clearly be plenty of options for Pochettino to ponder.