It’s hard to believe that there was a time where Tottenham Hotspur Football Club were seen as ‘competent’.
For a few years under Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs managed to shake off their tag as disappointments. While success wasn’t necessarily expected of them, they came so close to the greatest glories in football that it was used as a stick to beat them. That version of Tottenham was much more fun to support than the incompetent versions.
And yet after reaching a Champions League final – up there with the 1961 league and cup double and two UEFA Cup triumphs as the proudest moment in Spurs history – the club have reverted to type. What was meant to be the ultimate step forward into football’s elite has been followed by several back.
An 18-month stretch with Jose Mourinho, a furloughing and a Super League debacle later, Spurs fans have little to be proud about anymore. It’s been left to new head coach Nuno Espirito Santo and director of football Fabio Paratici to pick up the pieces.
Harry Kane’s future remains up in the air, but at least the club have tied Son Heung-min down to a new deal. The two superstars are the only players who should be deemed untouchable – even club stalwart Toby Alderweireld has a price, and it’s in the region of £13m from Qatari club Al-Duhail.
Paratici’s aggressive approach in the transfer market has been well documented in Spurs circles recently, even if the love-in for a man doing his job is going a little over the top. But Tottenham have been linked to several centre-backs this window – it’s clear that a defensive revolution is needed.
Alderweireld, while still probably the best centre-back at Spurs, is not the player he once was. He’s not the best defender in the Premier League anymore. He’s regularly been on the receiving end of some awful duels in the last couple of years, barely reminiscent of the guy who made defending look so effortless.
Spurs fans were blessed to have watched Alderweireld and long-time friend Jan Vertonghen at the heart of their defence – they conceded just 26 goals in the 2016/17 Premier League season, one of the most un-Spursy stats you’ll ever see.
The partnership made so much sense. They had known each other for so long. They had experience playing at full-back in order to competently defend wide areas and half-spaces. They spoke the same various languages. But that was a long time ago.
Vertonghen’s departure last summer was a gut-wrenching one for Spurs supporters, but it became apparent that he would leave on a free for a few months. Alderweireld does not have to depart, but it’s right that he should.
It’s possible, maybe even teetering on probable, that Tottenham will bring in two to three new centre-backs this summer. Cristian Romero and Takehiro Tomiyasu look likely to come in, and you wouldn’t bet against Paratici winning Jules Kounde round if he has no other suitors. Joe Rodon and Japhet Tanganga are two defenders already at the club with enormous potential. It makes sense that some of the present crop will be cut.
Managing to shift Alderweireld’s six-figure wages will also help the club, while the Belgium international has secured one final pay day. Everyone’s a winner from the deal, and the player leaves before he gets a chance to truly rewrite his club history for the worse.