Trimming the Tottenham squad 1

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Mauricio Pochettino spoke earlier in the week about the size of the Tottenham squad and has vaguely suggested that a couple of players will be moving away before the transfer-window shuts.  As expected, the media have churned out a couple of ‘exclusive’ 11-player lists and used words like ‘exodus’, clear-out’ and ‘overhaul’ fairly liberally.

Eleven players?  I doubt that; Tottenham are a bit on the heavy side at the moment, but they are committed to four separate competitions this season and, by way of the Champions League place that it now offers, will presumably take the Europa League far more seriously than before.  There is a need to carry a slightly larger squad and those leaving should only be allowed to do so for career-progression or revenue-creating reasons, or if they are genuinely serving no purpose.

So, here are five players who might/should be with other clubs by September 1st:

Tom Carroll

Absence does in fact make the heart grow fonder.

Tom Carroll spent most of last season on-loan at QPR and while he was away his reputation seemed to grow exponentially - never mind that he really wasn’t all that impressive during his time at Loftus Road.

Carroll is a good footballer and he’s a very economical passer who did show shades of usefulness during Andre Villas-Boas’ first season.  Between now and then, though, there’s been no obvious development in either his technical or physical attributes and should he stay at White Hart Lane it would surely be in a fringe capacity.

He’s still just twenty-two, so there’s time yet for him to have a career with Tottenham, but he has to add to his game and become a more multi-dimensional player.  It’s no longer really enough just to have an impressive passing-range and to have a credible claim for a starting spot at Spurs, Carroll really needs to show improvement in one or two more areas of his position.  If that doesn’t happen, selecting him will always feel like a luxury pick.


Zeki Fryers

Sir Alex Ferguon was famously livid at the way Tottenham engineered his eventual move to White Hart Lane.  Ignoring the irony of a Manchester United employee complaining about a club playing fast and loose with the transfer rules, it’s presumably not something which sticks in former manager’s craw any more.

Fryers is a player of absolutely no consequence and is as generic a young English defender as you will ever see.  Prior to Ben Davies joining the club, he offered some theoretical depth at left-back, but with that position now covered by Davies, Danny Rose and - sort of - Kyle Naughton, the need for Fryers is minimal at best.

“Oh, but he can play as a centre-half”.

Can he, though?  Or, at least, can anyone actually see a scenario in which he becomes a good enough central defender to even sit on the bench at Tottenham?  Have there been any signs that he’s worth persevering with?

In the nicest possible way, his level is probably somewhere between the Premier League and the Championship, and he should be politely shunted towards one of the clubs existing in that hinterland.


Nabil Bentaleb

The Algerian is a good player and he shouldn’t be tarnished by his association with Tim Sherwood.

At just nineteen, he has some relatively impressive Premier League starts to his name - Newcastle away in 13/14, for example - and has also now been to his first World Cup.  From a confidence standpoint last season will have done him a lot of good and it’s important that the embryonic momentum he now has isn’t wasted by a season on the periphery.

If he were to stay at Tottenham this season, he would likely be of use and make a reasonable number of appearances across all competitions.  Is that in his long-term best interests though?  If Spurs were offered the chance to loan him to another Premier League club - one who would see him as a regular starter - would that not be more conducive to his development?  He is Premier League-ready, but he is not yet Tottenham-ready.  Another season in the right place and that could change.

He’s very expressive on the ball and his technique is undeniably excellent, but there’s a lot of naivety in his game and his understanding of how to play as a deep-lying midfielder is fairly primitive.  That’s fine, because it would be unreasonable to expect anything else from someone so young, but the more minutes he’s given the quicker his game-intelligence and positional understanding will develop.

There’s an argument for him staying and he will doubtless have some value, but Tottenham need to look at the bigger picture here and think about Bentaleb’s future rather than just their squad-depth over the next eight months.


Mousa Dembele

An asterisk: Dembele is a beautifully stylish footballer and he can be brilliant to watch.  That he’s included on this list is a judgement on his suitability to Tottenham rather than his general ability.

At his best, the Belgian is a match-winner.  But how many times have Tottenham fans seen his best?  When, for example, was the last time he had a really good game against a top-tier opponent?

The £15m Spurs spent on Dembele was sound, but it’s become over these past two years that he’s not a particularly good-fit for the club.  He carries the ball brilliantly well and when he does trust himself in shooting positions he can be great, but he has a habit of disappearing in games and reverting to low-risk, unimaginative distribution.  He’s also only really capable of playing one midfield role: he’s not defensively good enough to be given an anchoring brief and he lacks the attacking instinct to be used as a ‘number ten’.  Either he has to be used between the two halves of the midfield, or he’s better left on the substitutes’ bench.

At another club with a different squad composition maybe that would be different.

Spurs also need to be mindful - and, given how profit-hungry Daniel Levy is I’m sure they are - that he’s just turned 27 and that his value will never be as high again as it is now.  If his sale funded the purchase of another centre-half, for example, how objectionable would his departure really be?

A very good player, but not the right player.


Ryan Mason

It feels as if Ryan Mason has been around for years and, actually he has: he’s already twenty-three.  According those those who know better than me - follow Chris Miller on Twitter for all things related to Tottenham’s youth players - Mason has had a terrible time with injuries and his career has been almost forcefully flat-lined by persistent knee trouble.

He spent last season at Swindon Town and yet, despite that being a relatively low level, he did enough to be noteworthy when he rejoined the Tottenham squad during the tour to the USA.  Pre-season friendlies are not the time to make sound judgements, but in that small sample of games he looked like the kind of midfielder who could potentially suit Mauricio Pochettino’s philosophy: he uses the ball very well and very decisively, and he seems very comfortable in possession for a player with so little first-team experience.

If he was eighteen or nineteen, there would be no harm in keeping him at Tottenham this season and periodically exposing him to Europa League football.  But, as much of a victim as he has been to bad luck, he is playing catch-up to a certain extent and steps must be taken to accelerate his progress.  These are formative years of his career and most twenty-three year-olds with bright futures are already playing regular football.

Similar to the justification given for Nabil Bentaleb above, Spurs have to think ‘big picture’ here and do what is actually best for the player.  To go from League One to the Premier League is a quantum leap, so why not move him to The Championship on a six-month or season-long loan?  He has played fewer than 100 games in his professional career and that’s not a problem that will be solved through just being part of Tottenham’s league cup team.


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