There will be a few teams that will face selection headaches during the early part of the new season, none more so that Tottenham. No Premier League side had more players still in Russia at the semi-final stage than the 9 Spurs had. Whilst it is an impressive number that makes me very proud of my club and its players it means that these 9 have limited preparation time before the new season kicks off. They report back for training on Monday 6th August, meaning that we could be without many of our stars for the long trip up the A1 to Newcastle.
Spurs are expected to have Eriksen, Sanchez and Son back for the start of the season while Pochettino will make decisions on the rest of the returning World Cup players on a case by case basis, depending on their physical condition.
In this article I will be looking at the players who could miss out and who is likely to replace them for the opening weeks of the season.
France’s World Cup winning captain Hugo LLoris played in 6 of the 7 games, only missing the group game against Denmark once qualification had been confirmed. It is likely although not certain that he may miss some of the early season. Michel Vorm is our current number 2 and will be in possession of the gloves should Hugo not be available.
If you thought potentially missing the World Cup winning keeper was bad enough you haven’t heard anything yet! Kieran Trippier, Toby Alderweirld, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose all made it to the bronze medal match, so it’s highly unlikely they will feature for us in the first match of the season. It’s also worth pointing out that our sometime centre back Eric Dier also made it that far too. With the exception of Danny, all played 90 minutes.
Even those who didn’t play many minutes in Russia (Rose and Dier) were still part of rigorous training camps for the duration of the tournament and needed to be fully match fit when they would normally be on holiday.
It’s possible then that Pochettino could dip into the youth ranks in search of a partner or two for Davinson Sanchez. If you are looking for Spurs cover at the back from the start of the season, then the Columbian could be your man. he played in all 4 of Colombia’s games but his tournament ended a week and a half before the rest of his defensive partners. Pochettino will undoubtedly have to juggle his pack and if we don’t see defensive reinforcements being brought the transfer window closes then starts for Ben Davies and Serge Aurier are almost certain. Because of the lack of defensive options Poch will likely play four at the back. This will be good news if you are looking to bring Ben Davies into your team as he was deployed as a centre back on occasion last season and had been used in that position during our tour of the US. It’s fair to say though that he hasn’t looked entirely comfortable playing in that position.
I expect Cameron Carter-Vickers to feature in the match day squad on a more regular basis this season, if he is not sent out on loan again. He handled his self well during two successful loans in the championship last season at Sheffield United and Ipswich and has featured in pre-season too. His run outs will most likely be restricted to the cups though. Kyle Walker-Peters is a very tempting player, especially if you plan on playing an early wildcard. The exciting right-back made his first team debut in our opening day win at Newcastle last season. He was man of the match that day and I wouldn’t bet against him starting and putting in a similar performance when once again we take on the Magpies on the opening day. There is a good chance he could be sent out on loan to another Premier League team, if so he will be a very good pick
The one man I really do expect to see lining up alongside Sanchez on opening day, if he recovers in time from an injury, is Juan Foyth. I wouldn’t rush to sign him just yet though as for some strange reason he isn’t listed on the FPL site!
The problems don’t get any better as we move into the centre of the park. Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele went deep into the tournament and are big doubts for the opening games. Dele more so as he still tries to fully recover from a thigh problem picked up during the tournament.
This could leave the door wide open for Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura. Lamela came back into the side last season after a very lengthy lay off. He was mainly utilised from the bench but started to look like the player who scored 15 goals in 33 games for Roma and prompted Spurs to make him, their then record signing in 2013. Moura was introduced into the first team slowly last term but looked bright when he did play and being one of the few from the first team squad who didn’t make it to the World Cup means he had the opportunity of a full pre-season and he’s done plenty to show he is a strong contender for starts as the season draws near. He had a hand in all 4 goals against Roma, scoring twice himself and was deployed as a central striker in that game. This could be useful to know as our forward options could be very limited. We do have other options in midfield, the aforementioned Dier being one of them. Moussa Sissoko, Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks are not known for their FPL points though and are all currently injured anyway. There have been some youngsters who could have played their way into the mind of the manager. Oliver Skipp and Cypriot international Anthony Georgiou all got good minutes on tour and didn’t look out of their depth in the slightest, but it is much more likely they will be sent out on loan or stay with the development squad than feature in the first team. Luke Amos played 90 minutes in all 3 games on tour and with injuries now adding to our problems don’t be surprised if he features on opening day. Georges-Kevin N’koudou continues to frustrate. He looked bright against Barcelona and got himself a goal. Then he reverted to type against Milan, completely anonymous in the first half, but then sprung into life in the second and looked the best player on the park. He got game time on loan at Burnley last season but achieved the total sum of nothing in his 8 games and I suspect he got game time on tour because we really didn’t have anybody else fit to play.
Christian Eriksen should be in contention. He came home early but did play in 4 games. A word of caution though. He played in a deeper role than at any time in his Tottenham career so far and didn’t have any attacking returns in the 7 goals we scored in the States. Eriksen will always score points but I’d like more info on just what his role will be this season before I commit 9.5m of my budget on him. Son Heung-Min’s World Cup tournament ended 5 weeks ago with a goal against the outgoing world champions. He has been called up to the South Korea squad which will soon be heading off to the Asian games and will be going all out to win the tournament in the hope it will avoid him having to complete 2 years of military service for his country. The Asian Games kick off on August 14th, South Korea are defending champions and will be amongst the favourites to win it again. Son is back for pre-season and will play in our opening game (most likely up front if Kane isn’t available) but that will be the only game until after South Korea’s participation in the Asian Games is over. Don’t expect to see him again until at least GW5.
Talking of limited options! This is where the headaches truly come into their own. Only one place to start really, Harry Kane. We all know the man is a machine but even a machine needs to be turned off occasionally. Harry has vowed to be back and ready for the trip to Newcastle, but in what shape? We also know he has seemingly vowed never to score in August too. It was clear he returned from the injury picked up against Bournemouth in March far too early and he never looked sharp again for the rest of the season. He started the World Cup in fine form. Scoring 6 goals in his first 3 games but looked tired against Sweden and positively knackered in the semi. I was very surprised he started the final game. Harry needs a rest, and this could mean Poch has no choice but to start with Fernando Llorente upfront. It was evident from last season that Poch doesn’t trust him, choosing instead to leaving him on the bench and utilise Son’s attacking prowess. Llorente has been in scoring form so far in preseason scoring in a couple of ‘behinds closed doors’ friendlies against Southend, Brentford and a brace against Roma. Don’t let that fool you though. He has been truly woeful and seems to actively look to be in positions he can’t score from.
As discussed, Son will not be available after GW1 so where do Spurs go from here? Vincent Janssen is our only other recognised senior forward. That’s where the good news ends! All of Spurs’ first team players who were not involved at the World Cup were told to report back to Hotspur Way on Monday, July 9, to begin their preparations for the new campaign. Not only has the 24-year-old Netherlands international been absent from the foreground or even the background of every official photo and video, but he has also been conspicuous by his absence in any of the many, many pre-season videos and photos put on social media by the players. He hasn’t been taken on the US tour and his own social media accounts have been unused since June.
So it seems Harry really is the only option….or is he? It’s just possible that when Poch played Moura up front against Roma that he was testing the water.
So who to sign for FPL?
The friendlies have given us no indication of what formation Spurs will utilise next season. We started with a diamond against Roma and finished the game with a back five. No team mixed up their starting formation more than us last season and the new season seems like it will be that way for the season ahead too. With that in mind it’s hard to suggest how we will line up and therefore who to pick for the opening gameweek.
There are only really two from our defence that I am currently considering, Trippier (once I know when he’ll be fit to play) and Walker-Peters, with the latter only be a short-term move unless he goes out on loan. This could change if Alderweireld decides to stay. I would also be interested in Rose or Davies if I knew which one would start each week!
Davies could be a good shout for the start of the season as it looks very much like he will be playing alongside Sanchez at centre back.
The midfield is much harder to pick. Other than Moura, there will be no one I’ll be considering for the start of the season. Apparently Alli was rubbish last season. Ok, he didn’t hit the heights of the previous campaign, but 9 goals and 13 assists are still a good return. There were only 7 midfielders and 10 players across the whole game who scored more points than him. Alli is an explosive player and has proved he doesn’t need to play well to score big. He can do nothing for 80 mins then pop up with a couple of goals. The telling stat though is that 2 of the players to outscore him last season were his midfield teammates Son and Eriksen. This is where I think the value lies, but not straight away though! Son (8.5) will only be available for the first game then he’s out until GW5. Eriksen (9.5) would normally be a dead cert but with question marks over exactly where he will line up in the midfield I’ll have to wait and see. Lamala is a player who could be good value at 6.5m but for 0.5m more I’d be picking Moura.
It will be difficult for any team to have Salah and Kane and remain balanced and for that reason I will start the season without Kane. There is no doubt Harry will join my side at some point but for now there are just too many factors going against him.