Serious contenders: Tottenham

Settled side want to get off the block

Tottenham have signed their two biggest targets in defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama (right) and Vincent Janssen, who can provide much-needed cover for striker Harry Kane. Besides a deep run, the club will aim to finally get the better of north Lon
Tottenham have signed their two biggest targets in defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama (right) and Vincent Janssen, who can provide much-needed cover for striker Harry Kane. Besides a deep run, the club will aim to finally get the better of north London rivals Arsenal in the league after over two decades in the shadows.PHOTO: REUTERS

Pochettino plots success meticulously and favours developing youth over signing stars The 2016-17 English Premier League countdown continues with the storylines that will shape the new season, as well as the tactical trends

LONDON • The note of worry at Tottenham Hotspur concerns the manner in which their rivals have attacked the transfer market.

It is difficult to quantify how greatly the other top Premier League clubs will be improved by their signings, but it is clear that when two of them (Manchester United and Manchester City) have lavished nine-figure sums on fees alone, it represents a shake-up.

Tottenham cannot compete on these terms at present and they have felt the tremors. This Premier League season is going to be so tough.

But the glass feels half-full, primarily because of Mauricio Pochettino and the precision and vigour of his methods.

In so many ways, he is the ideal manager for Tottenham, as they plot the transition to the new stadium, a 61,000-capacity complex in north London.

The Argentinian is in at 7am every day, he leaves at 7pm and, in a sport of fine margins, he is constantly seeking the edge. Everybody at the club will tell you that his analytics are extraordinary.

The clarity and decisiveness have been reflected in the transfer market, where the club are no longer linked with scores of players.

They did their business early for their biggest targets - signing Victor Wanyama of Kenya from Southampton for £11 million (S$19.2 million) and the Dutch striker Vincent Janssen, who joined for £17 million from AZ Alkmaar. The 22-year-old will provide much-needed cover for Harry Kane.

Tottenham probably need another game-changing option from the bench - a player with the pace to get in behind and make things happen - hence the interest in Marseille's £11 million-rated winger Georges-Kevin Nkoudou.

But, while the club remain alive to other possibilities, there will be no scramble to complete the squad as the transfer deadline nears.

Pochettino will rely on the club's academy-developed talent to fill in any gaps.

The fourth-choice centre-half will be Cameron Carter-Vickers, who has been likened to Ledley King in terms of physique and temperament, and Shayon Harrison could be an option behind Kane and Janssen up front.

Kyle Walker-Peters has the advantage of being able to play at left-back as well as right-back and there are high hopes for Josh Onomah, who played in last month's European Under-19 Championship.

The midfielder is maturing physically and everybody at the club seems to love him.

Another promising midfielder is Harry Winks, and then there is the 17-year-old Marcus Edwards, around whom there is such a buzz.

The little No. 10, who has a sweet left foot and low centre of gravity, is expected to make his first-team debut this season.

Importantly, Pochettino's players are imposing - almost all his favoured starting XI from last season stood at 1.82m or higher - and they have tremendous stamina. Moreover, they are tactically flexible and are able to play in at least two positions.

There was much to like about Tottenham last season and, even in the explosive 2-2 draw at Chelsea, when they had nine men booked and their title hopes perished, Pochettino was delighted to see the collective fight.

No longer, he said, could Tottenham be viewed as soft touches. On the other hand, the loss of composure after Eden Hazard's 83rd-minute equaliser, when there was still time for the winning goal, was comprehensive.

Pochettino is hopeful that his players have learnt from that lesson and others, and he has targeted a fast start, as rival teams bed in their new signings.

Tottenham are settled and the club feel secure - they have finished in the top six in each of the past seven seasons and three times in the top four. They have plenty to look forward to.

Pochettino steered Tottenham to third place last season, earning them qualification for the Champions League and is now eager to prove his team's worth among Europe's elite.

They were on course to end above local rivals Arsenal for the first time in 21 seasons until a late slump.

"We have to put that third place finish to one side and focus on all the things we achieved - and move on," he said. "What we can now go on to achieve in the Champions League is very important."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'Settled side want to get off the block'. Print Edition | Subscribe