Are Spurs ready for a title challenge?

Are Spurs ready for a title challenge?

 

There is not much point looking at the Premier League table after a single round of games, but Tottenham supporters could be forgiven for giving it a peek or two after the opening weekend.

 

Spurs sit top of the pile after coming from behind to beat Southampton 4-1 on Saturday, backing up the pundit predictions over the summer that they could be ready to compete for silverware. The gap to Liverpool and Manchester United is large, but Antonio Conte has been backed in the transfer window and Spurs seemingly have the squad depth to challenge on multiple fronts.

 

It is worth remembering that Spurs won their first three games under Nuno Espirito Santo last season, leading to the Portuguese being awarded the Manager of the Month prize for August. Within a couple months he was gone. Similarly, Spurs made a flying start to the 2020-21 season and led the way after beating Manchester City, but things soon went sour for Jose Mourinho.

 

There are signs it could be very different for Spurs this season, though, as they chase a first title of the Premier League era under proven champion Conte.

 

New signings add squad depth

 

While some of the other ‘Big Six” clubs are still scrambling around for new signings, Spurs got the bulk of their business done early, in line with Conte’s demands. The Italian made it clear where he wanted his squad to be improved and he was backed with half a dozen fresh faces.

 

Strikingly, though, none of them were in the Spurs side that beat Southampton. Conte preferred to keep faith with the side that finished fourth to secure Champions League football, pipping north London rivals Arsenal to the post after they took 13 points from the last 15 available.

 

Richarlison was serving a suspension but the Brazil international, who cost around £50 million from Everton, is expected to provide cover across the Spurs front line. An attacking trio of Harry Kane supplemented by Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski is among the best in Europe. Despite Bayern Munich flirting publicly with the idea of making a move for Kane, the England captain seems settled at Spurs, a far cry from last summer’s attempts to force a move away. With Richarlison providing a quality Plan B, Kane will not need to be run into the ground.

 

Yves Bissouma looks like one of the smartest signings made by a Premier League club this summer, with the midfielder having been perennially under-rated at Brighton. Clement Lenglet joined on loan from Barcelona to boost Conte’s defensive options and Djed Spence is one for the future at the back, but it is the arrival of Ivan Perisic that shows the backing for Conte.

 

It is hard to imagine Spurs making a move for a 33-year-old utility man like Perisic even a couple of years ago, but Conte knew the Croatia international from Inter and got his man. In a season where Conte and Premier League managers can use five substitutes in each game, Perisic’s vast experience and ability to cover a variety of positions may prove to be invaluable.

Headline buys on the fringes

 

With seven new signings – Udinese left-back Destiny Udogie the latest to be through the door this week – it is inevitable some pruning of the Spurs squad would be required as well. Conte has no time for difficult characters who cannot give him everything he asks for, so it is no surprise the club record signing Tanguy Ndombele was not named in the squad last weekend.

 

Midfielders Harry Winks and Giovani Lo Celso are also free to find new clubs, as is the left-back Sergio Reguilon who found himself out of favour following Conte’s arrival. Ideally they will all be moved on by deadline day, but there is unlikely to be any way back for them under Conte.

 

Steven Bergwijn was given the green light to join Ajax, fellow winger Jack Clarke signed for Sunderland and defender Cameron Carter-Vickers headed north to Celtic. More outgoings are likely with Conte having used the second half of last season to run the rule over his squad.

 

The stability at Spurs is in clear contrast to the upheaval across London at Chelsea, who are under new owners, as well as the sideshow over Cristiano Ronaldo’s future at Old Trafford.

 

Conte already knows what it takes to win the Premier League, having led Chelsea to the title in 2016-17, his first season in charge. While overhauling title favourites Liverpool and City may be a long-term project, Spurs are putting the building blocks in place for the 53-year-old to thrive.

Author: Tamara Kim