Saturday, January 22, 2022

Tottenham’s EFL Cup loss vs. Chelsea puts Spurs’ transfer needs on full display

From Antonio Conte’s initial lineup for Wednesday’s second leg of the League Cup semifinals vs. Chelsea, there were questions of if Tottenham wanted to try to overturn their 2-0 deficit. Sergio Reguilion was absent for the second straight match while Eric Deir also missed out due to his recovery from COVID. This led to a patchwork defense, including Matt Doherty, Japhet Tanganga, and Davidson Sanchez. Harry Winks and Giovani Lo Celso were also preferred in midfield to Oliver Skipp and Bryan Gil. 

Meanwhile, Thomas Tuchel went with as strong of a lineup as he could, and the game was over before it started. Antonio Rudiger’s headed goal into an empty net sums up Tottenham’s defensive struggles. Pierluigi Gollini came off of his line to try to claim Mason Mount’s cross but missed leaving all the space in the world for Rudinger to put Chelsea ahead 3-0 on aggregate — an scoreline that was unchanged at the final whistle. It’s a mistake that shows how important getting Hugo Lloris to agree to a new contract is as Gollini’s loan from Atalanta likely won’t be made permanent after performances like this one.

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Chelsea kept pushing the pace as Spurs didn’t get a real chance until a penalty was awarded due to Rudiger’s tackle on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. After a VAR review, it was determined that the tackle took place outside of the box and Spurs were unable to do anything with the free kick that ensued. VAR would intervene again as another penalty was awarded due to Kepa bringing down Lucas Moura but it was judged that Kepa got the ball.

Harry Kane would have the ball in the back of the net in the 63rd minute but it was also called off due to Kane being offsides, and that would be it for Spurs’ big chances compared to Chelsea getting shots off in the box at will. Facing top opposition in a match like this shows the level of what Spurs need in the transfer window.

Defensively, the options available to the team seem to be good enough to make it to the summer. Cristian Romero’s return to a time share with Davidson Sanchez will bode well having a center back who is better in possession along with one who is better on set plays for lat- game situations. Adding in that Romero also picks up yellow cards, having depth at the position is important. 

Adama Traore as a wing back has been someone who is linked to improve Tottenham’s defensive situation but it’s hard to see how he improves things.

Adama Traore

1036

2.15

1.44

Sergio Reguilon

1288

1

1.18

3

2.66

Emerson Royal

1195

0.22

1

1.74

Considering that Traore has also had minutes at forward, it’s tough to expect his output to be better than of Conte’s current options. And even including Lucas Moura, the expected numbers are similar but Moura has been involved in five goals on the season. While it’s not what Spurs fans want to hear, in defense the best option is to wait until everyone is healthy and see how things go from there. 

Looking at midfield, while it’s good that Harry Winks has taken well to Conte’s tactics, it’s concerning that a limited midfielder has been the best performer in the new system. Throwing anything that they can at securing Franck Kessie now would be the best use of resources that Spurs can do. Kessie has 17 key passes, five goals and one assist from midfield for AC Milan. This is double the goal involvement of Spurs central midfielders.

If he isn’t attainable a similar target centrally would be needed to open all the wide options. Speaking of wide options, Nicolas Pepe is another dream name for Spurs despite the Arsenal connection. While Arsenal did overpay for him, Pepe has shown his danger both shooting and on the dribble, while offering options from set plays when Heung-Min Son misses time.

It feels weird to recommend him as an option ahead of Sunday’s North London Derby, but he is on the outs with Mikel Arteta and would feast in a Conte system. 

January is a tough month to get business done, but if Spurs want to finish in the Premier League’s top four, they’ll need to do something soon as Wednesday’s loss will repeat itself during the remainder of the season when they face a top team.

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