The Hard Tackle analyses the business conducted by Tottenham Hotspur and gives its verdict on their performance in the January transfer window.
The January transfer window has ended, leaving us with nothing else to do than analyse the comings and goings of each Premier League club one by one. It’s now the turn for Antonio Conte’s Tottenham Hotspur.
Chelsea and Todd Boehly were the biggest spenders of the window, spending nearly £300 million on fresh talent for whopping transfer fees and paying way over the odds to land anyone they could get their hands on. In comparison, Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy is notoriously watchful when it comes to keeping control of the purse strings.
Of course, Tottenham have had a quiet January transfer window compared to last season. Indeed, that was Antonio Conte’s first window at the club, so he was keen to shape the side to his liking. Last January saw the north London outfit snare Juventus pair Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski. Both of those men have had big impacts on Conte’s side.
Conte brought in six further signings in the summer but has continually insisted that it will take a few more windows before Tottenham will be capable of challenging for top honours.
Ahead of the January window, Tottenham were desperate to strengthen their attack and the wing-back areas, which lacked quality after injuries to key players or simply because big hitters were in poor form.
The Lilywhites are worryingly reliant on Kulusevski for a source of innovation in central areas, and there’s no denying that Conte’s side needs another creative spark.
To that end, Tottenham’s owners did their due diligence to bolster the aforementioned areas of the squad and have backed the Italian with two eye-catching arrivals while ignoring all other departments.
Arnaut Danjuma was the first one to arrive through the door on loan from Villarreal to add goal threat after his Everton move was hijacked at the last-minuted despite undergoing a medical and photo shoot at Goodison Park.
Tottenham then spent big to sign 23-year-old right-back Pedro Porro on deadline day, which will satisfy boss Antonio Conte because they have finally solved a long-running problem. Spurs completed a loan until the end of the season with an obligation to make it a permanent deal in the summer.
They wrapped up their window after snapping up talented striker Jude Soonsup-Bell from Chelsea. It’s textbook business from Levy and Co. There were also a host of loan departures, and one player was weirdly released just an hour before the deadline (and possibly for a hilarious reason).
It was not a very exciting window for Spurs fans, but they stepped up in the final days of the transfer window to get some deals over the line. The Hard Tackle dives deep into the north London club’s business in the winter window and delivers its verdict on their performance.
INS: Arnaut Danjuma (loan w/option to buy for £25m), Pedro Porro (loan w/obligation to buy for £45m), Jude Soonsup-Bell (free)
OUTS: Bryan Gil (loan), Djed Spence (loan), Harvey White (loan), Matt Doherty (contract terminated), Adam Hayton (undisclosed)
MVA (Most Valuable Addition): Pedro Porro
The on-again, off-again transfer saga was ultimately resolved, but only just minutes before the 11 p.m. deadline after many twists and turns. Spurs signed Porro on an initial loan deal after chasing him for most of the month and after hours of talks. The deal comes with an obligation to make the move permanent in the summer.
Conte had his sights set on the Spaniard even before the window opened. Spurs are no strangers to trying to haggle a selling side down to a lower fee. That was one of the main reasons the Porro deal went through until the deadline. Sporting CP proved a tough nut to crack, refusing to sell for a fee below his exit clause.
Tottenham had two initial bids rebuffed. The Lions retained their stance despite the fact that the second one was only a few million short.
Indeed, the transfer looked to have fallen through at one stage. However, Levy stepped in and assumed control of the negotiations, finally pressing the transfer through after matching the release clause with their loan-to-buy proposal and selling them 15% of their rights over Marcus Edwards.
After Pedro Porro deal, Sporting have received 15% more of Marcus Edwards rights — Portuguese club will now get 65% of any sale for Edwards. 🟢🏴 #transfers
Many European clubs are closely monitoring Edwards situation ahead of the summer, where interest is expected to be high. pic.twitter.com/Je5id587zK
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) February 2, 2023
The former Tottenham winger joined Sporting back in January 2022 for a fee of just £7.5 million. However, Spurs negotiated a sizable 50% sell-on clause for any future sale of the player, which the Lisbon outfit was trying to bring down in recent months.
While it went right down to the wire and was expensive, what a signing this is for Spurs. Coming into the window, Spurs fans will have told you that their biggest weakness in the starting eleven was at right wing-back.
Wing-back is a demanding position in any Antonio Conte team, physically and technically, given they carry a creative burden other managers hand to their central midfield players. They look to have solved that issue by bringing in the ex-Manchester City ace.
Emerson possesses industry and effort, but he lacks technique and cutting edge in the final third. You can’t say the same about Porro; his goal involvements speak for themselves. Porro has contributed to eight goals in the Primeira Liga this season, as opposed to two from Royal in the Premier League, having notched two goals and six assists for Sporting.
Porro outclasses his Tottenham counterpart by some distance in terms of chances created, crosses made, and progressive passes, and generally occupies interesting positions in attacking areas of the pitch much more frequently.
While there is no comparison between the two going forward, he still has room to improve defensively, despite playing for a ball-dominant side in Sporting CP.
His presence would undoubtedly free up space on the other side of the field for Son and Ivan Perisic, while his crossing qualities will come as a major boost for Harry Kane, who have at times been starved of service this season.
Tottenham have assembled a very menacing right-hand side with Porro in the side. With Cristian Romero on the right side of defence and Dejan Kulusevski as one of Tottenham’s most creative players, the north London side will now have threats down both wings.
Conte’s reputation as one of the top managers in the game is centered around his ability to bring out the best in his players, especially at wing-back. Achraf Hakimi, Ivan Perisic, Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso, and Ashley Young have all benefited from playing wing-back in a Conte system, and Porro could well be the next in line.
All in all, it’s good that Tottenham solved the right-back dilemma once and for all under manager Antonio Conte, and the former Manchester City right-back should be the starting right-back in the second half of the season as Conte and co. look to make a genuine push for a top-four berth. (No more false dawns allowed now)
Shrewd Work (A Departure That Is Ideal For All Parties): Matt Doherty
Spurs’ main focus heading into transfer deadline day was if the club could get the Pedro Porro deal from Sporting Lisbon over the line after fears of it falling through.
Indeed, it was expected that at least one of the three current Spurs right-sided wing-backs would leave on deadline day, as having four on the books at the same time would be unwise.
It was inevitable for Djed Spence, who had only played 90 minutes under Antonio Conte, to seek a loan transfer away from the club, which he did by joining the French side, Rennes.
Then there were somewhat surprise rumours of Doherty possibly joining Atletico Madrid started to circulate on loan as a replacement for Felipe, who was on course to join Nottingham Forest.
And then boom, with one hour remaining of the January transfer deadline, Spurs announced they had terminated Doherty’s contract entirely, which had 18 months left to run. Moments later, he became a new Atletico Madrid player — the first-ever Irishman to represent the Spanish giants — but the big question remained why didn’t they send him out on loan?
That is due to a FIFA rule that states that a club can only send out a maximum of eight players on loan per season. Spence’s loan move to Rennes earlier on the deadline day hit the quota, with Harry Winks, Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, Joe Rodon, Sergio Reguilon, Destiny Udogie, and Bryan Gil already out on temporary deals.
So, there was no other option than ripping the contract up, which showcases the chaotic state of affairs at Spurs.
Matt Doherty is the first Irish player to play for one of Spain’s big three clubs. 🇮🇪 pic.twitter.com/2QlzsmMQK0
— Atletico Universe (@atletiuniverse) February 1, 2023
The Republic of Ireland international’s time at Spurs was a curious thing, but it was by no means a failure. In fact, he has always been ideally suited to performing that wing-back role, and hence his peak coincided with Spurs’ best form under Conte, as he flourished in the second half of last season before an ACL injury cut his season short early.
The 31-year-old couldn’t recover from then on and has struggled for game time at Spurs this season after losing his place in the side to Emerson Royal. Doherty has made 16 appearances for Antonio Conte’s side so far this term, clocking up 878 minutes on the pitch, and could have been set for even less action following the arrival of Porro.
Doherty moved to Spurs in 2020 after arriving from Wolves in a deal worth around £15 million and has made a total of 71 appearances for Tottenham, recording three goals and nine assists.
Ultimately, there were going to be 12 months remaining on Doherty’s contract come the summer, and it was anticipated that he would depart sooner rather than later, so this move was only postponing the inevitable.
Doherty’s departure means his wages are off Spurs’ books, freeing up space for Porro’s immediate inclusion, while the Republic of Ireland international makes an unlikely step up to join a club with an even richer history than that of Spurs and will be hoping to rediscover his form under Mister Diego Simeone, a.k.a. El Cholo, in the Spanish capital.
The Big Miss (A Player Who Should Have Left): Japhet Tanganga
Tanganga has never really performed poorly, but he finds himself the victim of a switch in the team’s playing style. The Tottenham Hotspur Academy product went largely under the radar until he impressed former boss Jose Mourinho in training. He was given plenty of opportunities to make his mark by the Portuguese manager, but Conte has not been particularly helpful in this regard.
The Italian boss has hardly used the versatile defender, and while he could have also moved in the summer, with strong interest from AC Milan among others, he stayed put at the Tottenham Hotspur Way to make up the numbers and homegrown quota. In truth, it’s proven to be a mistake, as it’s hampering his progression after only seeing 67 minutes of Premier League action this term.
While versatility is seen as a boon in many players’ profiles, it has turned out to be a bane for Tanganga, as it has ensured that different Spurs managers have used him across the back line, in the centre of defence, and occasionally on either flank as a full-back without any genuine consistency. It has also prevented him from nailing down one regular starting position on the team.
French defender Clement Lenglet, who is on a season-long loan from Barcelona this season, has made countless individual mistakes and is arguably no better than Tanganga, but still ahead of him in the pecking order.
The 23-year-old showcased huge promise during the early part of his career before hitting a slump lately, but he’s not exactly going to progress simply by warming the bench. If Spurs are planning to keep Tanganga on the fringes, he should have been sold in January since he is far better than playing less than 500 minutes of football action this season.
Stick or twist—that was the dilemma facing Tottenham going into a January transfer window that could have a major bearing on their Champions League qualification this season.
There were just far too many variables with Conte regularly changing his public stance on whether he would extend his stay beyond this season, or would leave Spurs to hang out to dry, with the future of the Italian head coach looking increasingly uncertain, with the former Chelsea head coach having just six months left to run on his contract at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
What’s more, there were rumblings that Conte was unhappy with the club’s transfer business around mid-January. The belief is Tottenham don’t want to spend big without first knowing their manager’s long-term future at the club, as the new recruit may not be fit for purpose under the Italian manager’s successor. Conversely, Conte didn’t want to commit until he had assurances he’d be properly backed in the market.
This deadlock resulted in a mixed bag in the winter transfer window. In the end, only Arnaut Danjuma arrived before the deadline, but the club confirmed the signings of right wing-back Pedro Porro and Chelsea youngster Jude Soonsup-Bell on Tuesday’s deadline.
On the positive side, Danjuma’s addition adds not only speed, skill, goals, and versatility, but also some more valuable competition for places and cover. His clever movement, pace, power, eye-catching link-play, and powerful finishing could give Conte the opportunity to rest Harry Kane or perhaps even withdraw an out-of-form Son from the firing line.
However, this does not address their midfield deficiencies, and their shaky defence hasn’t fared well this season either. In truth, the whole backline, including the goalkeeper, has been nothing short of abysmal this season, with Christian Romero the only one who can come out with some plaudits for holding together a wobbly defence.
Lenglet’s lack of pace hasn’t helped, nor has Eric Dier’s form falling off a cliff since his England recall, while cover options are lacklustre in the form of Davinson Sanchez, Tanganga, and Ben Davies. This was a position the club should’ve spent heavily on in the summer, and all they could muster was a Lenglet loan.
But frustratingly for Spurs fans, it just takes ages to get things done with Daniel Levy at the helm. Alessandro Bastoni, Evan Ndicka, and Piero Hincapie, among others, were all linked with a move to Tottenham this month and would have been major upgrades in the left-footed centre-back department, but not one came to fruition.
A long-term successor for the ageing and error-prone Hugo Lloris was also on Conte’s shopping list, but that may have to wait until the summer. It’s always patchwork; there are no proactive signings. But then again, the Lilywhites’ owners are still unsure if Conte will even be Tottenham’s manager past this spring, so they limited their spending.
Overall, it was a decent transfer window considering it’s always difficult to get deals done for your top targets during the January market, and they did make a couple of astute pieces of business this winter, got rid of several players and have given their top-four hopes a decent enough boost heading into the season’s defining months.
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