It’s no secret that Jose Mourinho has failed to master the Spurs’ backline with clean sheets, a rarity since his arrival in November.
This will have frustrated the Portuguese, who have a reputation for medium defenses, and the opposition teams who have to work hard to score.
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It was a Tottenham defense that was exactly the same before last season, with Mauricio Pochettino forging the tightest defense in the Premier League over a period of two to three years.
Mourinho talks about the defensive process, which the whole team contributes to the way he defends himself, but he needs a solid bottom line as a base.
One problem Mourinho faces is that a number of Spurs defenders are likely to leave this summer, one without a contract and others looking for more regular team football.
This calls for an overhaul of all kinds, but comes with the caveat that Tottenham president Daniel Levy has made it clear that finance for transfers will be hard to come by with the end of football hitting clubs hard.
Given all of the above, what might Tottenham’s defense look like next season?
This will be the key to everything that follows.
Any defensive overhaul at Tottenham will likely have to be funded by sales and by removing players from the payroll.
Mourinho will lose players for various reasons. Jan Vertonghen’s contract ends on June 30, depending on what happens with the conclusion of the football season and the players’ contracts.
If transfer funds are low this summer, Tottenham may well try to keep the Belgian on board, but the ball will be in his court to know where his future lies.
Juan Foyth is strongly linked to a move due to a lack of playing time this season and has been suggested to some teams in Europe during the January window.
“We have to wait now for the transfer window to open,” he said in an Instagram interview last week.
“If I want to have opportunities here, I will be very comfortable. And if they don’t count on me, the best will be to find another club. “
Cameron Carter-Vickers is also expected to be sold after numerous loans during the championship.
Then there are the rear sides.
Danny Rose will likely want to leave permanently when his loan to Newcastle ends. Much has changed at Spurs since he said he would not go anywhere until the end of his contract in 2021.
Kyle Walker-Peters will have to decide his future when he returns from Southampton. The Spurs may well be looking to continue developing the young right-back with loans, but he may think his career is permanently elsewhere.
Either way, it doesn’t look like he’ll get much game time if he stays with Spurs.
There is also Serge Aurier. The Ivorian has become a regular at Mourinho but questions remain about his future.
He wanted to move to AC Milan last summer and spoke this week of his return to PSG at some point before the end of his career. His next steps will depend on the identity of the Spurs in the back right in summer, if they do.
We know there is a base of defenders who will stay under Mourinho.
In the center of defense, Toby Alderweireld has signed his new agreement and will be at Tottenham now for the foreseeable future.
Davinson Sanchez was the club’s record signing £ 40 million before Ndombele’s arrival and Mourinho seems to like the young Colombian. It’s unlikely to move on to anything else in the next window.
Then there is Eric Dier who said that his best position was at the center of the defense. He started playing a series of games there before football ended.
At the rear left, the Spurs boss can count on the experienced Ben Davies and the continuous development of Ryan Sessegnon.
Dennis Cirkin, who turned 18 this week, is also seen as one for the future.
Japhet Tanganga is providing cover across the back four and will step up the line of defense if others leave.
Even if the Spurs were to lose Vertonghen and Foyth this summer, they would still have Alderweireld, Sanchez, Dier and Tanganga as central defenders.
Mourinho is likely to want another choice from him to sneak into the backline.
The Spurs boss is believed to be anxious to return to the former Benfica club to take on another player after Gedson Fernandes’ loan in January.
The move would be made by Portuguese international Ruben Dias, who turns 23 when he returns from football.
The highly rated central defender signed a new deal in November which would have raised his buyout clause to £ 80 million.
The agent for Dias, however, is Jorge Mendes, who has a long history with Mourinho, and Tottenham hopes to agree on a lower fee for a player valued at around £ 40 million.
There are also ties to Nathan Ake, a former Mourinho player, but the Bournemouth man will come with a Premier League bounty on his head which could prove prohibitive after the current financial problems in football, although that may also have an impact on the price of the cherries would accept.
In the right rear, the Spurs followed closely behind Norwich’s right rear, Max Aarons. The 20-year-old player ticks all the boxes for a signature at Tottenham and as a local addition. As a bonus, he can also play to the left of the defense.
Aarons was presented as a £ 30m signing and Norwich was to be relegated from the Premier League, which would of course make the Spurs’ job easier.
There’s also Nice’s right back constantly tied Youcef Atal, but Tottenham is said to prefer the local element of Aarons’ signing.
Sure, with those numbers, you’re already around £ 70 million for Dias and Aarons and this is where the funds for Foyth, Rose, Carter-Vickers and Walker-Peters would come in, but how much would it fund is something else.
Alex Grimaldo and the even more expensive Ben Chilwell were presented as potential backs, but the finances are probably not there
Mourinho may have to rely on Tanganga as a back-up for a full back slot.
The argument could be that with Davies and Sessegnon, he has two other large natural men on the left while if Walker-Peters continues, there is only Aurier on the right. That pretty much rules out the Spurs, allowing the 27-year-old Ivorian to return to PSG soon.
So while a Davies and Sessegnon pairing might not excite Spurs fans at the moment, it has a balance between experience and potential.
How they lined up
If we say that Tottenham was able to attract Dias and Aarons after using player sales to fund much of these deals, how would they position themselves at the start of the season?
Aarons would push Aurier for his place, but perhaps should play a role of replacement in the first weeks before he can do it, despite the discomfort of certain sections of the support of Spurs vis-a-vis the performances of the Ivorian at certain times of the season.
Dias would likely be closer to a starting point to start next season if Tottenham could get it past.
At the end of the day, Tottenham’s defense was not good enough and Mourinho will want to make changes.
He is likely to want to keep Alderweireld and Davies’ experience in the back row, at least until he thinks Sessegnon is ready for the left.
Then it becomes a battle between Aurier and Aarons as well as Dias and Sanchez.
If the two potential signatures hit the ground, that bottom line would be Aarons, Dias, Alderweireld, Davies.
This would provide the same ability to become a back three with the young right back capable of climbing the field.
It is certainly a redesign that would add two talented young players to the Tottenham backline, but can the club afford it?