Jota, Kelly, Iling-Junior - Tottenham's January transfer plans for Postecoglou amid injury woes

football.london 95 days ago

Tottenham Hotspur's season has been disrupted by an injury crisis so what does that mean for Ange Postecoglou's first January transfer window at the club?

Jota has been linked with a reunion with Ange Postecoglou at Tottenham Hotspur after being unable to play for Al-Ittihad in their league matches
Jota has been linked with a reunion with Ange Postecoglou at Tottenham Hotspur after being unable to play for Al-Ittihad in their league matches

Tottenham Hotspur's January transfer window is now going to be as much about propping up Ange Postecoglou's broken squad as it is about improving it for the future.

Spurs now have 10 first team players out injured as well as Cristian Romero still out suspended, meaning an entire team of players currently out of action for Postecoglou.

Fixing and improving the Australian's squad will first fall into the hands of new technical director Johan Lange, chief scout Rob Mackenzie and head of football insights and strategy Frederik Leth - with no doubt some consultation input from former managing director of football Fabio Paratici - before the lists of targets are brought to the head coach to decide upon.

At a recent press conference, Postecoglou was asked whether transfer meetings had begun taking place amid the injury crisis.

"I guess the challenge for us was they all came at once as it hasn't been staggered. In terms of January, the planning is well away with that. Johan has come in and he's leading that in terms of all the background work," said the Tottenham boss.

"My involvement sort of ramps up to it as we get closer to January and understanding exactly what our requirements are at the moment, although work has been done in the background with Johan leading it and he's brought in some people to help him in that area. We'll work with him when the time is right."

Here's what needs to be done in January in each department of the squad.

Goalkeepers

This is the one area where a departure needs to take place and at the moment no incomings are needed. Hugo Lloris has become a peripheral figure at the club, involved in training but not travelling with the squad to matches. His contract expires this summer and the long-serving former captain needs to find a club in January otherwise he will have wasted a year at the end of his career.

Otherwise Spurs are currently set in the goalkeeping department with Guglielmo Vicario impressing as the new man between the sticks with solid back-up from Fraser Forster and academy product Brandon Austin. Alfie Whiteman remains out injured after his unfortunate ankle problem picked up in pre-season.

The summer might be a time for movement as Postecoglou looks again at the options beyond Vicario but there's little need to change now unless a strong free agent emerged on the market.

Full-backs

Again, an area that is unlikely to need any changes in January unless something remarkable rears its head in the market. Postecoglou has Pedro Porro and Emerson Royal on the right and Destiny Udogie and Ben Davies on the left, with Ryan Sessegnon still out after his hamstring surgery.

If Sessegnon is back within the next two months then he will likely head out on loan, although Udogie's own niggling injury issues recently will be monitored closely.

Centre-backs

A priority area for improvement in the January transfer window. It was after the arrival of Micky van de Ven in the summer and then even more so when Postecoglou approved the sale of Davinson Sanchez to Galatasaray after the English summer window had closed.

"It’s fair to say we are a little bit light there, but, at the same time, I thought for Davinson it was a good opportunity where he could get a long-term contract. We needed to rebuild and change this squad. There was no point us just tinkering around the edges. We need to do meaningful work, and it was never going to get done in just one window," Postecoglou told football.london back then.

"Just as important was to create the opportunity for us now to go in in January, or the subsequent windows and bolster up that area. It’s fair to say we need, probably, another centre-back within the squad. Although, we’ve got players who are fairly functional in being able to do us a job in there.

"We’ve got young Ash in, who is working really hard and improving all the time. For us, to hold onto him for some sort of security would have been a missed opportunity. We need to change this squad, rebuild this team, and that was the reason we allowed Davinson to go."

Spurs looked at a string of English defenders during the summer window, including the likes of Lloyd Kelly, Trevoh Chalobah and Tosin Adarabioyo. Since then, Chalobah and Adarabioyo have had injury problems, the latter only returning last weekend for Fulham after groin surgery while the Chelsea centre-back remains out with a hamstring problem that has sidelined him all season. He suffered a setback a couple of weeks ago when nearing a return.

With Tottenham's current issues with hamstring injuries, a big money move for Chalobah, who has five years remaining on his contract at Chelsea with an option for another 12 months, at this time would seem to be less likely than it was in the summer.

In contrast, Kelly has started most of Bournemouth's Premier League matches since the south coast club rejected an approach from Spurs to sign the now 25-year-old late in the summer window. Like Adarabioyo, his contract ends this summer yet he has not only played at centre-back and left-back for the Cherries this season but has also captained the side on a couple of occasions.

He fits the Postecoglou mould in being confident in possession with a turn of pace, however Bournemouth value the player highly and are expected to attempt to tie him down to a new contract.

Spurs have long liked Marc Guehi at Crystal Palace but January would seem an unlikely time for a big money departure for the England defender. Everton's Ben Godfrey has also been linked with Spurs and the 25-year-old England international is expected to be allowed to leave this winter after being edged out of the team under Sean Dyche.

Godfrey's 21-year-old team-mate Jarrad Branthwaite is one of those keeping him out of the Toffees side and has also been linked with Tottenham but appears to be a key player under Dyche, playing almost every minute.

Depending on when Van de Ven is expected to return in the new year, it could push Spurs into lining up a deal for a new defender early in the window, not always the easiest window to do such a thing. Even Ashley Phillips is expected to be out until near the end of December with his ankle injury.

Tottenham could go down the foreign route now with one space currently available in their foreign player numbers but they could open up two more spots by not registering Lloris or Ivan Perisic, who they expect to be out for the season. The north London club have been credited with an interest in Genoa's 21-year-old centre-back Radu Dragusin among other top clubs.

One of last season's big targets was Edmond Tapsoba but he signed a bumper new five year deal at Bayer Leverkusen just two months ago.

Some fans have speculated on a potential January recall for Joe Rodon, who is enjoying an excellent loan at Leeds United, but his manager there Daniel Farke has made it clear that that is not an option in his deal.

In terms of outgoings, Postecoglou cannot currently allow anyone to go unless Spurs brought two new faces in through the door. Eric Dier has only six months or so left of his contract so is unlikely to take a permanent move at this point, while a loan move does not benefit Tottenham apart from getting some or all of his wages off the books.

Lange and his team are expected to provide Postecoglou with a list of new potential centre-back stars for him to decide which will fit his team the best.

Central midfield

This seemed an area in which Spurs were set to be well stocked this season only for fate to pay them a now regular visit. They are without Rodrigo Bentancur again until at least February with his ankle ligament injury, while James Maddison is out until the new year with his own ankle problem.

Then chuck on top of that the fact that Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr will be heading off to the Africa Cup of Nations with Mali and Senegal respectively. That competition runs from January 13 until February 11 and Senegal won it last year.

That means that Postecoglou's only natural central midfielders available in January, if they can remain fit, will be Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp and Giovani Lo Celso. On Sunday, Postecoglou showed that he can use Dejan Kulusevski in a deeper creative role when required.

Spurs need to continue to build for a future under Postecoglou and that is likely to require a new central midfielder, particularly with Hojbjerg's contract running out in 18 months' time and the Dane not appearing to be a regular starter when everyone is fit and available.

Lange and his recruitment crew from Aston Villa will draw up a list of potential central midfield gems for Postecoglou to cast his eye over.

Conor Gallagher was linked with Tottenham in the summer but having played almost every minute under Mauricio Pochettino this season and captained the team on occasions, the 18 months left on his deal would seem likely to be increased with a new contract and the player has admitted as much himself in recent weeks.

The Italian media have linked Spurs with a move for Roma's experienced star Bryan Cristante, who is a defensive midfielder who has occasionally filled in at centre-back this season for Jose Mourinho's side. The 28-year-old would seem to only fit the number six role in Postecoglou's midfield though, a position with the most competition.

Ruben Neves has also been linked to most top Premier League sides on loan this season with the former Wolves man currently at Al Hilal in the Saudi Pro League but his team are currently expected to fend off any interest in him. Kalvin Phillips is expected to leave Manchester City in January in search of regular football but the 27-year-old, who wants to play at Euro 2024, is expected to want more regular football than Spurs will be able to offer him.

Postecoglou is likely to want a number eight in the January window, a midfielder who can get up and down the pitch while contributing with assists and goals.

In terms of outgoings, Hojbjerg cannot be allowed to leave at this point unless a big bid comes in for him that facilitates another. Skipp needs game time desperately and a loan move but the absence of Bissouma and Sarr makes that difficult unless one exits the AFCON at an early stage in January.

Forwards

Tottenham had plenty of options in their winger roles and then injuries hit with Manor Solomon lost for three to four months and Perisic for the season. Then Richarlison, who can play out wide or through the centre, was ruled out for a month earlier in November after requiring groin surgery.

That has left captain Son Heung-min, Brennan Johnson, Kulusevski, Bryan Gil and Alejo Veliz as the only available attacking options for Postecoglou. Lo Celso could also push up into a more advanced role if needed.

To make matters worse though, Spurs will lose their skipper as Son is set to feature for South Korea at the Asian Cup which runs from January 12 to February 10 in Qatar.

That has made finding a new goalscoring creative attacker, preferably one like Johnson who could play across the front line a key addition for Postecoglou in the January window.

One obvious link is his former Celtic attacker Jota, who has not been able to play for Saudi Pro League side Al-Ittihad in their league matches as they can only include eight overseas players in their squad.

The 24-year-old Portuguese scored 28 goals and laid on 26 assists in two seasons under Postecoglou at Celtic, playing on both the left and right wing. He knows the Postecoglou way well and what is required.

With his situation still unclear in Saudi Arabia, Spurs will likely explore the possibility of a loan move at least for the attacker, who is represented by Jorge Mendes' Gestifute agency.

Gift Orban is one attacking talent Tottenham have monitored for a while and, other than a couple of Europa Conference League hat-tricks, the 21-year-old has not managed to maintain the same goalscoring run he was on last season for Gent. The striker has just three league goals to his name and has lost his spot in the starting line-up in recent months with questions from his manager Hein Vanhaezebrouck about his work ethic and lack of pressing on the pitch.

Spurs were also closely monitoring England U21 international Samuel Iling-Junior in the summer and the Islington-born 20-year-old Juventus winger has yet to break into the Turin side on a consistent basis. The north London club have also previously looked at Leeds attacker Wilfried Gnonto, who can play across the front three positions, and after an ankle injury has not yet regained his starting spot in Farke's side.

Tottenham also still retain a sell-on clause for Marcus Edwards, despite giving up part of it when they signed Porro, which means they could sign him in a cut price deal if they chose to at some point. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder, who was thankfully unharmed but left shaken after a car accident on his way to training this week at Sporting Lisbon, left Spurs in 2019 but the club have continued to monitor his progress as he impresses in Portugal and on the European stage.

The attacker has two goals and four assists in 10 league matches for Sporting this season so far and in the last campaign netted 12 goals and laid on 14 assists, including two goals and two assists in the Champions League.

Postecoglou could do with another finisher up front unless Veliz grabs his chance when he gets it in the weeks ahead. Either way, Tottenham need more bodies in a number of departments this January.

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