The football fraternity is coming to terms with the ongoing pandemic, and Premier League clubs are still in the dark regarding the resumption of the 2019-20 season.
As Liverpool fans eagerly await their much-awaited league trophy, Jose Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur will invariably have a lot on their plate. Coming into the season on the back of a Champions League final loss, Tottenham were believed to be a dark horse for the Premier League title.
Tottenham's season has been largely underwhelming
Things have spiralled out of control for Tottenham. Although Mauricio Pochettino leaving the club was a hard pill to swallow for the Spurs fans, the appointment of Jose Mourinho alleviated some of the pain and fear.
The suspension of football in the country couldn't have come at a better time for Mourinho. After being ousted from the Champions League by a youthful RB Leipzig side, standing outside the top four in the league table, and losing Harry Kane to an injury, Mourinho can now plot a plan for the next season.
With a good blend of youth and experience in the side, Tottenham Hotspur has some of the best talents in the country in the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli. However, Mourinho would be eyeing a few signings during the off-season to strengthen the Tottenham squad ahead of the 2020-21 season.
It isn't as straightforward as it seems for Tottenham, with Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose amongst the players likely to leave the club in the summer. With trophies being the utmost priority for the self-proclaimed Special One, you can expect a couple of changes in terms of personnel.
Here are five players Tottenham Hotspur should target for the 2020-21 season.
#1 Nathan Ake
Dutch centre-back Nathan Ake is one of the league's best young defenders. Playing for relegation-threatened Bournemouth, the former Chelsea starlet has grown leaps and bounds, with a host of clubs eyeing his signature. The 25-year-old has been one of Bournemouth's best performers since moving to the Vitality Stadium in 2016.
Despite Bournemouth finding itself in a relegation dogfight, it is safe to say that Ake has held his own in the league. In 23 league appearances this season, Ake has impressed with his positioning and tactical nous.
The centre-back has decent stats to back his status as one of the most sought-after players in the league. With 1 completed tackle per game and 1.3 interceptions per game to his name, Ake has caught the eye of a few clubs.
Ake is quite adept with the ball at his feet as well. Likened to John Terry given his Chelsea ties, the defender is strong in the air as well, boasting of 2.1 aerial duels won per game for Bournemouth this season.
As Spurs look to bring in a centre-back or two for the 2020-21 season, Nathan Ake presents a compelling case. With the experience of playing in over 100 games in the Premier League, along with 13 international caps for the Netherlands, Ake is a reliable option for Mourinho.
Moreover, the Tottenham boss would know a thing or two about Ake, with the two crossing paths at Chelsea. Although the Bournemouth centre-back would cost them at least £40 million, Tottenham would get a seasoned Premier League centre-back, who could hit the ground running alongside the likes of Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld.
With questions over Bournemouth's survival in the Premier League still lingering, Nathan Ake's signing could be beneficial for all parties involved.
#2 Nicolas Tagliafico
Another highly sought-after defender is Nicolas Tagliafico, who has been linked with Tottenham for quite some time now. The Argentine is a vital asset to Ajax's back-line, with his gritty defensive performances shining in the Dutch side's rise to continental stardom once again.
While Tagliafico had a stellar 2018-19 season as he featured heavily in Ajax's dream run in the Champions League, the left-back left no stone unturned in this season. Before the Eredivisie season was cancelled, Tagliafico featured in 23 league games, adding to six Champions League appearances as well.
Tagliafico's strength lies in his tactical awareness and ability on the ball. The 27-year-old averages 2.5 tackles per game, 1.7 interceptions per game, along with 1 key pass per game in the Eredivisie. Besides, Tagliafico is a genuine offensive threat, with five goals and five assists in all competitions this season.
Despite Ajax losing Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus ahead of the 2019-20 season, Tagliafico has impressed with his marauding runs. He has generated interest from a few Premier League clubs, including Tottenham.
On paper, Tagliafico looks a much better option than the likes of Ben Davies and Danny Rose, who have been touted to leave the club in the summer. Although one might question the level of competition in the Netherlands, Tagliafico's performances in the Champions League over the last two years alleviate some of those fears.
Given how his defensive attributes add up to his attacking prowess, Tagliafico invariably adds solidity and depth to the defence, something which Tottenham will look to address in the summer.
#3 Youcef Atal
One position that Jose Mourinho would be eager to bring in reinforcement at would be the right-back spot. After Kieran Trippier left for Atletico Madrid last summer, Serge Aurier has blown hot and cold under both Pochettino and Mourinho.
With there being an apparent lack of quality on the right side of the Tottenham back-line, our attention turns to Nice youngster Youcef Atal. The Algerian had a breakthrough season in 2018 in a highly fruitful Ligue 1 campaign with Nice. Despite injuries derailing his campaign this season, he is still highly valued by many clubs across Europe.
Capable of playing higher up the field, Atal is a genuine offensive threat, with seven goals in the past two seasons. His defensive numbers make for good reading as well, with 1.53 tackles won and 1.8 interceptions per 90 mins this season.
While there is some room for improvement in his defensive ability, Atal's versatility and attacking prowess bode well for Tottenham.
Another area where Atal could prove to be an upgrade over Aurier is aerial prowess. Although there is a difference in the level of competition between the Premier League and Ligue 1, Atal has won 60.9% of his duels this season. In comparison, Aurier has managed to win a touch under 50% of his aerial battles.
Although there are a few similarities between Atal and Aurier, the Algerian would invariably add much-needed depth to the backline, making him a noteworthy target for Mourinho and Tottenham.
#4 Marcel Sabitzer
Akin to last season's Ajax, whose youthful squad impressed one and all, RB Leipzig has excelled with a young roster and a young manager in Julian Nagelsmann this season. While Timo Werner and Dayot Upemecano have attracted clubs, Austrian midfielder Marcel Sabitzer has also proved to be a pivotal part of the RB Leipzig set-up.
As Leipzig threaten Bayern Munich's supremacy in the Bundesliga, Sabitzer has done exceedingly well with consistent performances behind Timo Werner. The 26-year-old has scored 15 goals this season for Leipzig, including four goals in seven Champions League games. Besides, Sabitzer has seven assists in all competitions.
Sabitzer's stats also improve his standing as one of Bundesliga's top midfielders. He averages 1.9 key passes per game with a pass percentage of 76%. Sabitzer is known for his probing runs from the right side, with his penchant for a killer final ball being a vital asset.
His defensive work has also earned him a lot of acclaim, with 0.96 interceptions and 1 clearance per 90 mins.
Also, Sabitzer is a quite assured in possession, with the midfielder dispossessed only 1.49 times per 90 mins in the Bundesliga. This stat is far superior to that of Lucas Moura (3.05 times per 90), Erik Lamela (2.02 times per 90) and also Son Heung-min (2.37 times per 90). With Mourinho favouring a counter-attacking style of football, Sabitzer's quality in possession of the ball adds substance to his case.
Tottenham would have a first-hand experience of Sabitzer's prowess, with the Austrian starring in Leipzig's UCL knockout win earlier this year. Sabitzer scored twice against a depleted Tottenham side at the Red Bull Arena, which would further strengthen his case for a move to London.
With his international experience and all-round ability, Sabitzer appears to be the perfect Mourinho midfielder. Given Sabitzer's positional versatility, he wouldn't come cheap. However, if Tottenham were to compete on all four fronts next term, Sabitzer could prove to be an instrumental signing.
#5 Luka Jovic
One glaring vacancy within the Tottenham squad is the back-up striker's spot. While Harry Kane continues to excel for the Londoners, his absence due to injury was felt dearly earlier this year. Without their talismanic striker, Tottenham succumbed to RB Leipzig in the Champions League, and left food for thought for Jose Mourinho.
While quite a few players are itching to play for Tottenham, one option that stands out is Luka Jovic. Jovic, currently contracted to Real Madrid, made a move to the Santiago Bernabeu last summer, after a breakthrough season with Eintracht Frankfurt.
The Serbian has a rather unique skill-set, with the right blend of physicality and pace to fall back on. Despite garnering massive attention with his summer move to Real Madrid, Jovic hasn't quite kicked on in Madrid. With Karim Benzema going strong for Zinedine Zidane's side, a loan move could be the ideal option for the former Benfica starlet.
Among a host of clubs rumoured to be competing for the Serbian is Tottenham. It is easy to see why the 22-year-old is highly touted as well. During his sensational 2018-19 campaign, Luka Jovic scored 17 goals and provided 5 assists in the Bundesliga. In addition to this tally, Jovic plundered 10 goals in the Europa League that season, which catapulted him to stardom.
Upon further retrospection, Jovic ideally fits the bill as Kane's number two. Jovic is a genuine threat to the opposition goal, with 3.82 shots per 90 mins in 2018-19 and 2.73 shots per 90 mins in the 2019-20 season. In addition to this, Jovic is more clinical in front of goal, with a goal to shot ratio of 0.17 over the last two seasons, compared to Kane's 0.15.
Jovic's aerial prowess also strengthens his case, with the Serbian winning 45% of his aerial duels this season.
Taking all of these into consideration, Tottenham would get a potential superstar for a viable second striker option, albeit on loan. Given the fragility of the economic scenario amid the pandemic, a loan looks to be a win-win situation for both Tottenham and Real Madrid.
While Real Madrid's prized possession gets valuable playing time, Spurs could ideally get the best out of Harry Kane with Luka Jovic in their ranks. Only time will tell if Jovic will make a move from Real Madrid to Tottenham.
Published 21 May 2020, 00:20 IST