Premier League Fantasy Preview: Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur pushed Leicester City hard last season, but their title challenge fell apart in the last few weeks of the season.
The expected improvements from Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City – all sides that finished below Spurs last season – could make life harder for Mauricio Pochettino’s men this season, but a place in the top four and Champions League qualification should still be their goal.
Incoming transfers look wise rather than glamorous, with Pochettino mostly preferring to work with and improve the group of talented young players he already has.
One issue Spurs will be keeping an eye on in the coming weeks is the vacancy as Argentina’s national team coach, with Pochettino reportedly a target for the role, but what do fantasy football players need to be aware of about the North London club before picking their teams this season?
Likely tactics and formation
Pochettino is another Premier League disciple of the 4-2-3-1 formation, with his teams typically pressing the opposition high up the field in a bid to win the ball back in dangerous areas.
Spurs like to move the ball quickly and they will try to free striker Harry Kane as early as possible, while Dele Alli is another player in the team who needs no second invitations to go for goal.
A pair of deep-lying midfielders add a layer of protection to what was a solid defence last season.
Kane had a disappointing Euro 2016, but the striker has a Golden Boot title to defend and should return to form for Spurs this season, while his excellent partnership with Alli is certain to resume.
Another pairing that will be retained from last year is the all-Belgian duo of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who helped Spurs to be particularly tight at the back.
Hugo Lloris is one of the Premier League’s finest goalkeepers and he will again be between the posts for Spurs this season, with the France international looking to bounce back from the heartbreak of losing the Euro 2016 final to Portugal thanks to Éder’s dramatic extra-time winner.
Michel Vorm is a very capable deputy but the Dutchman is likely to be very limited in game-time this season, with the 32-year-old expected to come in for the League Cup and the FA Cup.
Alderweireld and Vertonghen are the regular centre-back pairing, but the latter defender is expected to miss the start of the Premier League season with an ankle injury, meaning Austria international Kevin Wimmer might be asked to fill in for a few games.
Pochettino rotated his full-backs regularly last season and is likely to do so again this year. Danny Rose and Kyle Walker are the first choice full-backs but they could be protected for Champions League games, giving deputies Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies more chances to impress.
The arrival of Victor Wanyama from Pochettino’s old club Southampton adds depth in midfield, but he may be forced to play second fiddle to Eric Dier and Mousa Dembélé.
Alli could play in the number 10 role and he might even improve on his superb return of 10 goals and nine assists last season, while Christian Eriksen is another classic fantasy football selection. The Dane is a set-piece specialist, which will tempt a lot of players to include him in their squads.
The last midfield spot is on the wing, where Érik Lamela and Nacer Chadli will battle for selection.
Goals will help Kane to put Euro 2016 behind him but he faces more competition for his place than last season due to the big money signing of Vincent Janssen, who was prolific for AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie last year, taking the Dutch league’s top goalscorer prize.
It is also possible that for some games Pochettino chooses to field Kane and Janssen as a strike pairing, but it is more likely they are rotated, with Kane another key man who could be held back for the Champions League as Spurs look to make their mark on Europe.
Compared to a lot of their Premier League rivals, Tottenham do not have a huge squad and a lack of quality cover was arguably their undoing last season. Bench options are particularly important for Pochettino this year as he seeks to juggle European football with domestic commitments.
Son Heung-min is a useful attacking option who can play in a range of positions, while Wanyama will be very handy in closing out matches that Spurs lead, as well as competing for Dier’s place.
Opportunities could be thin on the ground for the likes of Tom Carroll, Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb, Clinton N’Jie and Federico Fazio, who might be sold to free up extra transfer budget, while Josh Onomah, Harry Winks and Alex Pritchard may be allowed to go out on loan.
Eriksen is the primary set-piece taker in the Spurs squad, but he could have some competition from an unexpected source this season.
Dier had never even shot from a direct free-kick for Spurs before this summer, but he stepped up to crash in a brilliant strike for England at Euro 2016 this summer, showing there are other options available to Pochettino in this area should the Denmark international ever be unavailable.
England’s corners were taken by Kane this summer but he is unlikely to get the job for Spurs, with Eriksen a much better option.
Spurs tend to keep transfer business quiet but it would be a surprise if their incoming business was completed, although there may be a series of departures ahead of the window closing.
West Brom striker Sadio Berahino has been a long-term target but the purchase of Janssen may mean that proposed deal is finally dead, with Marseille attacker Georges-Kévin N’Koudou instead reportedly close to a move to White Hart Lane, with N’Jie possibly going the other way in the deal.