Nobody knows how Tottenham will fare in 2023-24, such is the abundance of uncertainties at hand, but six players must have bounce-back seasons to have any hope of returning to the Champions League.
The summer transfer window started as well as Usain Bolt finished races. It has since stuttered like Adam Sandler in The Waterboy. T-t-t-t-today junior.
That’s the first thing I’d say to Daniel Levy if we met face-to-face. I can’t write the second thing I’d say.
While we have no idea whether Harry Kane is staying or if we’ll ever secure a new centre-back, these six players cannot afford to have consecutive underwhelming seasons. If they do, regardless of whether reinforcements are on their way, it will be another calamitous season.
However, with Ange at the helm, it’s hard to see any of these six players’ rot from last season extending into the forthcoming campaign.
6. Son Heung-min
Before I get roasted for adding Sonny to this list, let me first acknowledge that our South Korean wonder played most of the 2022-23 campaign under noteworthy distress. Sonny played despite having a sports hernia.
It’s obvious Sonny thought the pain of the injury paled in comparison to the wrath he would have felt had he told Antonio Conte rest was required. Nobody wants to be yelled at for hours on end.
Sonny will return to his elite form, especially given his license to attack under Ange’s regime. So expect more of Sonny’s Golden Boot form and far less of last season’s Roberto Soldado form.
5. Dejan Kulusevski
The Swede arrived in London at the end of January 2022.
And what an arrival it was.
Kulu pulverized defences, making forward play in the top flight look simple. He scored five and added eight assists in 14 starts and 18 Premier League appearances.
He had .57 assists per 90 minutes, the Premier League’s second-best output. He was electric almost every time he received the ball, driving at defenders with unrelenting intent. And he scored against Manchester City in his second start. That alone deserves a slow clap.
Fast forward to the 2022-23 campaign.
His regression was more evident than why a young bachelor joins a Bikram yoga class. Kulusevski scored two goals and seven assists in 23 starts and 30 appearances.
In fairness, Kulu wasn’t the only player who fell off the boil. While excuses are about as pointless as Joe Lewis saying he doesn’t own the team anymore, the environment was toxic, and Kulu felt the effects which led to a poor sophomore season.
That will change quickly. The imposing Swede must return to his best for Tottenham to compete for Europe, particularly if Kane leaves to learn the art of bratwurst making.
4. Oliver Skipp
Oliver Skipp is an excellent central defensive midfielder, but circumstance hasn’t allowed him to maintain his top level consistently. Injury-riddled and plagued by misfortune, Skipp gets knocked back two steps for every one forward.
He started 18 and appeared in 23 Premier League encounters last season. But he was only at his best for a few of them, one of which was Tottenham’s 2-0 home triumph over Chelsea.
Suppose Skipp can skip the treatment table altogether and source some semblance of consistency.
In that case, he will inject the tenacity, relentlessness, and disruptive defensive work Tottenham can’t do without.
3. Yves Bissouma
Yves Bissouma’s arrival in north London was as highly anticipated as a new Too Hot to Handle episode.
Unfortunately, like Too Hot to Handle, Bissouma didn’t meet expectations.
Like Skipp, Bissouma wasn’t entirely culpable. The 26-year fractured his ankle and managed only 10 starts. And he didn’t look particularly match-sharp in any of those contests.
But we all know what Bissouma is capable of.
He dominated proceedings during his time on the south coast and is entering his prime. Players with his quality, drive, and focus usually find a way to return to their best.
The same should be true for Bissouma, especially under angelic Ange’s guidance. Bissouma is already back to his expressive self, dancing and entertaining off the pitch.
That usually coincides with his alter ego showing up on the pitch, a terrier who strikes fear into the heart of the opposition.
2. Eric Dier
The best moment of Eric Dier’s previous three seasons was when he jumped into the stands to confront a verbally abusive spectator. I don’t call him a supporter because he sounds like a total di#$he$d.
Dier’s on-field performances have, for the most part, been about as tragic as Tottenham’s pursuit of a centre-back. So there’s no real chance of further regression, right? Dier improved temporarily during the early days of Antonio Conte’s tenure, so there’s hope for the 2023-24 season, at least the start.
Like Bissouma, Dier seems more relaxed and in a better head space.
He looks comfortable, even inspired under Ange, at least thus far. If he can find a way to eradicate schoolboy errors from his game, Dier could enjoy a resurgent season.
Of the six players in this article, the jury is out most on whether Dier can locate consistency for the duration of the season, something he hasn’t achieved since sliding back into central defence permanently.
Richy, Richy, Richy. Your three-goal output in all competitions was as disappointing as hearing about Kane’s love for bratwurst. If you’re wondering, that’s a goal per £20 million.
Spurs purchased the mercurial forward for £60 million, a staggering fee Richy came nowhere near living up to. Like most of his colleagues, Richarlison didn’t exactly love the vociferous Italian in charge.
Far from it.
Conte berated the Brazilian for two hours during a team meeting, in which the bellicose Italian called Richarlison selfish, among other expletives.
Their ice-cold relationship, however, doesn’t absolve him of his grossly inadequate play.
His one Premier League goal came in the fifth last match of the season. Another season like that would be tantamount to the worst two-season run a Tottenham striker has endured, even worse than the aforementioned Soldado.
But that anemic showing won’t recur.
With Ange at the helm, it just can’t. Richarlison is tenacious and hard-headed. And he won’t take kindly to his lacklustre first season in London. The only question is how emphatic his bounce-back season will be.