In Focus: Double Spurs swoop hands Conte boost in top-four race
The late double swoop for Juventus pair Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski prevented Tottenham’s January transfer window from being a disaster.
Spurs looked all set to boost Antonio Conte’s top-four ascent in January but spent much of the window missing out on their top targets.
They did manage to get out-of-favour stars Tanguy Ndombele, Dele Alli and Giovani Lo Celso off the wage bill but their squad depth is now looking an issue.
Ahead of the FA Cup clash with Brighton on Saturday evening, we take a closer look at where the new men will fit into Conte's set-up.
Spurs' resurrection has been clear to see and with January an opportunity for the Italian to shape the team in his image, there was a sense of optimism in North London.
The former Inter Milan and Chelsea boss made no secret of his feeling that the squad needed improving.
He said midway through the month: "I know that the transfer window in January is always very difficult and it is more simple when you start the season to buy important players.
"In January it is not easy, but at the same time we know very well that if there is the opportunity and also if it’s not the best opportunity, but we need to do something."
Clearly unsold on summer signing Emerson Royal at right wing-back, Spurs chased Adama Traore for much of the window — only for Barcelona to steal the Wolves speedster from under their noses late on as a late move for Yannick Carrasco also failed.
They were also in talks to bolster their attacking options with the signing of Luis Diaz from Porto but their attempts sprung Liverpool into action to sign the Colombian for £37million plus add-ons.
What had initially looked to be a promising January window suddenly turned out to be a disaster as a host of fringe stars headed for the exit with no sign of replacements coming in.
But sporting director Fabio Paratici clawed back discontent from concerned Spurs fans by heading back to old club Juve to secure two last-minute deals for Bentancur and Kulusevski.
Spurs’ midfield Cur
While not addressing the perceived positions in most need of strengthening, adding all-important depth to their midfield in the form of Uruguayan international Bentancur will be welcomed.
The playmaker was the subject of interest from fellow Premier League side Aston Villa but will now add mobility to Spurs’ engine room alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg as Oliver Skipp and Harry Winks also push for a place.
A versatile player capable of thriving in both the offensive and defensive side of the game, the 24-year-old certainly looks more suited to Conte’s philosophy than the outgoing Ndombele and Alli.
Juve legend Gianluigi Buffon did not hold back in his praise for Bentancur when the Uruguayan first arrived in Turin, citing his excellence in the tactical side of the game.
The goalkeeper said: "Bentancur has something different to everyone else. He's reliable tactically, technically and psychologically."
An unknown quantity
While Bentancur is set to add a tenacious but reliable aspect to Spurs’ team, fellow incoming Kulusevski is a bit of an unknown quantity in attack.
The 21-year-old Swede was tipped for a bright future when he joined Juve from Atalanta in January 2020 but has found game time hard to come by — particularly under Max Allegri this term.
A winger by trade, "Kulu" is another versatile option added to Conte’s ranks, capable of featuring on both flanks, up front, just behind the striker and even in the centre of midfield.
Despite his relatively tall stature, Kulusevski has the skill and mobility to thrive in one-on-one situations — his 14 goal contributions last term are testament to his output where it matters.
And again, all that has been said about Kulusevski points to a player who will thrive under Conte.
Roberto D'Aversa, his former manager at Parma, spoke highly of the trickster's attitude off the ball as well as on it.
He said previously: "When you analyse the data, he is always among the players who cover the most distance in every game. He has the right mentality because he has come through the great Atalanta academy.
"He has the potential to be a devastating player."
Kulusevski may not bring the star quality that first-choice target Diaz would have provided, but he will certainly shake up a Spurs attack where Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura are too often left unchallenged in the XI.
While some areas are still in need of addressing, new signings always help by freshening up a squad.
And Conte has already shown he can get a tune out of this current group, even if some members will likely be replaced longer term.
Out of the group of top-four hopefuls that also includes Manchester United, West Ham and Arsenal, Spurs were the only team to strengthen their first team with new signings.
For all the issues still to solve, those two last-minute deals could well tip the balance in Conte's favour.