Transfer Talk: Conte set to strengthen stalling Spurs
Tottenham were outclassed by Chelsea in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final — and manager Antonio Conte was not afraid to admit it.
The Spurs boss conceded that his former club were the stronger side as the Blues ran out 2-0 winners at Stamford Bridge.
And tonight’s second leg could be another useful barometer for how much work the North Londoners have to do in order to mix it with the very best once again.
Ahead of that match, we take a look at where Tottenham need to strengthen in the next couple of transfer windows.
Tottenham only signed Emerson Royal last summer — but that was when Nuno Espirito Santo was in the dugout.
Conte’s arrival meant the implementation of his preferred 3-4-3 formation and Royal is not best suited to that system. The Brazilian’s strengths lie in the defensive side of his game.
A more attacking right wing-back is needed and there has even been talk of Spurs signing rapid winger Adama Traore, 25, who thrived in that position under ex-Wolves chief Nuno.
Since the break-up of the once formidable partnership of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, who left the club in 2020 and 2021 respectively, Tottenham’s defence has not maintained the same high standards.
Of course, a back three involves a different dynamic, so it is not a case of replicating the Vertonghen-Alderweireld combination, but this is still a department which is lacking. That is despite Eric Dier’s recent resurgence.
Who might Spurs target? Well, rumours of a move for Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar never seem to go away — and the 26-year-old Slovakia international was key to the Nerazzurri’s Serie A title triumph under Conte.
Tanguy Ndombele was roundly booed as he was substituted in Tottenham’s 3-1 FA Cup win over Morecambe on Sunday.
A club-record £55million signing from Lyon two-and-a-half years ago, the frustratingly mercurial Frenchman is looking like a colossal waste of money.
Ostensibly brought in to replace Mousa Dembele, Ndombele has only lived up to expectations fleetingly. As a result, the box-to-box brilliance that made Dembele such a firm fan favourite is still missing.
There is also a case to be made for Spurs adding an attacking midfielder with a bit of flair. Dele Alli would become that player once again in an ideal world but that ship seems to have sailed.
It feels like an age ago that Harry Kane was asking to leave the club but Conte appears in no doubt about the striker’s commitment to the cause.
Speaking last month, he said: "Harry has showed me great availability and showed me [he is] totally involved in the Tottenham project.
"I see him every day and I see that he is happy."
Kane has shown signs of getting back to his best under Conte but Spurs could still do with another out-and-out No9 option — especially with the England captain prone to recurring ankle problems.
With Heung-Min Son sidelined with injury and Steven Bergwijn rumoured to be itching for a return to his native Netherlands, Conte will be aware that acquisitions in this area are much needed.
Admittedly though, this may well be one for the summer transfer window rather than the current one.
This will not be a January concern either but skipper Hugo Lloris is out of contract at the end of the season.
The World Cup winner has been a reliable presence between the sticks for the best part of a decade, having joined from Lyon back in 2012.
Spurs’ loan deal for Pierluigi Gollini includes an option to buy the 26-year-old from Atalanta but there has not been much to suggest that he is ready to succeed Lloris just yet.
Expect a high-profile arrival at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium if their long-serving custodian departs.