On the 20th November Jose Mourinho was appointed Tottenham Hotspur Head Coach. Six weeks later the transfer window will open. Just over another four weeks on and it will, if you listen carefully, slam shut.
Ten weeks to assess a squad, identify needs, work out who ‘your guys’ are, work out who may not be ‘your guys’, work out where there may be gaps, where the philosophy could fall down, where the squad could be thin with a couple of injuries. All whilst accommodating players who have barely played since joining in the summer. All whilst playing 15 matches.
It’s fair to say that Mourinho will be a busy man for the next few months; there are not enough hours in the day to allow otherwise. He will need to trust those around him, trust his instincts, and trust his years of experience of squad-building.
Spurs fans across the world have been talking about the ill-put together squad for some time, but Mourinho does not play the same style of football as his predecessor and, strangely, it is already starting to look like the squad may suit him slightly more than it suited the man who built it. That said, there are holes. Gaping, ugly holes. Holes that should have been fixed sooner and should be fixed come January.
Jose Mourinho’s first move was to reinstall Eric Dier in the team. Dier has not been ‘peak Eric Dier’ for two years, but has already made a difference, putting in a good display against Burnley and showing signs of returning to some level of fitness.
But it does feel as though this is an area of the pitch where it would be fairly easy to upgrade, or at least add some vital rotation capacity. Victor Wanyama’s time at Spurs has clearly come to an end – he nearly moved on in the summer – and so another body is essential.
Sander Berge was linked last January and is likely to move on from Genk next month; he could represent good value for a highly-regarded young player.
Mauricio Pochettino made a major error by going into the season with Juan Foyth and Kyle Walker-Peters as first choice right-backs (given that he was attempting to sell Serge Aurier). Mourinho has had little choice but to draft Aurier back in, and he has maximised his use of him by having him play in a more advanced position, with reduced defensive responsibility. But ultimately Aurier is not good enough for a team with its sights set on Champions League qualification.
Walker-Peters remains an enigma having played so little at any level over the past three years. Having accelerated out of our Under-18s in incredible form five years ago, he has been left to stagnate, neither given a loan move or game-time. Unless Mourinho can do something drastic, he seems destined to move on.
Spurs have been linked with West Brom’s 19-year old Nathan Ferguson and either he or Derby County’s Jayden Bogle would fit the player profile and be a welcome return to a previously successful transfer strategy.
The injury to Ben Davies was so ill-timed for Mourinho after what was a very impressive first game in the hybrid left-back/left centre-back role for the Welshman. Jan Vertonghen has filled in well and looked especially good against Burnley, while Danny Rose is not at all suited to the system. It has been suggested that Mourinho could ‘invert’ this structure and play Foyth, a more defensive-minded player on the right, allowing Rose or even Sessegnon to play the more attacking role on the left. But this would shift Son into an inside left role, which could limit his potential.
The obvious thing seems to be to try to move on Rose and sign a move defensively able full-back, but Rose is adamant that he will stay and see out his contract. It will be fascinating to see how Mourinho manages this. Mourinho has taken a shine to 17-year old Dennis Cirkin, but it would be an unusual step for him to promote a player so early.
Finally, although this is not a ‘hole’ yet, with Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen still likely to leave at the end of the season, Mourinho must crack on with forward-planning, and that means finding a long-term partner for Davinson Sanchez. I am personally a huge fan of Juan Foyth, but the past few days have seen us linked with centre-backs like Kalidou Koulibaly and Merih Demiral.
Even were Foyth to be seen as first-team ready, we would need at least one more centre-back to come in, and signing one of that level of quality would seem a no-brainer were they to become available.