Tottenham Hotspur finished last season seven points behind the champions, Chelsea, and eight points ahead of third place Manchester City. They scored the most goals in the league (86), and conceded the fewest (26) giving them a goal difference which was 19 ahead of City and 24 more than Liverpool.
There was no doubt that they were one of the most impressive teams in the Premier League during the 2016/17 season, and heading into the new campaign the squad just needed a few subtle changes as opposed the the major additions which many of their rivals needed to make.
The sale of Kyle Walker looked like it might force a change at right-back, but when the impressive, uncannily named Kyle Walker-Peters came in, impressed, and signed a new contract until 2020, it looked like even that position might not be a priority.
Juan Foyth’s Tactical Impact | Tottenham… by FootballWhispers
However, despite their already impressive group of players, there were a few areas in which the club needed to improve, especially if they were to put on a more respectable show in European competition this time around.
As the summer transfer window rumbled on the happiness with the existing squad became mixed with concerns that no players were arriving, but seasoned Spurs fans remained patient.
Just over a week before the transfer window creaked to a close, Davinson Sánchez arrived from Ajax for £43 million. It was a signing, and a statement, which strengthened the centre back ranks while also adding a player with the potential to become one of the best around in his position further down the line.
The 21-year-old is highly thought of in Colombia and already has two senior caps. He’s a strong, quick, physical defender who can also play well on the ball and suits Spurs down to the ground. He will provide reliable backup to Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, and could also start in a back three.
A backup goalkeeper, Paulo Gazzaniga, was also signed, but after this and the big money spent on Sánchez things went eerily quiet again.
The days passed and deadline day drew ever closer. Arsenal were linked with Thomas Lemar but couldn’t sign him, Chelsea were linked with Ross Barkley but the move broke down during the medical, and Liverpool were linked with Virgil Van Dijk and Lemar right up until the final day but neither move materialised.
Then: one, two, three. Just like that a trio of players were added by Spurs in the last days of August to little fanfare. Ruthless business in areas of the pitch which needed strengthening, and players who fit the required profile perfectly.
The first — Argentinian centre back Juan Foyth — was a relative unknown. He had made very few senior appearances for his former club Estudiantes, but Mauricio Pochettino and the Spurs scouts saw something in him, possibly from his games playing for the Argentina under-20s.
While there was an element of surprise in Foyth’s arrival, the two signings made by the club on deadline day raised eyebrows for different reasons.
Fernando Llorente arrived at the last minute once Swansea had secured a deal for Wilfried Bony as his replacement. The Spanish centre-forward would have improved a number of Premier League sides, not least London rivals Chelsea or Romelu Lukaku-less Everton, but Spurs managed to get him in, and in doing so now have an ideal alternative to Harry Kane, Vincent Jansen and Son Heung-min.
Llorente spent some of the best moments of his career playing for Athletic Bilbao under Pochettino’s compatriot and managerial influence Marcelo Bielsa, so the 32-year-old will already be well aware of what his manager will expect from him, and he should fit the system well.
A more controversial move was made for Paris Saint-Germain right back Serge Aurier who, on paper, could even be an upgrade on Walker. But the 24-year-old Frenchman brings some baggage, having received a suspended two-month prison sentence for assaulting a policeman a year ago which led to him being refused entry to the UK for PSG’s Champions League tie with Arsenal in October 2016.
Only after appeal was he granted entry to the UK from the Home Office and his original sentence was reduced to merely a fine.
There have also been incidents where he has made homophobic slurs, but the Tottenham LGBT+ Supporters Association responded to his signing in a positive, supportive manner.
“We were initially unhappy with the signing, but given our positive dialogue with the club we would like to use this as an opportunity to build bridges and make lasting change,” the supporters group said in a statement.
“What happens when players such as Serge Aurier who have been openly homophobic in the past join a new Club and have a fresh start?
“It actually gives us an opportunity to talk about the kind of game we want to see, players we want to support; the kind of Clubs we want to be and make effective and deep-rooted change.”
The signing may have been a blow to Walker-Peters and impressive Walker understudy Kieran Tripper, but if they can keep Aurier on the right track and can work with the various supporters groups to help change his ways, then he could be one of the signings of the summer, especially given that at £23 million he cost less than half the money they received from the Walker sale.
All of these signings bring something to the club which improves them. Llorente especially could provide important respite for Kane, while also offering a different type of weapon up front.
Sánchez and Foyth replacing Kevin Wimmer and Federico Fazio is typically shrewd from Spurs, and they saw Aurier as a risk worth taking when other clubs didn’t.
They may have left it late to get their deals done, but when Tottenham do business they certainly mean business.