Tottenham Hotspur have a perfect opportunity to axe the deadwood after the heartbreaking defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League final.
A fairytale run to the final was brutally ended by the Reds, who ran out 2-0 winners at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid. Spurs were 1-0 down within two minutes, with Moussa Sissoko conceding a harsh penalty for handball, which Mohamed Salah scored.
Spurs huffed and puffed in the sweltering Spanish heat thereafter but they were unable to break down Liverpool’s resistance; sensibly, Jurgen Klopp’s men decided to sit deep, rotate possession and dare the north London club to find a way through them. They weren’t able to and Divock Origi performed the role of super-sub once again, scoring in the final minutes to secure the Reds’ sixth major European crown.
It would have been a beautiful triumph for Mauricio Pochettino had Spurs lifted the famous old trophy but that they didn’t is perhaps the motivation they need for a necessary summer rebuild.
This is a team that have defied expectations at every turn; they weren’t supposed to reach the final, particularly not with their multitudinous injury problems, having been shorn of their best player, Harry Kane, for so long, and nor were they really expected to put together any form of title challenge. They managed that too, attempting to push Manchester City and Liverpool before it all became too much and the duo’s irrepressible consistency became impossible to match.
Yet there are holes. Kieran Trippier, at right-back, simply isn’t good enough. Serge Aurier, his deputy, isn’t much better. There has to be a better left-back than Ben Davies, while Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama, Erik Lamela and Fernando Llorente could all be upgraded this summer. The returning loanees, the likes of Georges-Kevin N’Koudou and Josh Onomah, are not anywhere near the level of the first-team.
Cashing in, then, and refreshing the squad has to be a priority and, ironically, there is a blueprint that can be followed: Liverpool.
In 2017-18, they finished fourth and reached the Champions League final but they couldn’t get over the line, losing to Real Madrid as Salah’s injury and Loris Karius’ howlers proved too much. They reacted in the best possible way.
Klopp identified the areas in need of strengthening – goalkeeper, central midfield and the right wing – and the club got it done.
Alisson came in and briefly became the most expensive stopper in the world to boot. Fabinho was signed from Monaco and added some genuine steel to a midfield in dire need of it. Naby Keita, a dynamic presence and a perfect foil for both Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, finally completed his long-mooted move from RB Leipzig, while Xherdan Shaqiri was signed from Stoke City and added depth behind the fabled front three.
They spent £177m in total and every penny looks worth it now. In the process, much like Tottenham’s current collection of deadwood, Dominic Solanke, Danny Ward, Ragnar Klavan, Danny Ings, Lazar Markovic, Jon Flanagan and Emre Can were all allowed to leave permanently.
Spurs have been linked with swoops for Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele, Real Betis’ Giovani Lo Celso and Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon and they would go a long way to following the example set by the triumphant Reds.
Ndombele, particularly, is the player that could take them to the next level; this is a genuinely world-class midfielder and would be a marked improvement on both Dier and Wanyama. In turn, one or both of the immobile defensive midfielders could be binned.
There is no room for sentiment this summer and in that sense, one feels that the Champions League final defeat could be something of a blessing in disguise.
Had they won, it would have been 23 Spurs heroes taking to the podium, all looking to get their hands on the trophy.
As it is, it was a tired team that is in need of refreshing being beaten by a better-funded XI who ultimately deserved the victory.
If they are to ensure that they return to the final and push on in the Premier League, Spurs need to pour cash into the starting XI and axe those who simply aren’t good enough, just as Liverpool did 12 months ago.
Their defeat will only help in that regard.