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Five midfielders Tottenham should have targeted in the summer window

James Ward-Prowse

Tottenham’s transfer window

The regime change at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is well and truly underway in the early doors of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign, thanks to new blood in the upper echelons of the north London club.

Boss Nuno Espírito Santo has hit the ground running at his new charge, winning three from three while topping the Premier League table and being the only side yet to drop points this season. Fellow new boy Fabio Paratici has handled matters off the pitch rather well since arriving from Juventus, and has combined impressively with Espírito Santo to head up transfer business that has proved astute thus far.

A double raid on Atalanta for goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini and center back Cristian Romero did well to give Spurs a long-term replacement for Hugo Lloris (34), while Romero will replace one of Toby Alderweireld or Jan Vertonghen after the Belgian duo both left the club in the past two summers.

Tottenham continued their assault on the market – this time targeting younger profiles – with further moves for Sevilla’s highly-touted Spanish international Bryan Gil (20), FC Metz’s Senegalese international Pape Sarr (18), and Barcelona’s Brazilian international right-back Emerson Royal (22). Most importantly, Espírito Santo and Paratici were instrumental in convincing captain Harry Kane to stay for at least one more season, arresting the headache of trying to replace one of the elite center-forwards in Europe while holding on to a huge source of goals to continue to build around.

But Spurs may still have come up short this summer when they failed to bring in a central midfielder, despite selling Moussa Sissoko to Watford and with uncertainty surrounding the futures of Tanguy Nbombele and Harry Winks. Espírito Santo could be faced with a lack of depth that he trusts should Ndombele and Winks not rehabilitate their standing in the team, with the Portuguese manager being able to call on just Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Giovani Lo Celso, and Oliver Skipp.

With that in mind, here are five midfielders who Tottenham missed out on during the transfer window, and with it a chance to have one of the best summer displays in the Premier League.

Rúben Neves | Wolves (still at club; valued at £38million)

Probably the most obvious choice in this link, a reunion between Nuno Espírito Santo and Portuguese international midfielder Rúben Neves could have been a continuation of a match made in heaven at Wolves that netted one memory after the next at Molineux.

Ruben Neves

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 29: Ruben Neves of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton FC at Molineux on September 29, 2018 in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

Neves hardly would have struggled to settle into life at Tottenham given his experience under the Spurs boss, and certainly would have operated in a similar fashion to his time at the heart of Wolves’ midfield. Capable of being deployed as a true holding midfielder, or as a deep source of creativity, the potential to pair Neves with Pierre-Emile Højberg would have provided Tottenham with a balanced central duopoly that could be relied upon when the Lilywhites spring forward on the attack.

The question now will be whether or not the decision to not push harder to move one of Ndombele or Winks on will come back to haunt Spurs, particularly the former, who was earmarked for a departure this summer but in opting to stay, cut off the club’s chance at bringing Neves in to continue the squad refresh. A deal could certainly happen next summer, but Neves’ inclusion would have gone a long way to help Spurs’ efforts in securing Champions League or Europa League football for next term.

Weston McKennie | Juventus (still at club; valued at £21million)

One of the brightest talents in the American player pool, Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie’s star has continued to rise since he broke into the first-team at Schalke back in 2017-18.

Five midfielders Tottenham should have targeted in the summer window

TURIN, ITALY – AUGUST 14: Juventus player Weston McKennie ahead of the pre-season friendly match between Juventus and Atalanta at Allianz Stadium on August 14, 2021 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Daniele Badolato – Juventus FC/Getty Images)

After three highly successful seasons in Gelsenkirchen, McKennie sealed a shock loan move (with the option to buy) to Juventus last summer after – you guessed it – Fabio Paratici worked with then Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo to secure the United States international. McKennie excelled under Pirlo, but new headmaster Massimiliano Allegri is not entirely convinced of the player, and McKennie was reportedly on the market this summer, with Paratici once again interested in acquiring his services for Spurs.

Possessing a brilliant engine, an astute presser, and a goal threat in a box-to-box profile, the 23-year-old would have proven a credible source of goals for Tottenham through the spine, while complimenting Espírito Santo’s brand of football well. Though not a deep midfielder in his best deployment, he has shown ability in that role, and could have provided a good measure of versatility across the duration of a full campaign.

Thomas Delaney | Sevilla (purchased from Borussia Dortmund for £5million)

Perhaps not a name that many in England will be terribly familiar with, and certainly one that does not have a measure of gravitas attached to it, Thomas Delaney was one of the steals of the summer window when Sevilla director of football Monchi pulled off a typical under the radar signing in plucking the Danish international from the Ruhr valley.

Five midfielders Tottenham should have targeted in the summer window

WOLFSBURG, GERMANY – NOVEMBER 03: (L-R) Paco Alcacer, Axel Witsel, Dan-Axel Zagadou, Marco Reus, Manuel Akanji, Raphael Guerreiro and Thomas Delaney of Dortmund celebrate their team’s 1-0 during the Bundesliga match between VfL Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund at Volkswagen Arena on November 3, 2018 in Wolfsburg, Germany. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Given the paltry fee that Sevilla had to pay to acquire his services, there is scope to suggest that Delaney could have been a smart piece of business by Tottenham. On the surface, his national team relationship with Pierre-Emile Højbjerg could have been a real plus point regarding his ability to adapt to any move. Past that, Delaney is highly experienced; logging nearly 400-appearances since 2009-10, and featuring in the Champions League most seasons in a career that took him from FC København to SV Werder Bremen, and then Borussia Dortmund.

Most importantly, Delaney’s physical attributes and astuteness at reading the game from a defensive perspective would have given Tottenham an experienced shield for the back four that could also have helped extract more attacking contributions from Højbjerg akin to his appearances for Denmark, and how he was utilized under Pep Guardiola during his time at Bayern Munich and FC Augsburg. He may not have been a big name, but Delaney has performed on the big stage and could have brought valuable experience to the Tottenham project.

Houssem Aouar | Olympique Lyonnais (still at club; valued at £36million)

One of the most wanted names this summer among numerous fanbases across England, Olympique Lyonnais creative midfielder Houssem Aouar seems destined to leave the Rhône valley sooner rather than later.

Five midfielders Tottenham should have targeted in the summer window

OL STADIUM, LYON, FRANCE – 2020/02/26: Houssem Aouar of Olympique Lyonnais during the Uefa Champions League match between Olympique Lyonnais and Juventus Fc. Olympique Lyonnais wins 1-0 over Juventus Fc. (Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Tottenham and rivals Arsenal had serious interest in the French international this summer, but both ended up moving along from any potential deal for the player who was also embroiled in controversy at Lyon under new manager Peter Bosz, with club technical director Juninho naming him as one of a handful of Les Gones stars to have exhibited a poor attitude of late.

But Aouar’s wealth of technical ability, creativity, and goal throat from both the 8 and 10 positions would have offered a real boon to Tottenham in a project that must move away from the heavy reliance placed on both Harry Kane and Heung-min Son for goals. The potential to have brought Aoaur on a loan deal would have been ideal as well, with no financial commitment in the long term in case any issues cropped up with the player during a period in north London. Aouar’s eight goals last term in Ligue 1, by comparison, would have been the highest tally at Tottenham other than the aforementioned Kane and Son, with no other player in Spurs’ ranks having hit more than three in the league. It would have been a high-risk move, but with high rewards if it worked.

James Ward-Prowse | Southampton (still at club; valued at £26million)

One of the most under-rated players in the Premier League over the last few seasons, Southampton’s England international midfielder James Ward-Prowse is unquestionably one of the best in the league that does not feature for a club in the top half of the table.

James Ward-Prowse

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 30: James Ward-Prowse of Southampton scores his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Crystal Palace at St Mary’s Stadium on January 30, 2019 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Supremely creative, deadly on set-pieces, and boasting a considerable goal threat during the run of play (he registered 8-goals and 8-assists in the league last season), Ward-Prowse – like Houssem Aouar – would have been a key addition in the middle of the park that would have offered much-needed guile as well as a regular goal threat in a team that lacks such attributes in a big way apart from its deadly striker duo.

Given the English premium and vital status he holds at St. Mary’s stadium, JWP likely would have cost a pretty penny considering he was hardly pushing for a move away from the south coast. His recent contract extension will make him even more expensive to obtain should interest from any club grow in the future, but when it comes to this summer’s transfer window, the 26-year-old could have represented a steal that many did not truly consider.


This article was edited by Conor Laird.

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Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 Chelsea FC 8 13 19
2 Liverpool FC 8 16 18
3 Manchester City 8 13 17
4 Brighton & Hove Albion 8 3 15
5 Tottenham Hotspur 8 -3 15
6 Manchester United 8 6 14
7 West Ham United 8 5 14
8 Everton FC 8 4 14
9 Brentford FC 8 3 12
10 Wolverhampton Wanderers 8 0 12
11 Leicester City 8 -1 11
12 Arsenal FC 8 -5 11
13 Aston Villa 8 0 10
14 Crystal Palace 8 -3 8
15 Southampton FC 8 -4 7
16 Watford FC 8 -8 7
17 Leeds United 8 -8 6
18 Burnley FC 8 -8 3
19 Newcastle United 8 -9 3
20 Norwich City 8 -14 2

Premier League 21/22

Topscorers
Disciplinary
Assists
Player Team Goals
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 7
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City 7
Antonio, Michail West Ham United 5
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 5
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United 4
Aubameyang, Pierre-Emerick Arsenal FC 4
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur 4
Firmino, Roberto Liverpool FC 4
Maupay, Neal Brighton & Hove Albion 4
Sarr, Ismaila Watford FC 4
Greenwood, Mason Manchester United 4
Townsend, Andros Everton FC 3
Ings, Danny Aston Villa 3
Benrahma, Said West Ham United 3
Gray, Demarai Everton FC 3
Ronaldo, Cristiano Manchester United 3
Lukaku, Romelu Chelsea FC 3
Wilson, Callum Newcastle United 3
Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Everton FC 3
Jota, Diogo Liverpool FC 3