What a difference a year makes. It would be fair to say that the appointment of former Wolves boss Nuno Santo as a long-term replacement for Jose Mourinho last June wasn’t one that overly excited Tottenham fans, and it was an experiment that failed, but to chairman Daniel Levy’s credit, it was nipped in the bud pretty swiftly.
He then set about luring Antonio Conte to fill the vacant spot, a manager who had previously been on the North London club’s radar, and the experienced Italian boss hit the ground running and translated the ninth place he inherited from his Portuguese predecessor into a top-four finish and the Champions League berth that comes with it.
The Premier League betting picture suggests that bookmakers are convinced that Conte will cement Tottenham’s place in the top four. Do pundits believe that even more can be achieved in 2022/23, but are such suggestions a little ahead of the club’s realistic expectations?
Busy Summer of Squad Alterations
Antonio Conte has already set the ball rolling on his efforts to rebuild the squad he inherited, and the club’s considerable deadwood is also seemingly being chopped down. Dejan Kulusevski will continue at the club in his previously agreed loan role, and that’s a big deal as the Swede was hugely influential following his January move from Juventus.
The tricky winger is an understated player who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Also, coming in on a loan move is much-maligned Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet, and it will be interesting to see how the Frenchman settles in at the club.
A total of £75 million was invested in the purchases of Brighton’s central midfielder Yves Bissouma and Everton forward Richarlison, though the second of those captures may well cause something of a pleasant headache for Conte.
While it’s true that Tottenham could be in for a long season battling in numerous competitions, quite how Brazilian international Richarlison will be slotted into an attack that will always features Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min, is hard to fathom.
After all, Kulusevski will feel he deserves a regular starting spot. Still, perhaps the overloading of options isn’t bad if you have a manager like Conte, who is more than capable of managing possible dressing room squabbles.
The signing of Ivan Perisic on a free deal from Inter Milan could prove an inspired one given the veteran player’s apparent abilities. The 33-year-old isn’t going to feature week in, week out but is an ideal addition to European competition play.
Fraser Forster will be a decent challenger to Hugo Lloris’s starting spot and a very capable pair of hands to call upon if needed.
Thus far, the only exits have seen Cameron Carter Vickers complete a permanent switch to Celtic, while Steven Bergwijn’s stop/start Spurs career ended with his move to Ajax, and there is a sense that further departures are likely before the window is closed.
What do Realistic Expectations Look Like?
Conte will feel his side are capable of keeping hold of their top-four credentials, but he can expect both Manchester United and Arsenal to mount renewed attempts to break back into a group that effectively will have one free slot available as there is next to no chance that Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea won’t be in the top three places.
The Tottenham boss has always been capable of getting the most out of the squads he has managed, and there is, at present, a decent if not spectacular amount of strength in depth in his armoury and there could be a few more additions to help boost certain potential problem areas.
A run in the Champions League wouldn’t go amiss, and of course, there is the ever-present issue when it comes to Spurs securing silverware, in whatever form it can come in, and that’s exceptionally pressing when it comes to appeasing a certain Harry Kane.
Levy fought off interest in Kane last summer, and the England international isn’t going anywhere this summer, but frankly, his desire to win, or at least challenge, for major honours isn’t going away and come January, if Tottenham are not firing on all cylinders you can expect more interest in the veritable goal-machine.
There are undoubtedly many reasons to be cheerful for Tottenham fans, and a year on from the appointment of Santo, the club is in a much healthier position, and Conte is the kind of long-term appointment that should pay off.
The coming season will be a solid, if not spectacular one and any possible push up the table would require a series amount of investment, especially in the club’s back-line, and a season or two of Champions League action would help fuel the finances needed for such a change as would a regular seat at European football’s top table.