How Tottenham can rebuild their defence on a budget

Oli Trussler Jones June 11, 2020
How Tottenham can rebuild their defence on a budget
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Money is tight at Spurs

Jose Mourinho and a restricted budget are not two things you would normally associate with each other. Mourinho assembles squads on big budgets with big-name players. After all, the Portuguese tactician has worked at some of the most successful clubs on earth like Manchester United, Real Madrid and Inter Milan where money is no object.

However, the circumstances at Tottenham are different. After a free-spending summer last year bringing in players like Tanguy Ndombele and Giovanni Lo Celso, Spurs were always going to be working under a much tighter budget in the upcoming transfer window. And market shrinkage in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic makes Tottenham’s financial constraints even tighter, especially when you factor in their £1 billion stadium.

The club have negotiated a £175 million loan from the UK government to cover some of the stadium costs. Despite this, the government have said that this money must not be used to offset player signings. That’s a problem when Tottenham are also left with the prospect of losing both Jan Vertonghen and Japhet Tanganga on free transfers.

One way or another, Tottenham must rebuild their defence this summer.

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

What is lacking in the Tottenham defence?

Mourinho will probably need a centre-back, a left-back and a right-back to feel comfortable that his side are ready to compete next season.

Firstly, they should look to offload Danny Rose to raise some funds for new arrivals. Rose has made his desire to play football nearer his home clear and a permanent move to Newcastle may be best for both parties.

The next order of business should also attempting to sign Tanganga to a new contract as he is a useful rotation option as well as a good prospect for the future; as demonstrated by an excellent showing against reigning Premier League Champions Manchester City. If he chooses to leave, so be it.

Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

The best free transfer in the world

The first and most important signing for the Tottenham defence would cost them absolutely nothing at all. 21-year-old Nice defender Malang Sarr is out of contract this summer and is arguably the best free transfer available anywhere in the world.

Despite being only 21, Sarr has made over 100 first team appearances for Nice at the heart of their defence. Sarr has been an excellent ball player for Patrick Vieira’s Nice side managing an average of 60 passes per game at a success rate of 90.4%. He has also been making 3.4 long balls per game, which is marginally better than the outgoing Vertonghen. The Belgian has also identical passing stats to Sarr this season, making the Frenchman an excellent replacement for Tottenham’s defensive stalwart.

Spurs may be worried about Sarr’s height, standing at only six-foot, but he is physically strong as well as being incredibly fast. Sarr has been making a rather low 2.9 tackles and interceptions per 90, according to, but eight appearances at left-back would explain a slightly lower number in this department. Tottenham may have to ward off competition from Manchester City but they can guarantee the young defender minutes.

Sarr would also only improve under Mourinho as well as getting older and more experienced. For a free transfer, he could be at the heart of Tottenham’s defence for the next 10 years, making this a no brainer for the club. 

The left-back issue

Photo by Christian Verheyen/Borussia Moenchengladbach via Getty Images

Left-back is an area Tottenham should have addressed last summer when Kieran Tierney was available, but, painfully, he went to Arsenal. In terms of top left-back talent, there are slim pickings around the continent.

One man who does stand out, however, is Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Algerian star Ramy Bensebaini. At 25, Bensebaini is slightly older than some of the other options they have but he is a late bloomer. In just under 1200 Bundesliga minutes, the Algerian international has managed five goals and is an extremely talented attacking full-back. He has been taking an impressive 1.3 shots per game which is an interesting curveball for the left-back position but Mourinho may look to coach much more defensive nouse into him. He has been managing a solid 3.7 tackles and interceptions per 90 under Marco Rose.

It would be a change of style for Bensebaini but he seems like the sort of player who could easily adapt. German clubs rely heavily on match-day revenue which they have obviously now hugely lost out on due to the coronavirus pandemic. Because of this, Gladbach may be under pressure to sell one of their prized assets and Bensebaini would be a sensible one to cash in. Tottenham could probably offer between £15-20 million and get this deal done. 

Splashing the Cash

Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

The right-back spot is much more fertile ground. 21-year-old Sofiane Alakouch of Nimes has dropped off this season but may still present a great option for a relatively small outlay. Nice’s Youcef Atal has been injured for much of the season and may cost slightly more than Tottenham would be willing to pay here.

For Nottingham Forest right-back Matty Cash the step up to Tottenham would be huge, but it is worth taking the risk. The cost of Cash would vary depending on whether Forest achieve promotion. If they do go up, Tottenham can expect to pay around £25 million and that would probably not be worth the fee but if Forest fail to get up to the Premier League he could be good value.

In the next window, most Championship clubs will have to sell players as many face cash flow problems. The former European champions will be under massive pressure to sell as a result of this and they would probably take the deal if Tottenham came in with a bid between £10 and £15 million. Cash has managed 4.2 tackles and interceptions in the second tier this season as well as fantastic numbers going forward. He has been making 1.1 key passes per game, and 0.9 dribbles per games while managing four assists for a Forest side who are competing at the top of the Championship this season. Cash is unproven in a top league, but would still be a good calculated risk for Spurs. 

The right recruits could make all the difference

Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With an outlay of around £30-40 million, Tottenham can very easily rebuild their defence and as a result push on next season. In the forward areas, the team looks solid with options such as Heung Min Son, Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura, and of course their talisman Harry Kane. Despite this, Tottenham must sign a backup to Harry Kane to truly complete their squad and give them the depth that they need. Michy Batshuayi of Chelsea would fit the bill and could certainly deputise for Kane it he gets injured. 

The lack of a few players in key areas is what could stop Spurs from achieving Champions League football this season despite reaching the final last year. The signings that have been suggested may not excite Spurs fans in the way a Lo Celso or Bergwijn would. Instead, these players are young with massive sell-on values if the risk pays off.

The next season for Spurs could prove to be a transitional year and will be the real test as to whether Mourinho is the right man for the job. When the financial situation of the club is back to normal at the end of the 20/21 season, then Spurs can bring in some slightly more established names but maybe this is not the right option. A midfielder like Lorenzo Pellegrini would be fantastic but if the Tottenham defence isn’t revitalised, then even the Europa League places next season could be a pipe dream. 

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know