Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur

Premier League • England

FIVE Tottenham players who must improve or face axe from Ange next season

Bentancur Maddison, Kulusevski

Five Tottenham stars who need to show improvement next season

Regardless of what Tottenham do in the transfer market this summer, Ange Postecoglou must get more out of five key players next season if the club are to crack the top four and get back in the Champions League.

Spurs ended up missing out to Aston Villa by two pints in the race for fourth spot after only winning two of their final seven Premier League games of the season.

Their finish was a polar opposite to how they started under Postecoglou last season, going unbeaten in their first 10 games and topping the table.

Injuries, suspensions and a loss of form from some key men eventually derailed a campaign that had promised so much and the Australian openly admitted he did not have the players in his squad capable of playing the brand of football that will bring that first piece of silverware since 2008 – let alone challenging for the top-four spots.

To that end, Tottenham are expected to busy in the summer transfer window, with Postecoglou looking at bolstering the spine of his side with another centre-back, a central midfielder and a new No.9.

But, if some of those proposed signings do not come off, then the Spurs chief will have to get more out of some of the players who in some way let him down last season.

A combination of multiple factors has led to this list and not everyone will agree, but Postecoglou needs to get certain messages across to ensure that what happened in the second half of last season does not materialise again.

Guglielmo Vicario

There’s no denying that the summer signing from 2023 is a sensational shot-stopper and comfortable in possession – an absolute must for the modern-day keeper.

However, he does not command his area well, particularly from set-pieces, and that was clearly a tactic opposition teams tried to take advantage of last season – legally, or sometimes not!

Blocking the Italian off became something of the norm and did led to goals against. Indeed, Tottenham had issues defending set-pieces all last season and some of that must be on the keeper not being the dominant force in his area he needs to be.

It also led to Postecoglou changing personnel in the last few games of the season to get another dominant central defender on the pitch in Radu Dragusin, with Micky van de Ven pushed out to left-back.

That did, however, give Spurs much more of a presence to deal with the set-piece threat, but when Destiny Udogie is back from injury and Dragusin likely back on the bench again, Postecoglou will need to trust that Vicario will have worked on that side of his game in pre-season and be much better for it.

DEEPER DIVESeven Tottenham transfer targets at the 2024 Copa America as Postecoglou plans upgrades

Yves Bissouma

Having looked sensational in that unbeaten stretch to start last season, Bissouma’s form nosedived alarmingly when he returned from African Cup of Nations duty with Mali at the turn of the year.

How much that issue stemmed from the bout of malaria he picked up while out in the Ivory Coast is anyone’s guess but he just looked shadow of the player that was bossing Postecoglou’s engine room alongside fellow African Pape Sarr.

In truth, Bissouma has never really consistently produced the same level of his performance that he did during his Brighton days,w when he was rightly regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League.

The £30million Spurs forked out for the 27-year-old’s signature in the summer of 2022 looked an absolute steal, but the transfer has not quite gone the way they hoped.

There has been some talk Postecoglou could even look to offload the midfielder. But those 10 games at the start of last term showed that there is still a tremendous player in there somewhere and whether it’s physical, psychological, or a combination of both, it’s up to the Spurs gaffer to bring out the best in Bissouma again and potentially save himself millions bringing in a replacement.

Rodrigo Bentancur

It was not nice seeing the Uruguay international smashing up a seat on the bench when he was hauled off during the 2-0 loss at home to Manchester City back in May.

Bentancur had a long, hard road back from the ACL injury he suffered back in February 2023 and, apart from the odd glimpse, did not look the same player who was so impressive before his lengthy enforced lay-off.

The frustration where was there off for all to see when Postecoglou substituted the midfielder after City had taken the lead in a must-win game in their title push, but he needs to come back stronger next season.

Bentancur is currently away with his country at the Copa America but the hope is that he will be fitter and stronger after pre-season to prove to Postecoglou just how pivotal a player he can be in the Australian’s engine room.

The 27-year-old, who moved to north London in January 2022, has made 68 appearances for Tottenham in total, scoring 68 goals and is the one midfielder in the squad capable of playing as No.6, No.8 and No.10 if needed – such is his versatility.

However, if he cannot get back to the player he was before his serious knee issue, then there is every chance that Postecoglou will look at alternative options.

James Maddison

Maddison was quite rightly being spoken of as one the signings of the summer as Tottenham were charging to the top of the Premier League table before suffering the ankle injury against Chelsea that ruled him out for two months.

James Maddison of Tottenham

Tottenham star James Maddison

He eventually played 31 games in all competitions, scoring four goals and adding nine assists but his form in the second half of the season tailed off significantly.

Indeed, Maddison was so bad that he went from pushing for a place in England’s starting XI at Euro 2024 to failing to make the squad at all, much to his annoyance.

All the talk of Eberechi Eze arriving from Crystal Palace too is unlikely to be doing his confidence much good either, although Eze can line up out wide as an attacker and is not just a No.10.

The former Leicester man also needs to be aware of the incoming threat of Swedish attacking midfield sensation Lucas Bergvall, who looks likely to be integrated straight into Postecoglou’s first-team squad.

Maddison just needs to build up his fitness over a full -pre-season and come out firing again, as he did last season before his cruel blow.

He might also have a chip on his shoulder after the massive England snub, which can only be good news for Tottenham.

READ NEXTFabrizio Romano confirms Tottenham plan to sign Man Utd target as upgrade for 101-game star Postecoglou doesn’t rate

Dejan Kulusevski

For a player with so much quality, the Sweden international had a hugely disappointing season and never reached anywhere near the heights of the previous campaign.

On the face of it, his stats weren’t that bad, scoring eight goals and adding three assists, but his overall performance levels were not good – except for probably the draw at Manchester City in December and the final game of the season at Sheffield United when he bagged a brace.

There were games when he didn’t looked particularly interested, either playing from his preferred position on the right, out of the left or as a No.10 in the absence of Maddison.

Kulusevski faces a battle with Brennan Johnson for that right-wing berth next season, with the latter almost certain to be improved after his debut campaign with the club.

Potentially adding Eze as well, who can also play wide on the right, means the 24-year-old will have to up his performance levels if he wants to play regularly – with Postecoglou likely to ditch any passengers in his side judging by his comments towards the end of the season.