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Spurs' home run on the line

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 By John Crace

Rose chaos and squad depth leads to Spurs worry for new season

The panel debates whether this is the year Tottenham regress.

Now for the reckoning. The Premier League restarts this weekend, and Tottenham face a tricky opening fixture away to newly promoted Newcastle with even the club management and players seemingly unsure of exactly what kind of shape the team is really in.

It's been a far from typical preseason for Tottenham. Normally they are a hive of activity with players coming and going, but so far no new footballers have been bought and only Kyle Walker has moved on. Danny Rose, meanwhile, has caused chaos before a ball has even been kicked with his comments on his future.

It can't be denied that some cracks have begun to emerge in Tottenham's build up to the season. Just a month ago, manager Mauricio Pochettino publicly stated he was happy Tottenham had not acquired any new players. A week ago, he said the club needed more strength in depth and lamented the fact he had been unable to identify anyone he wanted to buy. Other clubs seemed to have been able to find the players they wanted at an acceptable price, but seemingly not Spurs.

That need for more strength in depth now seems rather more urgent as Tottenham start the season without several key players and now in Rose a key one who wants out. Erik Lamela, who has already been out for the best part of a year, is still a long way from being fit while Rose, Son Heung-Min and Kieran Trippier are unlikely to feature until September at the earliest. If at all in Rose's case.

While it was good to see Pochettino taking half a dozen or so academy players on the first team's preseason tour to the United States, their performances showed they are not yet ready for the demands of competitive Premier League football. So Tottenham's lack of strength in depth has become apparent before the first game proper has even kicked off.

It is Trippier's injury that most shows how Tottenham have left themselves exposed. With Walker sold to Manchester City, there is no obvious like-for-like replacement for Trippier. Pochettino would be foolish to risk giving Kyle Walker-Peters a Premier League debut, so the only other option is to play Eric Dier as a makeshift right-back. Though Dier has played in that position in the past, this is far from ideal as it means Pochettino will be forced into playing a standard back four rather than his preferred formation of three central defenders with the two wing backs operating higher up the pitch. Rose's comments on the eve of the season kicking off are entirely unhelpful too.

Danny Rose
Tottenham have been rocked by Danny Rose's comments.

So, Tottenham travel to St James' Park in less than ideal shape; a position made more frustrating by the fact that it is largely one of their own making. But we are where we are and Spurs need to find a way of starting the season on a winning note. In Pochettino's first three seasons in charge, Tottenham have made slow starts to their league campaigns that arguably ultimately cost them their chance of winning the title on two occasions. Spurs won't want to risk that happening again.

Not that they should need much incentive to lift their game. While it will undoubtedly be intimidating playing in front of 50,000 home fans anxious to prove that the last season in the Championship was just a bad memory, Spurs will have a few memories of their own. Five to be precise. In the last game of the 2015-16 season, they were thrashed 5-1 playing against an already relegated side in a match they only needed to draw to secure a second place finish. Pochettino will be sure to remind them that a repeat performance is not acceptable.

One player who will have rather better memories of that day is Moussa Sissoko, who was then a Newcastle player. Since then he has been a bit-part footballer at White hart Lane who has done nothing to justify his £30m price tag. And yet Spurs seem willing to keep faith with the French international, having reportedly turned down offers for him.

That faith showed signs of being rewarded as Sissoko appeared much keener and more involved in last Saturday's friendly victory over Juventus. Given the injury list, there's every chance Sissoko could find himself in the starting XI at Newcastle. What better time for him to finally come good.

John Crace is one of ESPN FC's Tottenham bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.

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