A season of change is upon Tottenham Hotspur. At the very least the manager is new, Nuno Espirito Santo having been drafted in after the attempt to imbue Spurs with Jose Mourinho's winning mentality suited neither party. That may not be where the upheaval ends with Harry Kane, the cornerstone of his club's rise in recent years, eager to move on in pursuit of silverware. Will he get his wish and what is to come in the season ahead?
Let's preview Spurs' upcoming season and make some predictions.
Why Kane ends up staying
There has already been plenty about the great Harry Kane drama that one might not have seen coming when he reaffirmed his desire to leave Tottenham at the back end of last season. Did anyone seriously believe that the England captain, a man who had spoken of his desire to retire as a Spurs player, would go on strike to engineer a move to Manchester City? Bridges are being burned, the tightest of bonds wrested apart with little care for the player's standing in north London. Whatever happens it is hard to imagine the Tottenham crowd chanting "he's one of our own" again.
By his actions the point of no return looks to be a speck on the horizon for Kane. And yet his departure for the Etihad Stadium still feels extremely unlikely. In the end he may discover that he has merely hardened Spurs' resolve. It is easy to see why they would reach the conclusion that an unhappy Harry Kane is worth more to them than whatever they could get for him.
What that might be is still up for debate. City's opening offer of around $140 million would take Kane level with Jack Grealish as the most expensive Premier League signing ever but it was swiftly rejected by Spurs, who are believed to want a fee that no club other than Paris Saint-Germain have ever paid for a player. Once the heady heights of nine figure sums are reached the view can develop that what is another 10 or so million on top of that and yet the distance City would have to go to reach Tottenham's demands is the price of another elite recruit. There is a chasm between the buyers' valuation and the potential sellers' with Pep Guardiola's side having indicated a reluctance to meet a mooted fee of $220 million.
One might make an argument that even if City coughed up a high price it would not be in Spurs' interest to sell a player who is contracted to the club for a further three years, by which time his 31st birthday will be fast approaching. Prices will not be quite as depressed for Tottenham when the market knows how much they have just got for Kane and his departure alone would leave them needing a primary creator and a goalscorer, the two roles he fulfilled for them last season. And then they would need the backup striker they've found so difficult to recruit for years now.
Who of comparable quality would join a Kane-less Spurs? If any club knows from grim experience how hard it can be to replace a talisman it is the one that has sold Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Dimitar Berbatov in such recent memory.
The scoring burden will go unshared
With or without Kane there are issues to be solved at the top end of the pitch. Heading into the new season Spurs will have at least one, perhaps two, of the league's most incisive attacking forces in Kane and Heung-min Son. Surrounding them are a lot of players who can look elegant enough but who make little to no impact on the scoresheet.
Last season those two and Gareth Bale provided more than three-quarters of the goals scored by Tottenham in the Premier League. After them the next highest scorers were Tanguy Ndombele and Lucas Moura on three. Steven Bergwijn turned 21 top-flight appearances into one goal, Dele Alli 15 into none.
To an extent it is inevitable that Kane and Son will always have an outsized impact on goal returns because they are exceptional finishers who demand a lot of shots but the trend of the past three seasons has been a burden too big for both to carry even together. When one goes down, perhaps even both, this Tottenham team falls apart. It is not as if the other forwards rise to the moment. Though he may have hit a fine run of form in preseason, the reality is Lucas has 17 goals from 97 league appearances across the last three seasons, Erik Lamela had seven from 67 and the returns from Bergwijn and Dele have been little better. Pretty much all of the other forwards do not add shooting goals, an Opta metric that assesses whether the expected goals value of a shot increases after it has been taken i.e. do players shoot the ball well.
Tottenham's reliance on Kane and Son
Premier League stats for last three seasons -- players in italics are no longer at Tottenham
Part of the reason for parting ways with Jose Mourinho was that his attacking gameplan too often boiled down to "give it to Son and Kane then hope." His replacement was not supposed to be that sort of manager. Nuno Espirito Santo might be. His Wolverhampton Wanderers teams were reactive, defending in numbers and springing their forwards out on the counter, just like his new team did last season. Preseason suggests an attempt to adapt that style to the Tottenham way, shifting from a back three to a quartet, though against Chelsea they seemed utterly devoid of much in the way of attacking plans.
Silverware at last
They might not want to be in it but it is hard to see how Tottenham can extricate themselves from the Europa Conference League, the new third-tier continental competition designed largely to give minnows a chance to win major silverware on the continent. You can add your own jokes here.
Though its exact makeup is still to be confirmed Spurs will head into the competition as prohibitive favorites. Of those currently in the hat only Roma and perhaps Rennes would believe they have a serious chance of overcoming Nuno's side over two legs. Whichever clubs drop out of the Europa League are unlikely to pose any great challenges either, assuming Tottenham operate as something approximating full strength. Indeed it should be remembered that in last season's Europa League they were pretty much able to play their B team and romp to the round of 16 and that remarkable defeat to Dinamo Zagreb.
Not since 2008 have Spurs won a major trophy; it is much longer than that since they have faced such an inviting field. If they can't overcome the likes of Shamrock Rovers, Kolos Kovalivka and Hammarby then it's fair to ask what it will take for them to ever win a trophy.
- Premier League finish: 7th
- Top scorer: Harry Kane (but only just)
- Player of the season: Heung-min Son
- Something unexpected: Excellent though he has been, Hugo Lloris ends up losing his starting spot to Pierluigi Gollini as the season wears on.