Spurs could unleash a star with 0 starts in 23/24 alongside Johnson
Tottenham could extend their run at the top of the Premier League with an emphatic victory over Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Tottenham Hotspur return to action in the Premier League on Monday night, facing off against London rivals Chelsea on home turf, with the Blues headed by former Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino.
There will not be too much upset surrounding the Argentinian manager’s choice of stomping ground given Ange Postecoglou’s resounding success in reviving the north London club since the summer, but there will be added emphasis on securing another victory nonetheless.
Despite enduring a torrid season last year, Tottenham have completely transformed their fortunes after Postecoglou’s appointment, and despite the sale of club record scorer Harry Kane to Bayern Munich in August, the worries that the downward trajectory was set to initiate the dog days have been expunged.
With eight victories and two draws in the Premier League thus far, Tottenham’s endeavours are in stark contrast to the stuttering travails of Chelsea, who finished in the bottom half last year and remain away from the division’s forefront despite lucrative expenditure.
A win would extend Spurs’ brilliant start to the 2022/23 season and preserve the table-topping position in the Premier League, though there is a possible defensive quandary to contend with.
Tottenham team news vs Chelsea
Both Destiny Udogie and Ben Davies are fitness concerns, and while both might be in contention to play, it looks like a late call will need to be made.
The dilemma is exacerbated by the long-term absence of Ivan Perisic, with the 34-year-old out of contract at the end of the season and possibly never to play in London again.
Manor Solomon and Ryan Sessegnon are still stuck on the sidelines, but the Lilywhites will be able to maintain the core of their successful team this season, so far unafflicted by any long-term setbacks of significance.
Brennan Johnson returned from injury last week to set up Heung-min Son’s ultimately decisive strike against Crystal Palace, leaving Postecoglou with a decision to make regarding Richarlison’s role against Chelsea tomorrow night.
The numbers behind why Brennan Johnson should start vs Chelsea
Having signed from divisional rivals Nottingham Forest in August for a reported fee of £47.5m, Johnson’s fledgling phase in white was blighted by a knee issue sustained against Arsenal on his first start, having yet to receive a second starting berth.
The £70k-per-week attacker, capable of competing across the frontline, would bring energy and directness to the Tottenham frontline and is a custom-made alternative to Richarlison, who has improved after foundering during the 2022/23 campaign but still remains below the level he reached at his zenith with Everton.
Indeed, the Brazilian has been described as “very frustrating” to watch by talkSPORT pundit Ally McCoist and seemingly isn’t maximising his potential after joining from Everton for £60m last summer, though he has registered two goals and three assists this season after only scoring one Premier League goal last year.
As per FBref, Johnson ranks among the top 5% of positional peers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for progressive carries and tackles per 90, illustrating his electric presence and robustness.
Postecoglou clearly doesn’t shake things up with any regularity, instead opting for stability and cohesion in his preferred starting XI, but Johnson has done enough to warrant an opportunity from the get-go and could make the difference against Chelsea.
In the centre of the park, Spurs are now bolstered by the galvanising return of Rodrigo Bentancur, who has been out injured since rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee back in February, making his return off the bench against the Eagles last time out.
The numbers behind why Rodrigo Bentancur should start vs Chelsea
Tottenham signed Bentancur from Juventus for around £21.5m in January 2022, with Dejan Kulusevski also arriving on a loan deal, having now made that move permanent.
The £75k-per-week Bentancur impressed in the early stages of his Spurs career and started 16 Premier League matches – creating four assists – in the latter half of the 2021/22 year as Antonio Conte’s side secured Champions League football with a top-four finish, with the 54-cap Uruguay international having made 45 total appearances for his current club, posting six goals and assists apiece.
Of course, it would take a Herculean effort to displace one of Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr at the moment, with Postecoglou’s dynamic duo turbo-charging the engine room and playing a central role in the seasonal ascendancy.
Rodrigo Bentancur: Similar Players
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But Bentancur, aged 26, is a proven Premier League player and impressed in instances last season despite his outfit’s general malaise, having previously been hailed as “technically immense” by broadcaster Adam Smith.
Indeed, as per Sofascore, the former Old Lady star only started 17 matches in the Premier League last season but banged in five goals, supplied two assists, completed 85% of his passes, made 2.5 tackles per game and succeeded with 66% of his dribble attempts.
As per FBref, the 6 foot midfielder ranks among the top 1% of positional peers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for goals, the top 19% for successful take-ons and the top 17% for tackles per 90, emphasising a rounded, dynamic threat that could be valuable in disrupting the Blues.
Of course, Bentancur’s availability will be reliant on positive fitness tests throughout the week, with it set to be a bold call if he is handed his first start of the season against the Blues following his lengthy injury layoff.
While such cases are never seamless, the Uruguayan does appear to be in the best condition that could be expected, and Postecoglou will assess whether an opportunity from the outset could be feasible, with perhaps an introduction after the break a possibility, inflicting damage on a Chelsea side battered by a possible earlier onslaught.
If he does find his name on the starting teamsheet, then his natural faculty for finding the back of the net and past success across the various elements of the midfield game could set him in good stead to make his mark against a Chelsea side that will strive to take control of the midfield, negating the host’s threat.
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