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What's the Outlook for Tottenham Fringe Players in 2015-16?

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2015

Benjamin Stambouli is one of several fringe players at Tottenham Hotspur whose future is very much uncertain.
Benjamin Stambouli is one of several fringe players at Tottenham Hotspur whose future is very much uncertain.Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Defining who Tottenham Hotspur's fringe players will be in 2015-16 is partly subject to confirming who will even be at the club.

Etienne Capoue, Brad Friedel, Lewis Holtby and Paulinho—all players on the periphery of the first team last season (or further away in the case of Holtby, on loan at Hamburg)—have all left Tottenham this summer. The futures of others are up in the air too, set to be decided, or at least influenced, by the work of those signed and still set to arrive in the coming weeks.

Brad Friedel retired from professional football at the end of last season. The last two of his four years with Tottenham had very much been spent on the periphery.
Brad Friedel retired from professional football at the end of last season. The last two of his four years with Tottenham had very much been spent on the periphery.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

In March this writer also labelled Michel Vorm, Younes Kaboul, Vlad Chiriches, Benjamin Stambouli and Emmanuel Adebayor as Spurs' fringe players. They were those who had not been featuring at all, or whose participation had been particularly sporadic leading up to that point. They remain a good place to start in assessing the outlook for the coming season of those facing an uphill battle to break into Mauricio Pochettino's team.

Vorm's status as back-up goalkeeper is very much dependent on the future of the first-choice shot-stopper Hugo Lloris. The France international has been linked with a move to Manchester United throughout the summer—the latest example, this story by ESPN FC's Richard Jolly—an assumed consequence of their No.1 David de Gea's predicted move to Real Madrid.

If Lloris goes, Vorm will get his shot at becoming Spurs' regular goalkeeper. If not, the Dutchman will continue to be called upon when Lloris is injured or rested.

Stambouli's future is very much up in the air. Sky Sports last week reported Watford had agreed deals to sign him and Capoue.

Watford Football Club @WatfordFC

OFFICIAL: #watfordfc is delighted to confirm the signing of Etienne Capoue from @SpursOfficial for a club record fee http://t.co/4mn1XJTIOx

While his fellow Frenchman's move to the Hornets has been confirmed (see above), at the time of writing Stambouli remains a Spurs player. Pictured in the club's photographic documentation of pre-season training (albeit not singled out, but in the background), he does not appear to have been left on the sidelines in anticipation of a move.

Even with Capoue, Holtby and Paulinho's departures, competition for places in Stambouli's predominant central midfield position is set to remain fierce.

Stambouli played at centre-back on Spurs' post-season tour. That position is now currently almost as crowded as central midfield is.
Stambouli played at centre-back on Spurs' post-season tour. That position is now currently almost as crowded as central midfield is.Rob Griffith/Associated Press

In addition to remaining team-mates/rivals here, Nabil Bentaleb, Mousa Dembele and Ryan Mason, Dele Alli has joined the ranks. Tom Carroll is back from his loan at Swansea City while fellow academy man Harry Winks' new contract could lead to a more prominent role for him this season (if he is not loaned out). The versatile Milos Veljkovic remains an option here, while a change in formation that sees someone like Christian Eriksen deployed deeper would also limit opportunities.

Bar Veljkovic being used there, Stambouli is the most natural defensive midfielder in the squad. He is sturdy—albeit was a tad reckless positionally at times in games against Asteras Tripolis and Sheffield United last season—and more assertive than his colleagues breaking up play.

Stambouli's lack of involvement in the season's last few months suggests Pochettino is content to favour the more expansive, front-foot aggressive midfield play (at its best anyway) of players like Bentaleb and Mason. There may still be room for a more defensive-minded presence in certain situations. But if it is accurate Spurs are willing to sell Stambouli to Watford, it suggests his head coach is happy for one of his other players to offer it.

Younes Kaboul's apperance in the FA Cup defeat to Leicester City last season looks set to be his last for Totttenham. Goalkeeper Michel Vorm played after that point and will hope for more appearances this season.
Younes Kaboul's apperance in the FA Cup defeat to Leicester City last season looks set to be his last for Totttenham. Goalkeeper Michel Vorm played after that point and will hope for more appearances this season.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Stambouli was used in central defence for the first time in Tottenham's post-season tour of Malaysia and Australia. Picked ahead of the more recognised defenders Vlad Chiriches and Younes Kaboul, it would be extremely surprising if they remained in north London come the end of the transfer window. The latter did not feature after January last season, while Chiriches' erratic form appears now to have left him on the outs.

With Kyle Walker and DeAndre Yedlin already at the club, Kieran Trippier has been brought in at right-back from Burnley. If that move negated the need for the Romanian to deputise there anymore, the arrivals of Cologne's Kevin Wimmer and now Atletico Madrid's Toby Alderweireld make it unlikely either Chiriches or Kaboul will be called on at centre-back again. Especially with Eric Dier, Federico Fazio and Jan Vertonghen already ahead in the pecking order too.

Tottenham Hotspur @SpursOfficial

SIGNED: We are delighted to announce the signing of @AlderweireldTob from Atletico Madrid. #WelcomeToby http://t.co/CTThyOs7V7

With the midfield trimmed and new names assigned to improve the level of competition in defence, the one area Pochettino and the Spurs hierarchy have not addressed is their attack. Chiefly providing adequate support for last season's top scorer Harry Kane.

Adebayor has expressed his intention to stay in north London, but it is difficult to see him moving beyond the fringe role he inhabited by the end of last season. Roberto Soldado joined him there too as his already underwhelming performances similarly tailed off in effort and effectiveness. Spurs would have to mess up or have severe misfortune not to draft in a new forward or two who will replace these two, or at least diminish their use considerably.

Mousa Dembele is a good option for Tottenham to have, but the player will not be happy in anything but a more regular starting assignment.
Mousa Dembele is a good option for Tottenham to have, but the player will not be happy in anything but a more regular starting assignment.Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Elsewhere, who else will be confined to the margins of the squad remains to be seen.

Mousa Dembele was in and out of the team last season. The Mirror's Adrian Kajumba was among those last week quoting the Belgium international confirming his intent to hold talks with Pochettino.

The skillful midfielder is not a player Spurs will easily part with given his ability to perform both defensive and attacking duties. But if he is not doing enough to convince his boss, he should be playing more regularly, it would be understandable if he prefers to try his luck somewhere else.

Loaned out last season, Carroll and Aaron Lennon are other players who would be fine options for Spurs to have at their disposal. But the latter's loan move to Everton emphasised the older guys in the squad will not be so content to sit on the sidelines for ever. At 23, Carroll is reaching that point too.

Academy products like Tom Carroll have helped bolster Spurs' squad. But there naturally comes a point when they have to decide whether a bit-part role is enough for them.
Academy products like Tom Carroll have helped bolster Spurs' squad. But there naturally comes a point when they have to decide whether a bit-part role is enough for them.Jan Kruger/Getty Images

It is a balancing act for Pochettino. Making the numbers work for the Premier League's squad-size limit while retaining depth to handle a season which will be fought at one point or another on at least three fronts.

Spurs' healthy contingent of academy promotions has helped here—Alex Pritchard, Winks and Veljkovic are set to be the latest joining the first-team fold. However, to progress such young talent there needs to be experienced heads capable of guiding them through the tougher aspects of the learning process.

New names are arriving and greater faith is being placed in others. Inevitably there will be some who played fairly regularly for Tottenham last season who will be the next batch taking their place as fringe players.

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