Can Perisic bring Spurs instant success?
The January transfer window had only just closed when Antonio Conte made clear just how hard he would push to get the signings he wants as Tottenham Hotspur boss. “Four important players left in January,” he said. “Two have arrived, so even numerically, instead of reinforcing yourself you may have, on paper, weakened.”
Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski, both of whom hit the ground running after joining Spurs mid-season, were the two that arrived, but these remarks underlined to Daniel Levy and the decision makers at the North London club that their new manager wouldn’t just settle for what he already has.
Five months on from those signings and those comments, Ivan Perisic has joined Tottenham as a free agent. The Croatian knows Conte having worked alongside him at Inter and has spoken about his secure to test himself in the Premier League. But for all that Perisic strengthens Spurs’ squad, he is 33 years old.
Perisic’s arrival at Tottenham signifies a dramatic change in transfer market tact by Tottenham who have primarily targeted promising, young players with sell-on potential in recent times. At 33, Perisic is a signing designed to bring instant success. He is a short-term solution, not part of a long-term vision.
This, of course, is what Spurs signed up for by hiring Conte. The Italian coach has a track record of favouring experience over youth. At Inter, he pushed for the signing of Alexis Sanchez, Aleksandar Kolarov, Arturo Vidal, Ashley Young and Christian Eriksen – all over the age of 30. He did similar at Chelsea too.
It is therefore unsurprising that Conte is adopting a similar approach as Tottenham manager. Spurs’ upturn in form in the second half of the 2021/22 campaign suggests they will be competitive near the top end of the Premier League table next season and the North London club need to back Conte to take the next steps.
Tottenham face a juncture this summer. Chelsea and Inter both had to rejuvenate their squads after Conte left, but the silverware won by the Italian made his tenures worthwhile. The gamble paid off for them, but there’s no guarantee it would work for Spurs, particularly with Liverpool and Manchester City so strong.
Alternatively, Tottenham could regret not backing Conte in the transfer market when they have one of the best managers in the game in their dugout. The North London club made such an effort to lure the 52-year-old last year that it would be wasteful if they didn’t fully commit to the project Conte has in mind.
The signing of Perisic from Inter makes a lot of sense. He played as a left wing back for Conte at Inter and will presumably operate in the same position for Tottenham with Sergio Reguilon reportedly expected to leave the club this summer. Reguilon’s exit would have left Conte with just one natural left wing back in Ryan Sessegnon.
Tactically, there is also the potential for Conte to use Perisic on the left side of a front three alongside two of Harry Kane, Dejan Kulusevski, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura. The Croatian international carries a goal threat and would sharpen Tottenham’s cutting edge in front of goal in this position.
Conte needs a squad capable of competing on more than one front next season with Tottenham back in the Champions League. Spurs also need at least one additional centre back, a central midfielder and maybe even a new right wing back and the profile and age of the players they chase to fill those positions will say a lot about their commitment to their manager.