Antonio Conte will be hoping for a busy first summer at Tottenham, as the opening of the transfer window looms. The Italian is thought to want at least six new arrivals in N17 over the next few months and two deals already look close.
Fraser Forster and Ivan Perisic are the two names on the radar for Spurs currently, with the former having his medical last week and the Croatian set to have his medical at Hotpsur Way on Monday. This will get Tottenham’s transfer window off to a flying start, as the process of trying to strengthen Conte’s squad ahead of next season begins.
Although new arrivals will help improve the quality the Italian has on the pitch and also help to solve the Lilywhites’ squad depth issue, it is likely to result in some current regular starters being side-lined. This could include someone like Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who may find himself in a similar situation to Cesc Fabregas.
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Fabregas made just under 200 appearances for Chelsea, in his five years at the club, scoring 22 goals and registering 57 assists. The season before Conte became the Blues manager, the 35-year-old made 37 Premier League features, starting in 33 of those matches.
The Italian’s first season in West London saw this number drop down to 29 appearances but just 13 starts, although Fabregas was injured for some of the season. This was partly due to N’Golo Kante’s arrival and Conte’s change in formation at Chelsea.
The central midfielder found himself being rotated with the French international and Nemanja Matic, in Conte’s 3-5-2 / 3-4-3 set-up. Although this meant Fabregas was sidelined more than he would have liked to have been, he earned praise from the then Chelsea boss, for his attitude on and off the field.
“Cesc is showing he has a great impact for us. For sure Cesc has shown himself to be a great professional but, above all, a great player,” the 52-year-old admitted in early 2017.
“I’m very pleased to see that in him, his commitment and work rate. This season he faced a new situation. In the past, Cesc has always played every single game. It’s not easy to change.
“But, for sure, Cesc showed me that he is not only a great player but a great person. I think, this season, he has improved a lot in all aspects and, for me, he is a really, really important player, “Conte added.
This highlights that whether the Spanish international was playing or not, he was a valued member of the Italian’s squad and the following season saw Fabregas make 25 starts in his 32 league appearances.
This could be a similar situation to the one Hojbjerg may face next season. The Dane hasn’t had much of a battle in the center of midfield this season.
Harry Winks hasn’t impressed when he has been given the opportunity, leaving him on the sidelines more often than not. Hojbjerg started the season building a strong midifeld relationship with Oliver Skipp.
After the injury to the 21-year-old ended his season prematurely, Rodrigo Bentancur arrived and became the 26-year-old’s new midfield partner. The duo have been forming a strong bond in the middle of the field, with the Uruguayan making an immediate impact, since his move to N17 in January.
Hojbjerg is set to have some competition with Skipp’s return, regardless of any new arrivals that Spurs may welcome. Tottenham have been linked to the likes of Christian Eriksen and Youri Tielemans and if one of them or another central midfielder does make the move to north London, it would cause even more competition for a spot in the middle of the field.
This will be a benefit to Conte as it will mean he has more options to rotate his Spurs side, especially with the busy fixture schedule Tottenham will have and it may not be all bad for the Dane. Earlier this year the Italian gave his verdict on Hojbjerg.
“Pierre is another important player for us, he’s young but he’s more experienced than others and he’s a good player,” Conte admitted. Experience and leadership is something that the 52-year-old needs in his Tottenham team and are both qualities that Hojbjerg has.
Therefore even if the Dane does have to sit on the sidelines more than he would like, depending on the business done in the transfer window, he will still be an important part of the Spurs squad and someone that Conte relies on throughout the season. Fabregas showed he was still valued and respected by the Italian, even if he was not on the pitch as much and Hojbjerg could follow those steps.