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Sanchez and Aurier boost Tottenham's pursuit of fighting for trophies

At the start of the summer, Tottenham's main weakness was that while their best XI was among the most formidable in the Premier League, they lacked strength in depth.

Sizeable gaps in quality between first choice and reserve players meant that when Mauricio Pochettino lost or rested his biggest stars last season, results dipped.

A second string lineup exited the League Cup as soon as they faced top flight opposition, with a team featuring Kevin Wimmer, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tom Carroll, Josh Onomah, Georges-Kevin N'Koudou and Vincent Janssen losing 2-1 at Liverpool.

That defeat came during Spurs' worst period of the season as they struggled to cope without Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane between mid-October and late November, winning just one of 10 matches in all competitions.

In one particularly damaging week, Pochettino opted to rest Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker for the crucial Champions League trip to Monaco, saving them for the following match at Chelsea. Already without Alderweireld, Spurs were defeated in both matches, lost their place at Europe's top table and never caught Antonio Conte's side.

Tottenham fans spent much of this summer fearing such issues -- the inadequacy of backup players -- would remain unresolved, with the north Londoners the last club to make a signing.

Yet Davinson Sanchez has been followed through the entrance door by Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente, as well as teenage prospect Juan Foyth and third choice goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

Though these are early days after the closure of the transfer window, the initial signs are that the north Londoners have a rather more competitive group across the board than a year ago, because of transfers and improvement from within.

Their squad strength has already been tested, particularly in the last week, and the results have been hugely encouraging.

Spurs won comfortably without Mousa Dembele at Everton on Saturday -- they were 3-0 up when he replaced Christian Eriksen -- and that allowed the influential Belgian to stay fresh for Wednesday's Champions League encounter with Borussia Dortmund.

Similarly, Son Heung Min was able to watch virtually the entirety of the victory at Goodison Park from the bench, allowing him to hit the ground running against Dortmund and in turn, ensure Spurs did not miss the suspended Dele Alli.

The north Londoners were also missing Victor Wanyama and Danny Rose against Germany's league leaders, but that pair were forgotten thanks to Eric Dier and Ben Davies.

Last September the gap in class between Spurs' first and second choice full-backs looked too wide, but Kieran Trippier and Davies -- who is set to face his former club Swansea this weekend -- are probably the most improved players of the past 12 months and there is now good competition on both flanks.

Aurier looks a strong replacement for Walker and has a nice blend of youth and experience as a 24-year-old who has won domestic and international silverware with Paris Saint-Germain and the Ivory Coast. He looked right at home in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Likewise, Sanchez is only 21 but was involved in the Eredivisie title race with Ajax last season and played in May's Europa League final.

Little needs to be said about 32-year-old Llorente's experience. And having scored 15 goals for Swansea last season, the Spaniard should pose a greater threat than 23-year-old Janssen, who needed more time to find his feet in the Premier League than Pochettino could afford to give him. Llorente may get the chance to prove that point on Saturday, against the club he has just departed.

Spurs' manager has a history of promoting academy graduates and putting faith in young players but he has sacrificed a few of them to build a more competitive squad.

Carroll was sold to Swansea in January and faces a showdown with his former teammates this weekend, and Onomah, Carter-Vickers and Janssen have been loaned out. Wimmer has also been discarded as part of a double change at centre-back.

It is unclear what to expect from 19-year-old Argentinian Foyth, but it already appears Pochettino will be able to rotate his squad and rest key players with greater confidence -- certainly if the last week is anything to go by.

Those in the treatment room will further bolster his options. In addition to Wanyama and Rose, the hope will be that N'Koudou adds some consistency and an end product to his raw pace and that Erik Lamela returns to his best. Harry Winks has barely been used so far but is a prodigious talent when fully fit.

Granted, Everton were surprisingly poor and Dortmund were missing a throng of their own players. Spurs have further tests to pass and injuries to the likes of Alderweireld, Kane and Eriksen would truly show whether they are now better-placed.

But for now there are reasons to be optimistic that Tottenham have a greater ability to balance their commitments in the top flight, Champions League and League Cup than last year and can mount a genuine challenge on all fronts.

The home games against Swansea and Barnsley over the next seven days will test the theory further as Pochettino bids to keep his players fresh.