“A full and credible explanation”. That’s what the Tottenham Supporters Trust is demanding after their team became the first in Premier League history not to sign a player during the summer transfer window.
Spurs fans are up in arms — as you'd expect and as they should be — after seeing their closest rivals reinforce their squads with showers of high-profile additions. So far, Mauricio Pochettino has allayed their concerns. Before his side’s 2-1 victory over Newcastle, the Argentine sniffed to the assembled media:
"If you cannot add players who can improve your squad, your most important thing is to make sure you do not lose your best players."
It was a fair point. His club have secured the long-term futures of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, both of whom had attracted serious interest in the summer, whilst Pochettino himself has agreed fresh terms, bringing an end to speculation that had for so long linked him with a move to Real Madrid.
No red meat
It’s smart business, but there is little red meat in contract extensions and buyout clauses. Supporters are used to gorging on the soma of new additions, the instant gratification of fresh faces.
Daniel Levy, sensible and prudent though his dealings have been, hasn’t satisfied those gnarled cravings. And improving the players you have will never be as sexy as buying ones ready-made.
There’s something refreshing about the Spurs’ hierarchy’s refusal to indulge that commercial reflex, then. Something recalcitrant about the desire to wring everything from what they have, before turning towards what they might get.
That’s not to say that Levy and Pochettino should be lauded unconditionally, however. Whilst the manager’s emphasis on long-term improvement is admirable, it is also risky.
REUTERS/Scott Heppell Kane and Christian Eriksen, for example, have no competition for a place in the starting line-up, with the former looking exhausted in their opening fixture after an intense summer with England.
Spurs, therefore, are beholden to both, relying on their conscience to ensure that their standards and outputs won’t drop.
What, however, would happen if either have their head turned by a Real Madrid or Barcelona? How would Spurs respond should one of them start clamouring for a move or break into an unproductive sulk? Who comes in, and can offer a level of performance that's half as exalted?
An admirable sentiment
Pochettino’s insistence that there was no quality in the market rings slightly hollow, too.
Jean Michael Seri, for example, was available from Nice for less than £30 million. Lucas Torreira was snapped up by Arsenal for a similar amount. Everton parted with chump change in order to snare French international left back Lucas Digne from Barcelona.
Are those players better than Mousa Dembele, Moussa Sissoko and Ben Davies? Maybe. Would they have improved the quality and overall depth of Pochettino’s squad? Absolutely.
Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
"We’ve got a fantastic squad here, with fantastic players in every position," argued Eric Dier after his side’s win at St James’ Park.
It’s an admirable sentiment, but it doesn’t quite ring true, especially when one looks beyond Spurs’ gilded first XI. The picture worsens, moreover, when considering the inevitable departures of Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld. Both of them want out of North London, and both now cannot be replaced.
With a new all-seater stadium and a dazzling training ground, Spurs should be well-placed for an assault on the league title. Yet after 12 months of inertia last season, they have failed to bolster a squad that was already looking jaded.
Pochettino can be admired for looking at the long-term, but this is a short-term business. In considering the future, he might have neglected the present.