Tottenham have long been like the envious younger brother of Arsenal, living in the shadow of their success and forever being an afterthought in North London. Now, with Pochettino at the helm, they’ve done extremely well to orchestrate a shift in power, but they haven’t yet achieved it outright.
Mauricio Pochettino was in arguably the worst predicament of any Premier League manager during the closing stages of the summer transfer window. Having seen his side soar out of the blocks at the start of last season, only to see a staggering drop in form mid-way, it was quite evident as to what the exact requirement to push the white half of North London into the next stage of their evolution was – investment.
Having seen 9 players feature in the World Cup semi-finals, Pochettino would have been both extremely proud yet rather worried. Proud of the fact that his players, under his tutelage have achieved such heights, but it really couldn’t have come at a worse time.
With their stadium revamping still in progress, a lot of funds have had to be diverted to the cause – funds that would have otherwise been spent on improving the first team. While the defence is not likely to be problematic for them anytime soon with good strength in depth at the back, the same cannot be said for those further up the pitch.
The bottom-line remains that yet another season has passed, and Spurs still have no deputy for Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen or Dele Alli. They punched well above their weight in the Champions League last season, but it came at the expense of a significant few weeks of dropped points in the league. The results, when the squad is pushed beyond its limit do tend to crumble, and performances lose their lustre.
In a league as tough as the English top flight, 3 bad results in a row may well knock you out of the title race, as Spurs found out the hard way last season. This season, Manchester City have added more strength in depth; Liverpool have gone all out to improve the first team as well as their bench; Chelsea have found a player who pivots their entire system; Arsenal have addressed 2 positions with long overdue transfers; Man Utd have also added a first teamer to their ranks. Tottenham meanwhile, have seen their players return without a proper break from the World Cup, with no one arriving to take the burden off their shoulders.
Further, when Arsenal were set to commence their transition period from the era of Arsene Wenger to that of Unai Emery, as were Chelsea from diametrically opposite managers in Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri, the opportunity was there for Spurs to seize the initiative, and topple the established order.
With Jack Grealish firmly on the market, and Wilfried Zaha stating his desire to play for one of the league’s more established teams, Tottenham had 2 stars readily available for transfer, both of whom would have given them considerable strength in depth, in addition to keeping the first XI honest by knocking on the door for regular starting berths.
Likewise, with Anthony Martial’s relationship with Jose Mourinho apparently at an all-time low, combined with Toby Alderweireld’s desire to don the red of Manchester United, Spurs fans have reason to lament on what could have been one of the most promising transfer windows in the club’s recent history, instead of a summer in which no major arrivals came through.
Fending off Real Madrid for their talisman Harry Kane could be considered a win in itself, especially considering the urgency of the former for a marquee signing, following Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus. However, if Spurs are to truly sustain their status amidst the Premier League’s best, these things cannot define their window.
Worrying about their stars being poached is something that lesser teams do, for they are aware of the attractiveness of the greener pastures that the suitor club represents. If Spurs are to build on from merely ‘punching above their weight’, their windows must be defined by consistent and gradual improvement to the squad.
In football, as in physics, stretching a substance (in this case a team) beyond its limit can leave permanent damage. For Tottenham Hotspur’s sake, we hope that this will not be the case. However, when the fixtures start piling up with the Champions League and domestic cups getting underway, along with the unrelenting and brutal winter period in the Premier League, we may just see another case of Déjà vu.