If there are two things that Tottenham Hotspur have become renowned for in recent years, it’s late season collapses and their habit of doing nothing in transfer windows then, like Cheryl on the Royle Family always going on diets then becoming unable to stop herself gorging on calorific foods, going crazy and doing all their deals at the last minute.
While these are seemingly random things that are disparate from each other, recent seasons have seen those things increasingly become connected. The Spurs squad is increasingly lacking in depth, and is consistently having net spends that begin with a minus rather than a plus. While in many cases this could be explained as prudent running of the finances of a football club, a net spend of -28m in the last two seasons has seen Tottenham respectively miss out on the Champions League by a point and possibly do something similar this season.
This net spend has got little attention – not just because discussing net spend can make you sound like a Liverpool fan, but as Tottenham have still spent a lot of money. Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Hugo Lloris arrived at a cost of approximately £45m. But with Luka Modric leaving for £30m, Rafael Van der Vaart returning to Hamburg along with Steven Pienaar, Giovani and others being let go, Spurs raked in £62m. Not all that money has been spent. If it had, they may well not be in the middle of what’s potentially another end of season fall from grace.
With a new stadium on the horizon, making profits would seemingly be a wise way to run a football club. But with the riches of the Champions League on offer, with only a few million pounds needing to be spent to create the kind of squad capable of finishing in the top four or even the top three, it’s time Tottenham learnt their lesson about trying to qualify for the top four on the cheap. Sometimes you have to spend £10m to make £40m. This is simply not happening.
In both transfer windows this season, Spurs had the opportunity to sign top quality players who may well have made an already good team a potentially great side. Joao Moutinho would have been the playmaking midfielder who perfectly complemented the power and strength of Sandro and Mousa Dembele, while Leandro Damiao would have been the world class striker who would have completed their line up and thrived on the service given to him by Bale, Lennon and others. Neither of those players arrived, and both those players could well have been signed had negotiations started earlier.
Along with not buying players, they have been too eager to get rid of players who might be of use. Lennon’s absence with injury has seen Mousa Dembele and even Benoit Assou-Ekotto, a full back, played out wide owing to a lack of wingers. Andros Townsend, having an excellent loan spell at Queens Park Rangers, would have been a far better replacement. Up front, with Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe either injured or in shocking form, letting Harry Kane go on numerous loan spells seems unnecessary. He’s surely a better back up forward than Clint Dempsey was when he had to play as an emergency striker. The one player they didn’t let go when they could have done, Tom Carroll, has been grossly underused considering the poor form of Scott E. Parker.
After last year, when letting Vedran Corluka, Pienaar and Roman Pavlyuchenko go left Spurs with a chronic lack of players when Harry Redknapp’s refusal to rotate his squad, even for an early round FA Cup match against Watford, saw tired players collapse almightily to let a seemingly impregnable lead over Arsenal vanish into dust, Spurs should have learnt their lesson. They seemingly haven’t.
This season, a seven point lead over Arsenal has already been reduced from seven points to four points with a game in hand. Laurent Koscielny and Lukasz Fabianski have seemingly rescued a defence leaking goals like a sieve into a mean, potent unit, a development that couldn’t have been more surprising if Tinky Winky, Dipsy, La La and Po had suddenly become Arsenal’s starting back four. With their confidence high after cracking wins against Bayern Munich and Swansea, along with a relatively easy fixture list, a top four finish again looks likely.
Spurs have a tough run in till the end of the season and a squad of tired players to get them through both the Premier League and Europa League. Sandro’s injury has forced Andre Villas-Boas to play Mousa Dembele every game, with Scott Parker out of form as his midfield partner and Jake Livermore simply not good enough to start regularly. There are no good strikers on Tottenham’s books currently, along with only one genuine fit winger (Gareth Bale, who hasn’t been playing out wide recently anyway), meaning they don’t have the natural width they need to be explosive on the counter attack. There are only three specialist full backs as well in Kyle Walker, Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Naughton, none of whom have had especially good seasons.
If more money had been spent, if so many players hadn’t been sold, Spurs wouldn’t have these problems. As it is, Villas-Boas, Bale and Lloris have had to work minor miracles to get Spurs to such a lofty position. And now, with players injured, fatigued and now losing confidence after three defeats in a three week, another collapse may be on the way.
Tottenham’s transfer dealings are consistently leaving the squad lacking in strength and lacking in quality. With less penny pinching, Tottenham could currently have a far better group of players. Their negotiating style, to wait till the last minute, has seen now both Porto and Internacional in the cases of Moutinho and Damiao call Daniel Levy’s bluff and refuse to sell. A change in negotiating technique is surely required.
Spurs, like last season, have been left short by those who conduct transfer dealings for the club. It’s time for that to change.