Spurs' Dallying Threatens To Derail Lofty Ambitions

Despite Daniel Levy's talk of greater style and Mauricio Pochettino's designs on the title, Spurs seem to be treading water at best whilst all others improve. It's going to be tough...

Last Updated: 07/08/14 at 12:48 Post Comment

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"Our focus therefore is to continue to invest in and develop the squad [but] we shall not look to a summer of major upheaval, rather to strengthen in key positions - to play the style of football for which we are famous" - Daniel Levy, April 2014.

It's difficult to blame Tottenham's chairman for such an opinion. The hangover from last summer's transfer scattergun party is presumably still causing Daniel Levy to reach for the Paracetamol to staunch a headache caused by a squad bloated with under-performing players about to enter their second season and last chance at White Hart Lane.

Upon his appointment, Mauricio Pochettino spoke of his ambitions whilst at the club. "All managers want the best and want to be the best," Pochettino said. "I knew from the first day I came here that Spurs are a big club. My challenge is to win the Premier League...eventually. This is our goal, to win the title one day." It was said with tongue pressed slightly into cheek, but the remit is evident: Higher than sixth, please.

Furthermore, within Levy's quote lies an additional pressure upon Spurs' third new permanent manager in two years - an expectation to play a brand of football deemed to be pleasing on the eye. This is a side that must improve its league position whilst playing better and more attractive football. It's a tough ask.

The challenges don't end there, either, as Pochettino must also carry out his task amidst a club once again seemingly changing its transfer market policy. Last season seven players joined the club, all foreign, all from abroad and all without any experience of playing in England. In hindsight, it always appeared optimistic to expect Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen all to settle immediately, and so it proved.

This summer, Spurs have looked far closer to home, clearly a deliberate strategy. Michel Vorm and Ben Davies have joined from Swansea, whilst Eric Dier grew up in England and spent time on loan at Everton in 2011. But that's it. Nine days before the season begins and Pochettino has added only one first-choice player (both Dier and Vorm will, for now, be back up). Presumably left-back wasn't the only 'key position' Levy was referring to.

Therein lies one of Spurs' principle issues. Whilst opting to purchase players domestically is perfectly logical, Levy's reputation for driving a hard bargain is far harder to upkeep in the overpriced pool of the Premier League. Offers for Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin (again indicative of Spurs recruiting domestically) were immediately laughed off by Southampton, and chairman Ralph Krueger now appears to be adamant that neither will leave St. Mary's. Liverpool paid big money for Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren, but at least they got their deals done efficiently.

Spurs' evident search for a forward has also been entirely fruitless. Imagining dual Premier League and European campaigns with a strikeforce of Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane should make supporters wince but only a seriously injured Rodriguez has been mooted. Romelu Lukaku has joined Everton, Wilfried Bony appears too expensive and Javier Hernandez completely lacking any rumour. It's a very strange state of affairs.

It may sound harsh, but a squad can be fairly easily split into three categories: 1) Struggling for form or fitness, 2) Not good enough for the desired ambition (in Spurs' case, the top four) and 3) Good enough to assist in that aim. That latter group comprises of the players that could expect to move higher up the Premier League if they were sold now, and contains just five names - Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Christian Eriksen, Moussa Dembele and Erik Lamela. And I'm being kind to Lamela after last season.

Instead, a group of players leave a squad bloated on quantity rather than quality. Michael Dawson, Danny Rose, Andros Townsend, Kyle Walker, Younes Kaboul, Nabil Bentaleb, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Kyle Naughton, Harry Kane, Nacer Chadli and Ezekiel Fryers, all names that would leave the Premier League's elite uninterested if they were sold. Many of them wouldn't even trouble the top half.

While Spurs have dallied, each of their top four rivals have resurged, regrouped and reinvested. Manchester City and Chelsea already appeared to belong to a separate echelon to Spurs even before their summer outlays, whilst Manchester United (initially at least) seem renascent and Arsenal have again strengthened impressively. That's ignoring the relatively unknown quality of Liverpool.

Amidst such inadequacies, Levy and Pochettino's references to title bids and footballing aesthetics simply feel like an ambition to run before walking and, with ltitle over a week until their first match, more questions than answers remain.

Chairman and new manager may talk of further improvement in league position and greater style, but right now it feels as if the top four is increasingly becoming more forlorn hope than reasonable expectation.

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