Fair enough; it wasn’t exactly a perfect transfer window for Spurs. Then again, did many of their rivals enjoy a more productive summer? Not so…
In my defence, I did say Spurs were only halfway to the perfect summer.
You see, the dictionary definition of ‘halfway’, according to Merriam-Webster, is ‘not total or complete’. When I eulogised over Spurs’ transfer window back in early August, that’s very much what it was. And while ‘perfect’ is not the word I’d use to describe their completed business, the revisionism needs to stop; Spurs had a great transfer window.
Entering the summer, Mauricio Pochettino and Daniel Levy had laid out a clear remit for business. In the words of Levy himself: “He [Pochettino] wanted to streamline the squad, strengthen it and retain the ability to develop the talent we already had. Importantly, we also needed to keep our key players. That meant reducing the squad number, improving the team defensively and adding exciting attacking forwards.” Simple.
Streamline the squad? Check. Strengthen it? Check. Keep key players? Check.
It’s a remit which you could argue was met in full; a strenuous argument, but an argument nonetheless. The much-derided summer-long pursuit of Saido Berahino continues to draw criticism – and rightfully so – but it was a ‘saga’ that revealed plenty about the new era of Tottenham transfers. For this is a Spurs side who have learnt from their mistakes.
Such a message was made crystal clear by both chairman and manager in their respective reviews of the summer. “If we couldn’t secure the few key targets we wanted, we wouldn’t just add others,” said Levy. “I have been very clear that we would only add players that we felt would improve us and if any one player was not possible then I prefer we do not add for the sake of it,” added Pochettino. Berahino was the target, but unlike where Morgan Schneiderlin turned into Benjamin Stambouli, he was the only target. There would be no panicked deadline day purchase in the case of him not joining. Up yours, Daniel Storey.
Yet the criticism does not subside. Where Spurs are generally mocked for falling back on Plan C when Plans A and B fall through in the transfer window, they now face questions for not pursuing a target other than the player they wanted. Bids should perhaps have come in earlier for Berahino, but if West Brom – or Jeremy Peace, to be exact – didn’t want to sell, then that’s that.
But Berahino wasn’t the only player Spurs identified as an “exciting attacking forward”, to use Levy’s description. Clinton N’Jie and Heung-min Son arrived in the summer for a cumulative £34million, and both will further lessen the goal burden placed on Harry Kane’s young shoulders. Although both are more effective out wide than central, Njie’s explosive pace and Son’s trickery and dribbling should have Spurs fans eagerly awaiting an attack with more than one dimension.
“Much has been said about us only having one recognised striker in Harry – I don’t accept this at all,” Pochettino said in defence of the striker shortage. “The positional play of today’s forwards means it’s too simplistic to look for goals from any one position – playing a fluid style means players switch.”
“Also we secured Sonny and Clinton in the knowledge that we may not be adding any other forward.” Whether Pochettino has been made to share Levy’s hymn sheet is up for debate, but the point remains that the club did have a plan.
In truth, they were shackled by a striker shortage which has blighted the Premier League as a whole. Each club has a keener eye trained on ‘sell-on value’ and the risks involved in any transfer; Spurs are only too well-accustomed to both. They could have signed a little-known striker from Monaco for £18million back in July. Said forward joined Manchester United for double that just a month later. It’s a risk that size that Spurs simply cannot afford.
I repeat: This is a new era of Tottenham transfers. As the club presses ahead to move into their new 61,000 seater stadium in 2018, more than a hint of their bitter north London rivals lingers. As Levy said in his post-window review: “Our pragmatic player trading has been important in the way we have run the business of the Club and in getting us to the position where we have now been able to start work on a new stadium.” Where Arsenal had to practice frugality ahead of their move to the Emirates Stadium, Spurs must do the same.
So, that Spurs summer checklist, courtesy of Levy: 1) “to streamline the squad”, 2) “to strengthen it”, 3) “to keep our key players”, 4) “to improve the team defensively”, 5) “to add exciting attacking forwards.”
Fourteen player sales, with eight leaving for fees amounting to a combined £44.35million. Streamlined.
Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier and Kevin Wimmer arriving as reinforcements for a defence which conceded more league goals than relegated Hull last season. Strengthened.
Hugo Lloris, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen remain at the club despite the lure of some of Europe’s elite.
Clinton N’Jie and Heung-min Son join to both support and compete with Harry Kane in attack.
More will be expected of inexperienced players, with centre-half Eric Dier tested in a midfield which also hosts youth product Alex Pritchard and the excellent Dele Alli among their first-team options. Mousa Dembele represents the old head in the centre at 28, while Michel Vorm is the eldest member of a young squad at just 31. With 17 of a 24-strong squad aged 25 and under, the expectation is high but the future is bright at White Hart Lane.
It may not have been the ‘perfect’ summer for Spurs, but it is nowhere near the disaster which has since been portrayed. Only a handful of their Premier League rivals can boast a better window.