Equal Time: Why Tottenham didn't need to spend
A false narrative drives football towards the season’s opening weekend. Clubs must spend to improve. Otherwise, they'll be left behind by clubs who do. The flaw in this reasoning is the assumption teams automatically improve by spending. You know what happens when you make assumptions.
Teams do not always improve by signing new players. Often they regress. Chelsea brought in Alvaro Morata and Danny Drinkwater last summer to replace Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic. The reigning Premier League champions plummetted from the top, through the Champions League places to fifth. Several phrases warn against change for change’s sake.
- Don’t mess with a good thing.
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
- Always leave town on the horse you rode in.
- Stay the course.
There’s an old country song from Kenny Rogers called the Gambler. If you were born in the 20th century, you know it. Rogers meets an old gambler on a train. For a cigarette and his last swig of whiskey, he receives the following sage advice.
Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away and knowin' what to keep
'Cause every hand's a winner and every hand's a loser
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep
Every football season is a gamble, too, every team a winner and a loser. Everyone thinks the prices in the transfer market are too steep. That doesn’t mean you need to throw your squad in the muck every summer. If no better players exist than those you have, why sign any?
Tottenham's roster isn't perfect. The boss could use better cover than Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen should Harry Kane pick up a serious knock. Otherwise, he has Premier League quality players two-deep at every position.
Hugo Lloris and Michel Vorm form the Premier League’s second-best goalkeeping tandem behind Manchester United’s David de Gea and Sergio Romero. Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are ably backed by Davinson Sanchez, Juan Foyth and Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Danny Rose and Ben Davies are a selection headache at left-back. Considering Poch can also call upon Jan Vertongen, it’s a migraine.
Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker-Peters made Spurs faithful forget Kyle Walker. Gareth Southgate even shunted the Manchester City star into the England World Cup squad's three-man backline, preferring Trippier on the wing. Serge Aurier is also in the frame at right-back.
Pochettino’s defensive midfield is four deep with Mousa Dembele, Moussa Sissoko, Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier. The last two can also deputise at centre-half.
Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen form a dynamic attacking midfield combination. When Harry Winks returns from ankle surgery, rumours say sooner rather than later, Poch can field a trio akin to Real Madrid’s Luka Modric, Isco and Toni Kroos.
The Argentine’s wings are interchangeable, with Son Heung-min, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura all able to play across the pitch. As well, Josh Onomah and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou are aching for an opportunity.
Aside from the drop off from captain Kane to Janssen and Llorente, this is a deep, balanced squad, built with patience. Rash moves this late in the game might do more damage than good.
Daniel Levy knows when to hold his players. Toby Alderweireld still dons the Lillywhite shirt. It’s a calculated gamble not to sell him entering the final year of his deal. The Belgian could leave on the free. On the other hand, if this squad benefits from another year together to deliver that elusive Premier League crown, he’ll have every reason to stay.
Levy also knows when to fold his players. The lucrative fees he collected for Walker, Modric and Gareth Bale over the years provide the proof.
Nor is he walking away from this roster. Janssen’s return from a loan term at Fenerbahce was the CEO’s only activity in this window. Controversial as that is, it expresses faith in the business done last summer, when Sanchez, Aurier, Llorente, Foyth, N’Koudou and Onomah all arrived while Walker was the only significant departure.
Pochettino may have welcomed another addition or two but possesses comprehensive depth that, with Pep Guardiola’s exception, every other Premier League manager must envy.
In 2017/18, the club struggled to settle in autumn following several roster moves and Danny Rose’s rebellious attitude. This season, roles are clearly defined. While other clubs attempt to bed in new players, Spurs have the chance to burst from the gate.
This weekend is finally the time to run.