Equal Time: Why Tottenham will miss out the Champions League spots
Daniel Levy’s frugal approach will come back to bite him where it hurts, in Tottenham’s pocket. Failure to bolster Mauricio Pochettino’s squad will condemn Spurs to missing out on the gilded Champions League.
Whether you like it or not, football is about money. What has stopped Levy from financing Pochettino’s demands is not hesitancy over the quality of the player, but a reluctance to stump up the respective asking prices. Levy doesn’t do quick and easy transactions. He will drive the price to his maximum benefit before a deal is done. Just ask Sir Alex Ferguson, who described negotiating with Spurs for Dimitar Berbatov as “more painful than my hip replacement.”
In theory, Levy's approach makes economic sense. In a market inflated beyond reason [thanks PSG and Neymar], Spurs’ desire to find value is a rare bit of common sense. But football doesn’t operate on level-headedness. Despite Pochettino’s declarations that he requires reinforcements, the Lilywhites have brought in no one.
There’s a very persuasive argument to be had that Spurs’ lack of investment is, in fact, Pochettino’s fault. In signing a new five-year contract to start the summer, the Argentinian lost all bargaining power he had with Levy.
Imagine if Pochettino had delayed signing on the dotted lines by a week or two. The Real Madrid post would stand vacant. Long tipped to take over at the Bernabeu, the Spurs’ boss would have leverage. Whether Real Madrid would be interested or not is irrelevant. There is a very real association with Pochettino and Los Blancos. The 46-year-old might have asked for new signings when he penned his deal in May. Had he agreed a new contract with Spurs amid speculation linking him to Madrid, you can be sure his request would carry real weight. Instead, it's a feather in the wind.
Tottenham are left with the same problems they faced at the beginning of the window. No replacement for an ageing Mousa Dembele; no back-up for Harry Kane; no reinforcements in defence; a general lack of squad depth. Meanwhile, Chelsea brought in Jorginho and Kepa for a combined £130 million. Arsenal finally addressed their long-term problems in recruiting a defensive midfielder, new goalkeeper and new additions to their back-line. Manchester United reinforced by signing Fred and, despite Jose Mourinho’s best attempts, should retain Champions League status. Liverpool and Manchester City are largely irrelevant given Spurs now find themselves battling just to stay in the top-four, rather than fighting for the title, something they at least attempted for two straight seasons.
Granted, Chelsea and Arsenal may have teething problems under their new bosses, but you would expect both to mount serious assaults on the top four. In truth, it already appears to be a three-horse race between Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs for the fourth spot. While casting aspersions so early in the season is dangerous ground, there is little chance Pochettino’s under-funded, under-recruited squad even threatens the top two.
Some have suggested Spurs’ consistency under Pochettino will make the difference. Yet this fails to recognise how Spurs always start slow, only picking up momentum during the season's latter stages. This natural curve, one would expect, will also be followed by Arsenal and Chelsea. Rather, it is arguable that failure to add to his squad will breed stagnancy at Tottenham and Spurs will suffer from a lack of competition for places translating into below-par performances.
Though Spurs will open a new stadium this year, said to be a dazzling piece of architecture that genuinely acts as a transistor between fan, club and player, it won’t be hosting Champions League football the season after.
Maybe that’s fine. A season out of the top-four may force Levy to revaluate his economic prerogatives. Or maybe, for Spurs’ glittering array of talent, enough will be enough. Harry Kane will want out. Dele Ali will find pastures new. Christian Eriksen, too, will be fed up with the status quo. More devastating for Spurs’ long-term vision, Pochettino will finally lose his patience. He’ll have plenty of suitors.