The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.
In the last few seasons, this proverb has epitomised the Tottenham ‘project,’ which has seemingly reached a point of stasis in recent years, in spite of their significant improvement under Mauricio Pochettino during his first two seasons in charge. While they have developed themselves into serious title contenders and have come close to winning the Premier League, they have been resolutely opposed to investing significantly on reinforcements, a policy that might come back to bite them in the derriere this time around.
The club has firmly stuck to the script in the months leading up to this season, and their complete lack of activity during the transfer window is reflected by the fact that Tottenham is the only Premier League club yet to recruit a new player. Being thrifty is one thing, but when the notoriously frugal Burnley spend more than you, it’s probably time to dip your hands into the coffers and let it rain.
Unfortunately for Pochettino and Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, their top-four rivals from last season have not received the memo on being pragmatic with their finances. Liverpool has embarked on a massive spending spree and a practically perfect Manchester City squad has been improved even more with the acquisition of Riyad Mahrez.
To make matters worse, if the rumours doing the rounds of English dailies are to be believed, the most troubling news for Spurs comes from the red half of Manchester. A certain Portuguese fellow by the name of Jose Mourinho appears rather keen on securing the services of Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose, a deal which would leave Pochettino with next to no time in his search to locate a suitable replacement and hammer out a deal.
Of course, if it were any other club, most would have dismissed the story as yet another fantastical tale woven by the rumour-mongers of some obscure publication, but with Spurs, it seems a little more likely. If Kyle Walker’s move to Manchester City taught us anything at all, it’s that every Tottenham player has a price, something the players themselves are no doubt aware of. Levy is also considered to be one of the worst paymasters in the upper echelons of the Premier League, with a couple of Tottenham players, Alderweireld and Rose, voicing their discontent with their wages in interviews.
In spite of the growing hype around several of Spurs’ squad members, the club continues to pay well below what their nearest rivals pay in wages to their own stars. If Spurs continue to be this miserly, they could have a tough time retaining their key players, considering the fact that some of them have actually done quite well in the World Cup, with nine footballers from Tottenham’s squad reaching the semi-finals of football’s showpiece event.
The World Cup will throw up further complications for Tottenham Hotspur, as players from the nations that made it to the semi-finals will rejoin training on 6 August, just four days before the beginning of the Premier League. For Tottenham, that rules out much of their starting XI, including the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and captain Hugo Lloris. With Son Heung-min also likely to miss out on much of the early action due to the Asian Games, yet another critical weakness of the team has been exposed, namely that they do not have any back-up for their key players.
In the last two seasons Vincent Janssen and Fernando Llorente have been signed with the specific purpose of operating as back-up for Harry Kane, a role that neither were able to fulfill when they were called upon. The most recent instance came in March, when Kane suffered an ankle injury that ruled him out for the better part of a month. Had Manchester City not been as absurdly prolific as they were last year, a serious title challenge from Tottenham would probably have been derailed by the loss of their talismanic striker, since Llorente possesses the uncanny ability to make the easiest of chances seem impossible to score from.
Pochettino’s reaction to the club’s troubling lack of signings has been one of resigned acceptance, with the Argentinian implying his displeasure at the state of affairs from time to time. However, unlike Chelsea’s Antonio Conte, who employs an almost negligible amount of subtlety, Pochettino has managed to stay out of the limelight in recent weeks, focusing instead on a difficult pre-season that featured some high-profile fixtures.
Spurs opened their preparatory campaign with a 4-1 thrashing of AS Roma, which was followed by a loss on penalties against Barcelona and a 1-0 victory over AC Milan. Disregarding the fact that it was a friendly, their matches against Barcelona and AC Milan were still impressive performances, and things were looking quite good for the Londoners. But perhaps in typical Tottenham fashion, Pochettino’s team chose to throw away their chance of finishing pre-season with a decent record, opting instead to lose 4-1 against Girona, who finished 10th in last season’s La Liga table.
However, the situation is far from hopeless for Tottenham, who have a number of things to be positive about before the start of the season. Even though Alderweireld has looked like he could be moving up north to Manchester since May, the deal has failed to materialize as of now. Growing tired of courting Alderweireld, Manchester United have also approached Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng, who was put in the shop window by the German champions during the World Cup. If Pochettino is able to retain his wantaway stars, he will still be the manager of an incredibly strong side on paper, that will compare to the top sides in quality, if not in depth.
In addition to this, Spurs will also be moving into their brand new stadium, which would be the perfect staging ground for their first title-winning campaign in decades. Tottenham left ground at White Hart Lane after an unbeaten home season two years ago, and they'll be hoping to carry that form into next season.
This season, above all, Tottenham cannot be complacent. With Chelsea and Arsenal undergoing major transitive phases, Champions League qualification does not look like it will be difficult for Tottenham to secure, but they can no longer afford to be content with that. The current squad is being held together by promises of a brighter future, but should Spurs have yet another heart-breaking finish to the season, some of them will surely wonder if the grass truly is greener on the other side.
Updated Date: Aug 09, 2018 19:35:22 IST