One of the comments being directed at signing-less Spurs this transfer window is that we are ‘being left behind’.
In this unusual transfer window, where prices have rocketed similarly to how they suddenly leapt up around 2006/2007, Spurs are the last Premier League club to make a signing. There are two key points to make on this, surrounding:
1. The pool of players.
2. Value for money.
The Pool of Players
The pool of suitable players available to Spurs is smaller than that available to other clubs due to a number of factors. The first factor is that we have one of the best teams (if not the best team) in the Premier League, and so improving on that is naturally more difficult for us than, say, for Everton, who last season had a demonstrably worse team.
Secondly, due to our wage structure — which has been necessary for a number of reasons, including limited match-day revenue — we are unable to offer the wages that some of our rivals offer. We can counter this to some extent with large ‘signing-on’ fees, and also apparently offer an attractive bonus structure, rewarding players for successes. We also regularly refresh contracts, meaning that players have a constant sense of financial progression; a smart move. But there is little doubt that our wage packages are less attractive than those at other clubs.
So with a smaller pool of players that would improve us available, and being unable to attract many of those players due to our wage structure falling below that of their current clubs/rival clubs, we are left trying to find value elsewhere.
Value For Money
Daniel Levy has described transfer prices as ‘unsustainable’ and, in some cases, he is right. There are clubs who simply cannot continue spending these sums as their revenue won’t sustain the level of spending. But Daniel Storey makes the point well in his article for Football 365 that Manchester City, for example, ‘have unprecedented resources; why wouldn’t the transfer fees be unprecedented too?’. For some clubs this will simply be the new norm.
Levy will undoubtedly have been frustrated by the £30m which was (in)effectively thrown away on Moussa Sissoko, and asking him to part with the same or a bigger fee will now be a more difficult task; he will need assurances that we are getting better value for the prices stated. One would have to imagine that Sissoko in this window would likely cost another £5m minimum.
My gut feel is that we ought to resort to the transfer strategy of a few years ago, focusing primarily on strategically identifying young prospects who have not quite ‘broken out’, signing them early and loaning them back to their clubs to foster their potential. Ryan Sessegnon would have been (and would still be) an ideal signing at this level, but there are other budding young talents in the football league too: Ronaldo Vieira at Leeds, Ben Brereton and Joe Worrall at Nottingham Forest, Ezri Konsa at Charlton to name a few.
In my opinion we do need to sign a right-back to replace Kyle Walker (because I don’t think Kieran Trippier is stylistically the right fit), and we could also do with a Christian Eriksen rotation, but otherwise we are pretty well set and don’t need to worry too much about keeping up with the Joneses.
There are no issues with our 25-man squad list either. Despite the fact that we have lost a number of ‘homegrown’ players in the last twelve months — Walker, of course, but also Tom Carroll, Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb — we only actually have 18 players to list, four of whom qualify as homegrown (Harry Kane, Danny Rose, Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier). We could feasibly sign another three non-homegrown players and still be able to name them all in the squad list.
Far from being left behind, last season we were the team leaving others behind, and there is no reason why our squad cannot continue its upward trajectory, boosted by another year of experience, a few more Academy players looking ready to step up, and the return from injury of Erik Lamela and (hopefully) Danny Rose.