I wrote briefly last week about Spurs’ transfer situation, i.e. that this was a summer in which no signings just won’t cut it and, in fact, the previous 500+ days of incoming transfer inactivity had actually caused squad issues to stack up to become almost too much to fix in one window.
Spurs’ position is an interesting one. For a number of years under Mauricio Pochettino we had been busy assembling a supremely young team and squad which was fresh, energetic, and had legs like you wouldn’t believe. But after five years the roster is starting to creak a little, with over half of the first choice eleven now 28 or older. Spurs still run pretty well, but it’s time for an MOT and service.
In an ideal world, clubs would future-plan to the point that, as soon as a player is starting to look past his best, a younger, fitter model could be parachuted in, first-team ready, in order to pick up where his predecessor left off. Alas, that’s generally pretty rare for a whole variety of reasons.
First, it’s very difficult to keep Premier League-ready players happy on the side-lines when they have limited opportunity and are bursting for matches, so clubs end up compensating and settling for a back-up or rotation who isn’t as good.
Secondly, it’s very difficult to get players to the point of being ready without actually playing them. Spurs tried to achieve this approach with Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker, but this switch-up ultimately proved to be quite the opposite.
Another method is to sell players just after their peak and to sign ready-made replacements at that point. This is typically a higher-risk and more expensive model because:
1. What happens if you can’t attract the right replacement when it matters? And 2. Even if you manage to get optimum value for the outgoing player, you are also spending big for a player that another club has developed.
This is where Spurs are.
The targeting of Tanguy Ndombele (22), Giovani Lo Celso (23) and Ryan Sessegnon (19) makes sense in terms of replacements for Mousa Dembélé (31), Christian Eriksen (27) and Danny Rose (28). But this would likely see Spurs require a net-spend outlay of £30-40 million, perhaps even more. And, even then, there’s likely to be an initial drop-off at least whilst they adapt to life under Pochettino (ignoring the fact that Eriksen is, obviously, an unwanted departure).
And there is further work to do under the bonnet as well. Spurs have released Michel Vorm and Fernando Llorente but need to try to find takers for Vincent Janssen, Georges-Kévin Nkoudou, Victor Wanyama and, probably, Serge Aurier and/or Kieran Trippier. Daniel Levy’s going to be a busy man.
My own preference is to replace the squad-fodder either with talent developed in-house or with youngsters from the football league. There is oodles of untapped talent in the Championship or below, and I would like Spurs to revisit a strategy of yesteryear (see Dele, and before him: Gareth Bale, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson and Andy Reid. Okay, maybe not Andy Reid.).
Spurs scouted James Maddison, Ademola Lookman, Demarai Gray, Jack Grealish and even Ryan Sessegnon (before he was famous) but decided not to pursue them. All are now worth much, much more than the price that would have been paid at the time; these type of signings seem like no-brainers to me. So targeting the likes of Jack Clarke (Leeds United), Eberechi Eze (Queens Park Rangers) and Tom Bayliss (Coventry City) may not set pulses racing but would be sound, long-term investments that could ultimately save Levy a small fortune.