While other clubs seem to be getting several deals done fast and early – Manchester United have signed Romelu Lukaku, Arsenal have Alexandre Lacazette, while Everton have also gone on a massive spending spree, attracting Davy Klaasen, Wayne Rooney and Henry Onyekuru, among others – Tottenham Hotspur have been notable in that they have not signed anyone at all.
It is an old adage of the Premier League that teams who don not improve year-on-year will fall behind, but this current Spurs squad is unlikely to follow suit.
For starters, Mauricio Pochettino’s side have one of, if not the, best starting sides – on paper, anyway. The league’s top-scorer, Harry Kane, paired with the intricate Christian Eriksen and the dynamic Dele Alli, form an attacking trio that matches any in the league.
The likes of Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama are both physically dominant and technically more efficient when compared to other pairings, while the defence looks to be impassable at times, with Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Eric Dier combining to great effect centrally, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier are sublime in the full-back role.
Hugo Lloris, of course, requires no introduction. He is one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever play for Tottenham.
So, from the start, Spurs will struggle to attract anyone who will improve their starting eleven – especially considering their limited budget, with the new stadium to pay for. It says a lot that Manchester United have spent a reported £75 million on a player who would not break into the Pochettino’s starting-11.
Lukaku is not as good as Kane, and nor is Lacazette – that alone means a total value of £120 million’s worth of strikers have been purchased by two top clubs, yet neither would start for Spurs.
Clearly, Arsenal and Manchester United are playing catch-up. But it also is demonstrative of a market where value is difficult to find. Bargain buys like Dele Alli are a rarity, though Spurs have excelled in recent years – Alderweireld, Wanyama, the aforementioned Alli as well as Eric Dier were all brought in on the cheap.
This does result in an atmosphere that encourages promotion from within, so players like Harry Winks get more game time at Spurs compared to youth products at other clubs.
With the successes of Josh Onomah, Kyle Walker-Peters and Marcus Edwards coming through the youth system at various levels, there is an abundance of talent already at Spurs that manager Mauricio Pochettino may well seek to delve into instead of spending big, either within the Premier League – which comes with its inflated price tags and premiums on home-grown talent – or abroad, which has the added risk of players failing to settle in the league.
One must also consider that some players already at the club – like Erik Lamela and Vincent Janssen – are also likely to play bigger roles this season. Lamela’s absence, much lamented by some, was due to injury, while with any Janssen will start to look less like a comical figure bumbling his way up and down the pitch and more like an acceptable reserve striker.
In any case, Spurs will struggle to attract a striker whose game time will be limited. Younger players will want minutes on the pitch, which – barring injury to Kane – won’t happen, while older players are more likely to be unsuitable for the high-press system that Pochettino likes to operate.
Clearly, not only the characteristics of potential signings are rare, but the individual playing styles are arguably even rarer. Very few players in the world could play Dele Alli’s support-striker role, or others Mousa Dembele’s box-to-box midfield role, that focuses so heavily on ball retention. Finding these players on a relatively tight budget is nigh-on impossible.
So, for now, Tottenham fans wait for signings. No purchases is better than bad purchases – one only has to think back to deadline day last year when Spurs spent £30 million on Moussa Sissoko. It is imperative that the Lilywhites avoid those mistakes again, so perhaps it will be a little longer before the club announces a new signing.
The Standard report that a deal is in the pipeline for Juan Foyth of Estudiantes, and a £10 million purchase of a young defender seems like the kind of buy that suits all parties. But, make no mistake, the big money deals will not be centring around the Lilywhites this summer. With the abundance of talent already at the club it is more important that Spurs keep their big names.