On Saturday evening at the Nissan Stadium in Nashville, a lone figure stood hunched pitch-side mid-way through the second half of the so-called glamour friendly fixture between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.
Mauricio Pochettino was deep in thought – and he had no shortage of issues to consider.
Whilst you should never read too much into pre-season results the way that Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team ruthlessly dismantled Tottenham should come as a stark warning for everyone connected with the North London club. Spurs were handed a drubbing – and the three goal defeat could have been much more disconcerting had City’s forward line demonstrated a more clinical nature in front of goal.
Pochettino has overseen an impressive renovation at White Hart Lane since his arrival in the summer of 2014, turning Tottenham from a team hoping to break into the top-four into one that has had genuine opportunities to win the Premier League over the last two seasons.
Ultimately the young side that the Argentinian has built came up short, finishing runners up last year and in third place two seasons ago when Leicester City secured a remarkably title triumph, but no one would argue that the club has been heading in an upward trajectory under his guidance.
However, Tottenham are suddenly in panic mode. The defeat to Manchester City may leave no lasting damage in terms of the club’s quest for trophies next season, but it did highlight and re-emphasize that Spurs have been overtaken by their title rivals over the summer. It was something that Pochettino admitted in his post-match interview, with quotes reported by the Standard:
“They have a bit of an advantage and are ahead of us because they signed players and kept the players they want” the 45-year-old conceded, “we are a little bit behind, working hard in trying to sign some players to try to bring some new energy and make our team more competitive”.
Pochettino’s comments were an admission that his club had fallen behind their rivals and an acknowledgement that, at the present time, there is a gulf in class between Tottenham’s youthful side and Manchester City’s multi-million pound group of superstars.
City have been the big-spenders during the summer and have invested just under £200 million (figure as per TransferMarkt) on new arrivals since the end of last season, with the promise of more to come. Guardiola finished his debut year in English football without any silverware and it appears that the Spanish maestro has little intention of seeing a repeat performance in the new campaign. Meanwhile, Tottenham have yet to sign a single player and have had to endure seeing star full-back Kyle Walker jump ship and move to the Etihad Stadium.
City’s heavy investment in the transfer market has been replicated by Manchester United and Chelsea, leaving Spurs facing the realisation that their title rivals have begun to overtake them. Everton and West Ham United have also made significant signings so far in the window and are making great strides in an attempt to close the gap between the so-called ‘big six’ clubs. With clubs all around them making considerable efforts to improve their squad, Tottenham’s contentment to stand still is a risky strategy.
Quite why Spurs have been so unwilling to delve into the transfer market is unclear. Whilst the club is not known for heavy spending, with Pochettino preferring to develop young talented players, the absence of any investment will come as a concern to supporters. The rebuilding of White Hart Lane, set to cost somewhere in the region of £750 million over the next twelve months, will leave a considerable void in the club’s finances and there is a perception that this could implicate the money available for spending in the transfer market.
Chairman Daniel Levy has already hinted, as per the Metro, that Pochettino will be expected to lean heavily on Tottenham’s academy during the foreseeable future but also declared that the new stadium will not impact on the manager’s ability to bring in new talent. However, the inactivity over the summer will suggest otherwise and Spurs now run the risk of dropping out of the Champions League unless they begin to match the investment in new players being conducted by their closest rivals.
On Saturday evening Pochettino admitted that, “City have more senior players than us and they invest more money than us”. The Argentinian will also know that City will end the campaign with greater success and more trophies unless Tottenham begin to make waves in the transfer market.