Tottenham’s hopes of putting to bed a chaotic and underwhelming 2019-20 season were dealt a huge blow on Sunday, following a 1-0 defeat to Everton in their first game of what looks set to be a hectic first full season under José Mourinho.
Spurs were second-best all afternoon, new signings Matt Doherty and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg both started and much like the rest of the side were uninspiring and lacklustre.
A poor performance, coupled with some spiky post-match comments and an ongoing yet unsuccessful hunt for a striker has cast a cloud of mild toxicity over the club, after the Amazon ”All or Nothing” documentary had seemed to build optimism ahead of a new season with a clean slate for Mourinho and Spurs.
Much like every disappointing result that Spurs have endured since Mourinho’s appointment the same three subject matters were called into fruition on social media;
But the gradual decline of Spurs over the last 18 months come down to something more black and white than the aforementioned.
I feel like a broken record writing about this, as for the best part of the last decade it seems as though transfer activity has been at the forefront of Spurs’ problems in getting to the next level.
From Luis Suarez, Eden Hazard, Joao Moutinho, Anthony Martial, Sadio Mane, Ricardo Pereira, Jack Grealish, Bruno Fernandes to Paolo Dybala, whilst there are many variables associated with the failure to bring in these previous transfer targets which may not always lay directly at the door of the hierarchy at the club, the ‘almost’ caveat associated with missing out on top targets has become a far too familiar disappointment for Spurs fans in the last decade.
In a world where a global pandemic has put immeasurable financial pressure on all clubs across the footballing pyramid, it comes as no surprise that Spurs are forced to keep their financial cards close to their chest this summer.
Finances may be tough at the moment and the need for shrewd spending is more prominent now more than ever, and the understanding of how tight the club need to be this summer is perhaps more understandable than previous windows.
But what has really cut Spurs to the core in recent years has been the number of missed opportunities to strike when the iron is hot.
After coming off the back of two title challenges for the first time since the 60’s, it felt like Spurs were the team to watch and were within touching distance of transforming themselves from the team that has been associated with a soft under-belly and a gaping lack of domestic silverware in the last quarter of a century.
Spurs ultimately spent big on Davinson Sanchez after offloading Kyle Walker for a £55 million earlier that summer, but sniffed at the chance to sign Ricardo Pereira for around £26 million and instead opted for PSG outcast Serge Aurier as a cheaper alternative.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and makes my point a lot easier to make now we have both seen the contrasting fortunes of both Ricardo Pereira and Serge Aurier since their respective arrivals.
The downgrade on Kyle Walker coupled with the slow breaking down of Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama meant that cracks were slowly beginning to show in a Spurs side that had reached unparalleled heights under Mauricio Pochettino.
After committing his future to the club in 2018 amidst links to both Real Madrid and Chelsea, Mauricio Pochettino was reportedly assured of a hefty transfer budget in order to match the ”brave next step” he insisted upon at the end of the 2017-2018 season.
Spurs went on to spend nothing, zero, zilch.
Two windows without a signing has really set Spurs back in a big way, with full backs looking fairly uninspiring at the start of the 2018-2019 season, more serious injury concerns to both Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama added further problems for Tottenham.
In January 2019, Dembele who had become a key component in the peak of Pochettino’s Tottenham was sold without replacement, the Belgian was highlighted as a player who needed a long term replacement ever since the final game at White Hart Lane back in May 2017.
The long term injuries to both Dele Alli and Harry Kane earlier in the month, brought further frustration as Spurs stood still in the transfer market in the midst of a title challenge without two of their most important players.
Spurs’ domestic form fell off drastically and just about managed to scrape a top four position after previously looking like the only real challengers to both Liverpool and Manchester City in the 2018-2019 season.
The incredible run to the Champions League final was one which Spurs fans will never forget, although the progress in the Champions League only masked the cracks of a broken down, flat squad in need of reinforcements.
Mauricio Pochettino warned Spurs fans of a painful rebuild during the off-season after a Champions League final defeat, and to the credit of Daniel Levy and the Spurs recruitment, Tottenham spent big on Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon as well as a £10 million move for highly-rated Leeds winger Jack Clarke.
However, releasing Fernando Llorente and selling Kieran Trippier without replacements felt once more felt like another two steps back after a promising step forward.
The lack of shuffling amongst the first team squad had lead to a side still licking their wounds from a Champions League final defeat, a manager mentally exhausted and a real element of staleness amongst their first team squad.
Pochettino was sacked and replaced with José Mourinho, just months after hinting he could leave Spurs if they were to become European champions, days before the Champions League final.
Mourinho has slowly picked up the pieces at Spurs but there still needs to be some reconstruction to a side fighting a burden that follows them more vigorously with every passing trophy-less season.
Spurs’ lacklustre performance against Everton highlighted the lack of guile and creativity they have needed for a while now, the sale of Christian Eriksen and no like-for-like replacement could prove to be as gaping of a hole as the striker crisis they find themselves in in the absence of Harry Kane with no ready deputy.
So on a transfer front what can Spurs do better?
- Sign replacements when selling a player
- Be more adventurous with their pursuit of players
- Be confident in a bidding war for a player.
- Show more ruthlessness, sell players sooner.
Spurs have always been a club that previously prided themselves on playing attractive, swash-buckling football as well as pulling off incredible transfer coups like Jimmy Greaves, Osvaldo Ardiles, Ricardo Villa and Jurgen Klinsmann, and most importantly collecting trophies.
How times seemed to have changed.
Spurs are by no means a poorly run club, the infrastructure of a new training facility, an academy overhaul that has brought through the likes of Harry Kane, Harry Winks and now Japhet Tanganga, as well as a brand new state of the art stadium that has helped reward a community in dire need of an economical boost, shows that the Spurs are actually a well run club.
But the fine lines of success are far too slim for Spurs to try to find a loophole that will outfox the rest of the top six who look now more than ever hungrier for success.
Just merely keeping up with the top six is no longer a feasible way of getting your foot in at the table of the elites of English and European football, especially without a manager who knocked at the door of the European heavyweights in spite of the transfer shortcomings.
As for Mourinho? The jury is out on him, but it is far too early to tell, and the current state of play can not be put down to him, and him alone.
The game is about glory, to dare is to do, or so they say……but is to dare too dear?