Spurs and the New Season: Potential Fulfilled or Frustrated?

 

 

Being without a home has a huge impact on the team and fans alike, the full extent of which will become apparent when Sky shift West Brom at home to a winter’s Monday night and if the team are toiling to keep up the pace in three or four competitions.

There’s a sense in which everything is hold while we wait for the new ground, except there’s no time for that. Not only are our rivals willing to do whatever it takes to climb to the top of the greasy pole that is the Premier League, Spurs must also shoulder the burden of expectation. Pochettino has created a wonderful side, bursting with ability and motivation, the best Tottenham team certainly since the early eighties and arguably since the sixties that enthralled us over last season. They have generated a momentum that should be sustained. There’s no time to pause, wherever we play or whatever it takes to keep it going. Yet on the cusp of success, the beginning of the season is overshadowed by the club’s reluctance to fully commit.  I remain excited by what this team could achieve but I fear for the consequences of such hesitation.

Spurs could be on the threshold of a momentous season. The team effectively picks itself, and it’s a fabulous team that has room to become even better, a mouth-watering prospect. Nobody is better placed than Pochettino to fulfil that potential. He’s a true leader and motivator who values the club’s heritage and consistently gets the very best from his players. Add a touch of extra resilience in the big games and we really have something.

The effects of the absence of new players won’t be felt for a while either. It’s not a crisis as some would have it, because Pochettino will start the players who served him and us so admirably last term, but it is a problem. Finding the right players in the current market is tough but it has to be addressed. Anyone signing now will not be match-fit, certainly won’t be Pochettino fit, so that’s a couple of months before they are anywhere near up to speed. By then the league will be rushing ahead at full-pelt and the Champions League on the go. Already one injury to a full-back leaves us without cover, so others will have to shift around. Wanyama’s preseason has been disrupted but Dier can’t cover for him because he’s needed at full-back and he’s not able to be a wing-back. And so forth.

For once, at Tottenham Hotspur it is not hubris to say that we should buy top quality footballers. We are good enough to aim high and not be disappointed. We should take on our rivals at home and in Europe. I may never write this truthfully again, but we are good enough. We cannot leave ourselves an injury away from failure.

This mindset is hard for Spurs fans to grasp. I wouldn’t call us long-suffering, that is reserved for fans of clubs like Charlton, Orient and Blackpool who have truly suffered at the hands of their owners. We are however accustomed to disappointment and the frustration of hopes unfulfilled. Pochettino has created something entirely special. I can’t bear to see it wasted. I can deal with not being special, it’s part of being a Spurs fan. I find it hard to come to terms with getting to the point of excellence then the possibility of chucking it away.

I am patient, what concerns me is the approach we are taking. As yet, Levy the master negotiator seems reluctant to address market conditions, with PL awash with cash creating transfer inflation and intense competition for quality, indeed also for those players a notch or two below the elite. One of the things I like about Levy is that he keeps schtum, in the media at least. This summer he broke cover, telling the NASDAQ that current spending levels in the PL are unsustainable.  And this is the problem with chairmen saying things in public. He may well be right both in terms of finance and morally, but placed in the context of the stadium costs and lack of investment in players, it comes over as smug self-justification. I sympathise with his views but if everyone else is playing by different rules, it’s no good shouting foul.

I have shared my rampant pride in what this Spurs team have achieved with Tottenham On My Mind readers for the past two seasons. I don’t want, in an ideal world, to see us engage in the footballing equivalent of an arms’ race. However, Levy’s self-imposed shackles on spending could destroy this teams’ progress more effectively than defeats by any of our rivals.

The cost of the new stadium, £50m for a full-back, the odious sight of Conte, Mourinho and Guardiola carping about the transfer market inflation they created. I get it, I understand the implications. Frankly I don’t understand the rigid salary structure at Spurs, which is the main factor holding us back in the market, rather than fees. We’ll always miss out on those on top whack, fine, it’s those bubbling under who might be appeased if we raised our limit from £100k to even £125k a week who will go elsewhere. I’ve argued this for a while, and here’s something from my fellow blogger the always excellent Spurs Report with figures that he has patiently compiled. Warning: contains facts.

Levy understands investments. We’ve created the asset of a club on the up, playing good football with a manager able to improve players across the board. Buying and keeping players is an investment in the club’s future on and off the pitch. It generates income from a packed stadium, television and in worldwide sales of merchandise. It keeps supporters happy too, and that includes him, however awkward that is for some to accept. It’s because I am convinced he cares for the club and am proud of this new ground, his project our future, that raises my frustration still further.

We have been here before, this is pre-season so enough, except to say – I think he would have sold before if money were his only objective. Levy has a view of himself as a long-term custodian of the club and its heritage, and maybe he’s been thinking long-term since he took over, with a grand, perhaps misguided, timescale to build the ground and only then truly compete. I know he keeps quiet but I wish I could ask him this, and get an honest answer.

Last night the S*n ran an interview with Danny Rose where he appears to say he will leave in search of more money. It’s the S*n – they’ve given it a negative spin whereas in fact Rose’s comments are not substantially different from a 5Live interview earlier this year where he came over as wanting the best for the club and that he could achieve success at Spurs if we invested in the team.

I’m not going to dissect the whole thing, although I would say it’s not very bright to criticise fans, most of us have shown first patience and then great pleasure in his performances. It’s extremely unwise and plain wrong to imply his manager has done little for him.

It hurts partly because fans have been so warm towards him. He comes over as self-absorbed with a lack of awareness of the bigger picture that distances him from supporters, and that is the quality fans abhor in the modern footballer. Partly though it exposes these long-held vulnerabilities in the club’s structure that were masked to a large extent by last season’s thrilling success. I despise the S*n, despise them lecturing me about my club, but if Rose is saying he is tempted to leave because he could double, triple his salary elsewhere, because we’re not investing enough in the team, then he’s merely expressing our fears as supporters.

Our absolute priority in the transfer market is keeping what we have. Walker has gone, see my previous piece, cracks are appearing now but the foundations appear intact. If we are not successful this season, these top-class players will be tempted to depart.

And what about us? Supporters are wary of change. It has to be managed with a degree of care. We are supporters not consumers with an emotional attachment to the club that shows itself in part in the well-established matchday routines, friendships and habits, all of which will be disrupted by Wembley. This is us, and the club would well to remember that. Whatever the shape of Levy’s long-term plans, we are part of it. Without us, he is nothing.

So far, the club’s disregard for fan sensibilities has been staggering. As soon as relatively high season ticket prices were announced, it became obvious that seat prices would be high too. The opportunity to fill Wembley for league games and give discounts all round was rejected. No ST amnesty was available. The new club-run ticket exchange charges £7.50 admin and comes into play only when all seats are sold, i.e. hardly ever. The club don’t respond to the THST but will do so if the papers get involved. In the US they have been constantly available to our loyal, passionate fans over there, whereas here I have been told there’s a sign outside the training ground saying players can’t stop for photos or autographs. Newcastle away tickets were sorted only at the end of last week – fans plan ahead to avoid ludicrous rail fares. The Juventus friendly was sold to an event company keen to fleece supporters with cheapest seats 2.5 times higher than the WHL equivalent last season, top price £90. I have never felt less engaged with a Spurs game than that one.

All of these pre-season problems could have been both predicted and avoided. It leaves a nasty taste.

As ever, I’m looking forward to the new season. It’s such a shame the justified optimism from the last two seasons isn’t automatically carrying over. All the more reason to get going and talk about football rather than conjecture. This pre-season piece is not much of a preview so: this is an outstanding team capable of outstanding things. The quality needs to be deeper – more options, cover for Kane, a touch more midfield creativity. Perhaps most of those extras will come by design or through the absence of signings from what we already have. Janssen, Wimmer to step up and, hang on, does Sissoko want to play to his potential? Moussa is our hero 2017-18, surely not… Wouldn’t want anyone other than Pochettino to be our manager, he is a stellar leader, although he faces a test himself, how to handle players who express doubts about being here. So far, his solution is to freeze them out, he may have to adopt a more conciliatory tone.

Above all, Spurs have to go out and take control of matches, to have the assurance of winners with determination rather than arrogance. Here, the team and the board come together. Levy has to show the same skill and ambition in taking control and bringing trophies to the club, now and in the future. I don’t think he sees it that way.

My main aim, as always, is being there. This could be disrupted this season, so bear with me on the blog, normal service could be disrupted because of other commitments, including something Spurs related, but I’ll still be around. Join me.

 

 

11 thoughts on “Spurs and the New Season: Potential Fulfilled or Frustrated?

  1. excellent article and well considered on a number of points. I also are concerned that the economics of the new stadium and keeping pace with players wages and by default transfer fees will impact with team investment despite Levy’s denial.
    With regard to our players wages it does seem that we do pay less than other teams in the top 6 but suspect that given the team improved league positions and performances over the last two seasons have the wages/contracts increased accordingly ? The one player whose wages level does concern me is that of Toby Alderweireld. He is certainly the best central defender we have had since Ledley King and the one player we simply cannot afford to lose.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alan,I enjoyed the piece and would like to leave my observations.Since Levy has become chairman he has changed Tottenham from a failing entity to a top club,we are not in hock we have a fantastic training ground,soon the best most modern ground in Europe,fantastic team and when all fit the bench will be a bit light but not bad.We are not Chelsea,Manu or City who can pay vast wages but 100,000 per week is not to be sniffed at ,Rose has been paid big bucks for the past six months and now wants out,Potch made Rose now he wants to serve Manu for big money.Let him go l say we do not want a stirrer in the camp.Potch has made the team what they are while I’d love top players on top wages in abundance like all fans I realise with a gate of 36000 miracles have been worked.As a fan of over 50 years I am very grateful to Daniel & Potch
    Perrymann

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Alan. At the end of this summer, at last a shaft of common sense among all the speculation and unsubstantiated static that the close season has promoted. Like you, I fear that 2017-18 could be a true disappointment in the wake of the past two, fascinating,seasons. But as an inveterate Spurs loyalist over almost six decades, a tiny spark of faith, hope (but little charity) remains in spite of the ominously dark clouds that appear (predicted) to be gathering.

    All I can feel is that even if relegation were to occur, I can’t imagine any other team sparking my interest.

    COYS

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A really well thought out piece, Alan. My tuppence worth is one of many mixed thoughts, where I end up arguing with myself about 2 seconds later! Like you I love this team and would genuinely be sorry to see any of them replaced by some Johnny come lately £100m big time signing (as if). The team is the strength in my opinion, I’m not sure all of them would do as well outside the safety net of their colleagues. By now they no doubt know each others strength and weakness, who needs a pull out and when. Take away that team dynamic and I think some would struggle to maintain such form. Flip side is of course some genuine stardust could be the thing that brings glory, but as you and no doubt many others have said, who can we realistically afford that is a game changer? I genuinely am unable to think of anyone. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look of course.
    I’m not overtly worried by the huge spending in Manchester. Just because you pay frightening money for someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are any better than someone they got the previous year at a less inflated fee . I personally rate Lukaku, but he probably could have been bought last season for about £40m perhaps. They’ve now paid £70m plus for him, but is he any better than last season because he was valued at £30m more? What does worry me , is how big their squads are and their strength in depth. City spent £45m on Walker then another £25m on someone else for the same position the next day. One of them are going to be a Mr grumpy, irrespective of their earnings. I can understand why City do it, but that could cause as many problems as it solves. If you don’t play, you will struggle when called upon, in all likelihood. “Its a tough one , Jeff….. “. etc
    Anyway, in the absence of a return of Bale ( and Ledley King to come out of retirement saying we’re dreaming here), my wish would be lobbing extra wages at those players we do have to ensure they stay, and sign someone in the mould of Chelsea’s Azpilicueta, who can do a grand job in any position along the back.
    Hope you enjoy the season and continue to keep us entertained with such well reasoned and thought out articles.
    Cheers, DB.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Articulates and crystallises every point and problem superbly . The plan seems to have always been to sell to the US. It may well have happened earlier but the 0-5 defeat to Liverpool that led to AVB departure came on the very day they were guests of honour in Dec 2013. More fortuitous for the owners than Levy may have thought at the time perhaps.

    Everything we are told is caveated with the objective of joining the elite. Ground, training complex, academy, pricing, accept for the most crucial part; wages and fees to keep and attract the elite player..

    The club doesn’t have the type of billionaire owner that will make unrepayable loans but we do have enough revenue, income, profit, to be more competitive with the wage structure. Prudent but a better middle ground.

    My fear has always been that the blind faithful who cried disloyal when we questioned the logic of surrendering to Arsenal or Crystal Palace at home in very winnable cup competitions, with the trophies will come mantra were wrong. You can’t pause whilst you arrange the deckchairs, opportunity has to be taken when it presents itself not when you’re ready for it.

    Martin

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  6. I’m frustrated by the lack of progress in strengthening the squad but I’m not buying ‘the wages aren’t enough’ argument. They’ll never be enough whilst football teams are run as vanity projects and not businesses. I’m resigned to players like Rose going as long as we get the right amount of money and replace. Rose and Walker have only been ‘elite’ players for the last two seasons. They weren’t Bale or Modric in terms of natural ability. Rose was a bang average midfielder. Walker was a poor defender. There are players out there with more ability who can be moulded into that role.
    Knowing the Portuguese league reasonably well, I’d say that there are a lot of decent players available because anyone is up for sale at the right price as all three top clubs need to sell to survive. The wages will be much better. Wolves have managed to sign half of Portugal thanks to Jorge Mendes!
    We should have had a right back by now. Cancelo (ex Benfica now Valencia) or Pereira (Porto) both under £25m. Just pay the money and there’s £25m change from the Walker deal. Midfield, Gelson probably out of reach but Adrien Silva, Cavalho, Pizzi and a number of others all worth a look. It’s not to say that we should sign any of these specifically but players are out there, affordable and fit into our wage structure.
    Pre-season is the time to bed players in as the physical demands of the Premiership are far higher. Bringing players in after the start of the season is difficult for those players professionally and personally. We make the same mistakes year after year. I’m sure Sissoko arriving in pre-season would have been a different proposition to Sissoko arriving at end of transfer window.
    Still, it’s good to start the season feeling unsettled and nervous. It is the Tottenham way!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks Alan,

    From ticket prices to no signings and the imminent collapse of wage structure or risk more want aways to injuries and 38 away games we’ve certainly got all our ducks in a row ready to shoot ourselves in the foot this season. Never dull at Spurs.

    Very disappointed in Rose (he was working as a loaned out FB at Sunderland when he met Poch, who picked him up and shook him up and turned him around into something new), not for his sentiments, not all of them anyhow, but the timing and public nature of outburst, but also the choice of the S*n.

    UTS

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  8. You write very well considered points from a balanced perspective.
    It’s always enjoyable reading your pieces.
    I wouldn’t worry too much about the perceived lack of team investment. Ultimately, it’s up to a very talented, well drilled squad of young men to fulfill their potential, considering the calibre of guidance they’ve consistently received for 3 years.
    Extras would only be the cherries on fresh icing and cake.
    The club is quite different to the one you recall of your youth, or even the eighties. It’s in capable hands.
    Go ahead, pinch yourself and believe. Remember, audere est facere.

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  9. Pingback: It’s time for Spurs to shatter the wage structure | The Spurs Report

  10. Interesting read Alan, thanks. As was the Spurs Report piece you linked to.

    At this point, I am inclined to cut Levy quite a lot of slack. Longer term, it’s hard to argue he hasn’t done a fantastic job getting us here. Sure, there have been poor transfer dealings and the brinksmanship Levy often employs sometimes lets us down. But it is an understandable overall approach. I also agree that maybe he is being too cautious about lifting the lid a little on the wage ceiling but, again, not that it wouldn’t be pretty much suicidal to try to attract the quality of player we want by competing with the mega-rich clubs on wages.

    What is particularly problematic this window I think is that we need a higher quality of recruit – not a top class finished product, but capable of challenging our (much improved from say 5 years ago first eleven) AND with potential to get even better but hax not been scooped up by City et al and doesn’t cost the earth in transfer fees or wages. That’s bloody tough!

    I hear we have been linked with players such as: Barkley, Davinson Sanchez (Ajax), Keite Balde (Lazio) and Cancelo (Valencia). These players all ‘fit the profile’ but of course there are difficulties. Although not their top/primary target, the rich clubs have some interest in players like this as squad fillers or ones for the future, and the players pretty naturally prefer a bigger name club e.g. I’ve heard that we seemed to be close to a deal for Balde (who is in the last year of his contract) but, it seems, Juve have told the player they want him – either now, at a lower price then we offered, or for free next year. The general inflation and the ‘Neymar factor’ are also especially noticeable with this level of player. Selling clubs hold out in the hope that one of the big boys will come in and pay double or triple what Spurs are offering.

    At the end of the day, I hope to god we manage to recruit a few players of that kind of quality and potential. But I suspect we won’t get as many as we would all like – perhaps one or at most two, and one or two less exciting signings in the N’koudou, N’jie mould.

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