The summer of sell to buy at Tottenham has ended with no selling and no buying. After all that waiting for Toby Alderweireld or Danny Rose to be sold, to raise the money to bring in new players, both are still at the club. And so Spurs finished their window this afternoon without a single signing.
To do no business at all is unusual for any club nowadays, especially one which is now a regular in the Champions League. They are the first Premier League side to not sign anyone in a summer window since it was introduced in 2003. But it is a result of the unique position Tottenham have carved out for themselves, through their success and their self-sustaining model.
Spurs are one of the best teams in the country, which means there are very few players in the Premier League who could improve them. But those players are naturally out of reach for a team with Spurs’ spending power. Especially when the club is building a new £850million stadium, and paying for it itself. That money has to come from somewhere.
So after a window of surprising stability, Tottenham have been putting the bravest possible face on how their window worked out. They are proud to have retained the full strength of their squad. Last summer they sold Kyle Walker to Manchester City for £52million. This year they have not sold a first-teamer, and even if Rose does go abroad on loan, as is expected, he only started nine Premier League games last season.
“I am happy to keep all the squad together,” Mauricio Pochettino said earlier this afternoon. “The club made a massive effort to try to extend contracts, like Harry Kane. To keep our best players was our objective and goal and we have achieved that.”
And Spurs certainly have done well keeping onto their best players over the course of this transfer window, pushing the boat out on salaries too. Pochettino himself signed a big new deal, Kane signed a five-year deal starting at £150,000 per week, Erik Lamela a new deal on £100,000 per week. They have rebuffed interest in Christian Eriksen and hope to tie Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli to new deals in the new season.
The Tottenham team that has achieved so much under Pochettino – third, second and third place finishes in the Premier League, 86 points in 2016-17, reaching the Champions League knock-out phase – is still pretty much in place. More so than anyone expected, given Alderweireld is still at the club. Tottenham will get less money for him now if they sell him in January – and much less next summer – but they can play here for another half-season now.
So all the outcry from Spurs fans, and the talk of a protest march against Daniel Levy, speaks more of modern football than it does of any real disaster to befall the club. And the demand from fans for constant improvement, spending and signings, for the sake of novelty if nothing else.
The club hope that anxious fans will understand that they cannot always sign every player they might want. “Of course, it's difficult to understand for people that Tottenham didn't sign or sell players,” Pochettino said. “But sometimes in football you need to behave differently. If we are happy with our squad and cannot improve our squad, sometimes it's better to keep our squad together.”
While Tottenham do still have a very strong team, the team that will play at Newcastle on Saturday will not be so strong. The combination of the World Cup and injuries means that they will not be able to put out anything like a first-choice team this weekend. And while that will be solved in time, it adds to the feeling of frustration from fans who wanted more new faces. In midfield, especially, Victor Wanyama is out, Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele are working their way back to fitness after the World Cup, Harry Winks is still recovering from ankle surgery, and so Pochettino is likely to pair Christian Eriksen with a youngster in the middle of the pitch.
Eventually when Spurs have all their players back they will be strong again. “We are going to be better, no doubt about that,” Pochettino insisted today. But until that point comes there will still be inevitable questions about why Spurs did not sign anyone, even if the reasons for that are legitimate.
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