Where do we even begin?
Tottenham, the enigma, Tottenham the paradox. Tottenham in the midst of the greatest transformation in their history, from White Hart Lane to new bricks with no true name (it's still the Lane yeah). Tottenham, a new dawn but the same old principles anchoring us back. Austerity you say? Hiked up ticket prices it is then to bulk up the millions from TV revenue. Why? Why not? We've not been perceived as supporters for a long time now. Consumers, yes. Ones forever tied in by our loyalty to keep buying those season tickets regardless of the rising cost. Not all of us. But most of us. The new stadium has been built for future enterprise, including 'fans' that have yet to frequent the experience we adored at the old ground. The fanbase is being franchised and there is nothing we can about it.
After-all, ENIC is a business. An investment company. No doubt when this club is sold the new owners will too also seek to maximise profits. There's no escaping it. Whether the pre-FFP days have given us a gulf as deep as the one that existed when Sky Sports entered the game...it's something we constantly chew and choke on.
Tottenham. What is it exactly? Where is Keith when you need him?
For elegant and insightful reviews of this summer I suggest the following reads:
WindyCOYS - So here we are
Tottenham on my Mind - Spurs transfer window inaction shows fatal lack of ambition
Charles Richards - The Spurs Summer of 2018 - Money's too tight to mention
I'll stick to what I do best. The philosophical, the existential, the messy. Get high, get drunk and try to decipher the code. Expect the odd grammatical error and typo (time is not currently my friend).
A Summer of Discontent
We’ve truly never had it this good. The best, most stable and enjoyable and consistent period for generations. I'm referring to the football. With each season we are written off, from within and from the outside. Yet here we are. Still looking up not down. Whilst we retain hundreds of millions of pounds worth of talent, we look at the incoming stream of new blood and see nothing. At this point even a tumbleweed would be greeted with joy. Might even get a chance at CM. So why the inactivity? Why the conundrums and contradictory soundbites? Why have we not signed one single player?
Can we embrace the ethic that if we can't find the right players then onwards we trudge? Ignoring all the indications that even with the brilliant set of players we have - it's not enough. How can we protect them as they march into battle in what might well be another hugely contested and congested fixture list?
We know, deep down, that even if Levy spent £150M this summer we still couldn’t attract the same ilk of players that go to Chelsea or City. Hard knock life. So is the next tier of players available detrimental to our ambitions to consolidate? Of course not. Even if some of our targets are young or 'for the future' surely we can work towards intelligent stop-gaps. Players that might not initially excite but aid the team in grafting through the games without concern of fatigue.
I'm not saying we should be unearthing another Dele Alli (who was hardly an unknown). But if Spurs can't sign heavyweights for reasons stipulated and if the next set of targets are too difficult to sign (whatever that means) then surely there are more options? Yes? No?
Perhaps I'm over simplifying things but the issue with Spurs isn't that we don't spend money. We do. It's the quality of players we seek to sign as first targets, second targets and (gulp) last day panic buys. Or rather the quality the fans demand are the ones Poch would ideally like to add to his squad. Players to improve the squad but equally so improve the first team when called upon. To have depth, to be able to rotate and rely on alternative options to avoid slumps in form that we often experience. We have to have a fighting chance when considering the quality of players on the benches of City and Chelsea. Even Liverpool have chucked money about with expansive freedom, along with midtable sides too*.
*Of course some teams spending lots of money is just a consequence of how poorly they've been managed prior to this summer and thus require overhauls.
Think of it this way, we want players the same tier as our very best players. How much would our very best cost another club to sign them? So are we realistic with our expectations? Is it tangible to suggest our position in the hierarchy is so extreme, so unique that somehow we are caged into a corner unable to attain the services of a single player that can help Pochettino and his players embrace that all important competitive streak, within the club and against opposing rivals?
We truly are in purgatory if we believe that's the case.
Is this the textbook classic play from our chairman, refusing to pay a penny above any given valuation? We know that the Premier League often bends the logic for acquisitions as we've seen this season. Clubs are paying over the odds for their targets. Selling clubs are accepting the hefty difference, obviously. The buying club is taking no prisoners in their pursuit to guarantee their rebuild. We don't appear to follow this path to success.
Or perhaps we need to loop back into the reality that the players we target (Ryan at Fulham, Jack at Villa and Wilfried at Palace) are not easy to possess because we give their clubs time to protect their assets from leaving. It's hard for a club to hold onto a player if another club bids beyond the markets valuation of said player. The crux here is the market is mostly irrelevant. You bid what you think the player is worth to be associated with your club and hope it matches what the opposing club feel is due compensation for losing him. But then, do we have the money to splash out in this manner? We're meant to. We've been told so, that the stadium and transfer budget do not collide. Yet here we are with nothing. Is this really a case of balancing the books and having to sell before we buy? We really gonna do this dance?
Have we failed because of the manner in which we've attempt to sign our targets? Too slow, methodical, not brave enough? I'm shrugging, I don't know. It's easy to conform to stereotype of course. We all know how our esteemed custodian, Mr Levy, 'works'. But then it's in direct conflict with say the Sanchez signing. Or any other signing in recent windows. We can conclude deals early and quickly and efficiently. So I'm back to shrugging again.
Tottenham's recent operating model is signing an Eriksen or a Dele. Because paying 70 million and 300k per week wages isn't viable (I keep repeating this because it just won't let go of me). Gone are the days we can pluck a Modric out of mainstream 'obscurity'. Everyone is on the map these-days. Buying potential (which arguably some of our targets can be classed as) isn't fixing the necessity to have fully fledged first teamers to bulk up our team to be on par with the likes of City and co.
Of course, this is altogether a different debate. Wanyama was mocked (as a signing) by many when he joined us. The suggestion from the wildlands of social media was that he was back up at best and didn't improve our first team. I think we owe Poch this much; most of the time a signing he wants is someone that can fit in and improve us. Regardless of the statue of the player. Because of his coaching. Most of the time. So Grealish might not appear to have been a universally approved target but in the manager we trust.
We end up with a Sissoko or a Janssen because they are easier to sign (sadly). But they are not good enough to improve us. They are not first choice targets. So we sometimes wait and wait until the better target(s) are viable and hope we get lucky. Perhaps overseas targets are easier (than English based) too but nothing has come our way from the continent, so shrugging here too.
If we don't get what we want, we end up with a Sissoko. The current issue is, we didn't even panic buy (a good thing I guess). But how could we when we have players we need to offload? The very same ones we signed that have failed to fit in. Then there's Danny and Toby that have perhaps simply delayed their departures for now.
We are in a state of flux that could have been avoided had we planned better during prior windows of opportunity (read more on this in Windy's blog). Easy to say with hindsight I guess. Spurs seem to be held back by their own endeavours to improve by not quite improving with ruthless execution. It's comical and perpetual.
We still sign very decent players in amongst the ones that raise question marks. We did so with the likes of Wanyama and then Sanchez. Lucas could prove to be another. This isn't a pro Levy thing either but Spurs are competing against clubs that have the financial platform we don't and that very platform is why they win titles (OH GOD, PLEASE MAKE ME STOP REPEATING THIS).
Their culture of success is based on the ability to attract the best players because of the pound note. Spurs are on the outside of it. You could argue we are purposely existing there, good enough to compete but not good enough to succeed. Meaning the club are always in a position to profit from selling our best players and keeping everything nice and tight. This isn't as conspiratorial as it sounds. It's quite probable. It's something I've seen discussed often.
I'm not a financial wizard so I won't pretend to understand whether Levy is genuinely holding back or if we are tied up thanks to the new stadium and debt and lack of naming rights. I do think it all feels deliberate though. Especially not signing anyone this summer. It feels like the club expected this would happen. Accepted it would be our fate. Unless of course, we are all reading too much into everything. But considering this is the first time ever a Prem side hasn't signed a single player in the summer window, you have to be highly suspicious.
If it wasn't on purpose, then it's borderline insanity to have failed to capture at least one player that can help us in the coming season. It means the structure internally has failed. Either that or we are about to witness the most astonishing maverick display of preparation in the history of football.
Poch has often stated he only wants to sign players to improve us and not sign marquees. He's contradicted himself recently and the comments about getting transfer work done early has fuelled the frustration. In his press conference for the Newcastle game he's practically defended the club and its position. Given excuses (including Brexit ffs). Read his book and he explains how he told Levy that we should only be looking at players that fit into the teams philosophy and style and nothing less. You see, some of it adds up and some of it leaves you scratching your chin. You admire Poch for his principles but then question them because of something he said in a presser.
Either we are aiming too high with our targets or our scouting pool is puddle deep. Or to repeat myself (SHOOT ME NOW), Levy doesn't overspend on what he thinks the valuation is. It goes back to what I said about trying to add the same level of quality to the squad - except so much of what we have achieved has been because of luck, accidental, circumstantial or thanks to specific individuals. Harry Kane came out of nowhere and it happened probably because of the club signing Roberto Soldado. But then football does this all the time. We're not special. You live, learn, make mistakes, correct them, attempt to move on. It's life, it's football.
You can plan and prepare and get nowhere. When we deluded ourselves for a decade or so back in the 90s and early 2000s, we still chased that dream. We still looked to spend money and build. We didn't start getting it right until the Martin Jol era. Before that it was clumsy and ill-fated time and time again. Even when we did improve, we kept looking to adapt and change. Try new methods. Directors of football. We kept pressing, kept pushing. With Poch, it's worked. Finally. Kane, the miracle, has given us stupendous hope along with what is a quite excellent first eleven. So why stop now? Why stop or stall or stagnate when we all know - chairman included - that football is so fragile and that history has taught us all can change over night?
If you want to romanticise it all, then look at the famous quotes from Blanchflower and Nicholson. If there has ever been a moment in time to reach for the stars, it's now. Instead we choose to snooze on a hammock as the moon shines in the dark night.
I'm keeping the faith that Poch is being genuine and true to himself. Because the alternative is, Poch is protecting his players and deep down is losing a battle he can not possibly win. Levy and him are meant to be on the same page. But we can't possibly know what agreement or discussions they've had behind closed doors.
Even if we spent that mythical 150 million, no doubt we'd all watch the criticism turn from the chairman onto the manager with the suggestion he's not good enough to take the team any further forward. This particular narrative has been running strong for years too. Selective thinking has to it dip to stealth mode when it's convenient (i.e. when Levy signs players). Poch won't have helped himself because he's stating he's okay with not signing any players, so pundits and fans won't forget or forgive this if things get sticky for us. The pressure is on. It's always on.
Maybe we've hit the ceiling in our current form. We require next stage evolution. A new board, new owner. Football is great. We need to keep arguing amongst ourselves because it tests our rationale and perspective. We'll still appreciate all the moments THFC gives us on the pitch. When it matters most, we are all one. What is scary is that we long to become what we constantly slag off. A City. A Chelsea. Anything for silverware right? No matter the cost. Right?
Let's be honest. Levy is doing you all a favour not signing new players. Saves you the time and effort slating them half way through the season.
Levy has taken us to within an inch of our life. We are on the edge of oblivion staring hell in the face and we're about to take another step into the fire. We are philosophically bankrupt. Bobby Buckle never envisaged this when he created Tottenham under that fabled lamp post on Tottenham High Road.
Not sure if I'm still j/k
Poch is telling us that sometimes in football we need to behave differently, that if we're happy with our squad and cannot improve it, it's better to keep them altogether. Yes. The one highlight of the summer is doing just that. Keeping the players together. There is nothing wrong with our first team, give or take a role here or there. The issue is cover for the first team. The issue is being able to compete without risk in the league, Champions League and FA Cup. We are always stretched. We over-achieve doing so because pound for pound we shouldn't be in the mix. So why limit our chances of going again by not strengthening? It's brain numbing that there hasn't been a single option available to us. Not one.
I'm not saying I'm happy or we should not want to improve either. I think Spurs are living in a world where to puncture the top tier we need to take a risk or consolidate above and beyond the expected because this opportunity might not be available for much longer. To puncture the top tier we need to behave like one of the rival clubs that will no doubt place obstacles ahead of us in the coming season. We can't keep playing the underdog even if we are technically and financially still one. Let's not pretend we don't posses some incredibly talented players. Put the fear of God into our rivals ffs, and push forward, push ahead for once. But alas no.
There is still no guarantee even if we do spend (as stated already). We've been spending every season and our fanbase still remains fragmented and hypocritical when looking to pin blame for our failures. But that's the risk right? We want to add to our squad because that is a fundamental of progression. It allows for competitiveness within our squad. It gives us that extra special something. If we end up with the same result in the end (top four, semi-final, good CL showing) then so be it. Maybe we look at Poch for not having enough or maybe we wait for that next step evolution. Or maybe this organic growth, these words of wisdom that Poch often shares is the definitive truth we can't grasp. That he means it when he says 'we do things differently'. Be it with a caveat (as stated at the end of the last season, we should sign players early etc etc)
Maybe the next level (under ENIC at least) isn't this comfortably-in-reach-target we all pretend and hope it is. Or is the point that we desire, without question, the want for success and that we retain the hunger for it regardless of all the constraints placed upon us?
That's a mantra that the very top teams have (along with their bank accounts). There is nothing wrong with that mentality. They appear to lead the business of football by using the product of football as a means to spearhead growth on and off the pitch. A balance that doesn't quite exist in harmony at Spurs. We need more than just desire. More than just doing it the right way. We need implementation. We need consolidation. We need to appreciate the outstanding work that has still been achieved by club and manager in spite of all things we seem to side step. Grab it by the f**king throat ffs.
We don't appear to have that. We dust off and go again from the same starting position every season.
We're back to the start of it all again (so much of everything needs to be repeated because I can't fathom a lot of the logic the club is giving us by not giving it to us). We have to do as much as we can do within the constraints of what we have available to us. Are we doing this? It's subjective for some and for others it's a massive NO. Whether we are over achieving or not, we are doing something we've not done before. We are competing. For now.
To keep up the tempo and aspire to dictate it we need that extra something. I would like to think this is enough for all of us. To aspire to succeed. If you do then you stand a chance of winning something. Glory isn't meant to be easy. We do love attempting it the hard way.
I just hope we keep our sh*t together as supporters either way. I get the feeling there is so much focus on the end product that everything else gets diminished when things get tough. One thing is for certain and that's nothing is for certain.
Levy has possibly taken Machiavellian tactics to a new level. Because if Poch wasn't aware and was lied to then the end will come sooner rather than later. If Poch is aware and is damage controlling then how does pressure work if he has problems this season? Does the chairman protect him in the same manner? You would hope. Chairman and manager are stood alone, together. No black box, no director of football. Just the two of them on one side and little context for the rest of us on the other.
With us moving away from Wembley (finally) and into our new home with cheese room and micro-brewery, this wasn't the stepping stone to a new future we expected. It's going to be tricky enough settling into the new Lane without the politics adding to the adjustment.
You have to give it us. Making no signings is the most Tottenham thing possible in terms of doing something as Tottenham as possible. The one positive is that if there is one thing we have been capable of doing under Pochettino, it's doing the complete opposite of what's expected.
The question is, what do you expect?