Another deadline day has come and gone, and sure enough, Tottenham Hotspur supporters are angry. The Saido Berahino transfer saga ended with everyone on all sides steaming and fuming, and without a new midfielder to add, the tide has started to truly turn on Daniel Levy and ENIC. But, should it? Is there more to the lack of Harry Redknapp-style wheeling and dealing on deadline day than meets the eye, or the angry tweet?
Spurs are short in midfield and up front, there’s no denying this. The fact that Harry Kane doesn’t have a true backup and that Eric Dier is the starting defensive midfielder is not at all ideal. Mauricio Pochettino said as much, using cultured metaphors before the Everton game. “It is never easy. There are always a lot of players around the world that you can sign. But it’s like when you are in love with some lady – there are a lot of women around the world but you want only one.”
That one was Saido Berahino. Amid all of the public bluster from both sides, Berahino’s deadline day twitter meltdown and rumors of bids that turned out to be just that (rumors), Berahino is unhappy at West Brom, and Spurs are unhappy without him.
The calls for Daniel Levy to spend more than Berahino is worth are silly, even out of a position of absolute desperation. And whether Levy is truly to blame — when it’s clear West Brom were in no position to sell even if Berahino went on strike, which now looks likely — is questionable at best. Levy did his business behind closed doors, while Jeremy Peace decided to take the other option and go public.
Berahino, like Clinton N’Jie and Heung-Min Son before him, are not out and out strikers. It’s clear based on Mauricio Pochettino’s preference and the paper links that Spurs didn’t want out and out strikers, even as warm bodies to back up Kane. This is why there was no Charlie Austin bid, even as Spurs twitterati begged and pleaded for it. As evidenced last deadline day, when Spurs signed Benjamin Stambouli (who is now at PSG) the plan is to stock the squad with youth team products instead of deadline day misfits if major targets could not be acquired.
If Spurs couldn’t sign Berahino, Vincent Wanyama, Sven Bender or whoever the next link turned out to be, Pochettino would make do with what he has. If that means playing N’Jie or Son as lone strikers to spell Kane, or God forbid Nacer Chadli again, he’d do it. If whatever warm body was signed didn’t work, it is highly likely that he’d meet the same fate as Stambouli, Etienne Capoue, Younes Kaboul, Emmanuel Adebayor or any other player that Pochettino doesn’t rate and wouldn’t use.
All of this negativity and dourness clouds what has been a surprisingly effective window for Tottenham. Gone are most of the deadweight players in the squad, bar Adebayor and Federico Fazio, and in are young players with a hunger to improve. Also in is a player in Son Heung-min that seemed out of Spurs’ reach just one week ago. They have a more compact, tightly-knit and improving squad, even if it means there will be growing pains this year. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“Sometimes you need to take a decision, sometimes you need to wait, and sometimes it is difficult for people to understand why we do not sign a player,” said Pochettino in the same press conference, and he’s correct. If targets that were the correct fit could not be signed, why fit expensive square pegs into round holes when academy and youth players could be given a run out and do the exact same job? It’s sound business, and fans will get on side if these players succeed ;maybe even more so than if a Stambouli- or Fazio-like player does.
The anger has been compounded by a slow start, with Kane struggling to find some form. Winning cures all, and if the wins come, the anger will be mollified. And even then, was Tottenham realistically going to finish in the top four ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United, two other teams that fairly severely botched their own transfer windows? It’s clear that a new approach has been undertaken at Spurs Lodge, and it’s one that has grated on people, since it doesn’t seem to match the ambition (or money spend) of other clubs around them.
Has this transfer window been perfect for Spurs? Hardly. But they have had worse windows, and their squad even being light in key areas is still better than it was a year ago. But it doesn’t change what was already the direction of the club since Mauricio Pochettino was hired.
The club is building, slowly and sustainably. That comes with pain. It’s abundantly clear that not many want to deal with that pain.
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