Let’s review the facts on the ground at Tottenham Hotspur: The team is, by some distance, the sixth wealthiest club in England. In fact, if you look at the most recent numbers on annual turnover, the gap between Liverpool and Spurs is slightly larger than the gap between Spurs and West Bromwich Albion. The gap between Arsenal and Spurs, meanwhile, is £30m larger than the gap between Spurs and Burnley.
At present, we’re building a new stadium. And we need to sign a number of key players to extensions that will substantially increase their wages, starting with Christian Eriksen but also including his former Ajax teammate Jan Vertonghen and Erik Lamela.
Put another way, we’re a club that is already disadvantaged relative to the other members of the Sky Six. We have fewer financial resources and the resources we do have are tied up in a stadium deal and potential contract extensions for our key players.
So as we try to compete with those bigger clubs and as we try to build a stadium, we’re also trying to not completely destroy ourselves financially.
That’s the background to keep in mind in evaluating our squad heading into the 2016-17 season.
It’s also the background that a number of Spurs fans seem to be forgetting as they consider our activity during this transfer window:
(5/5) TL;DR version: after tailing off using 24 players in PL (only 20 started), Spurs now have 22 *including* those out of favour. Madness.— Huw Davies (@thehuwdavies) August 30, 2016
Here is a full list of likely senior team players assuming the N’Koudou and Pau Lopez transfers go through and no other players are signed on deadline day:
- GK (3): Hugo Lloris, Michel Vorm, Pau Lopez
- FB (4): Danny Rose, Ben Davies, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier
- CB (4): Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Kevin Wimmer, Cameron Carter-Vickers
- CM (5): Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama, Harry Winks, Tom Carroll
- AM (6): Erik Lamela, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Heung-Min Son, Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, Josh Onomah
- CF (2): Harry Kane, Vincent Janssen
That’s 21 outfield players. Yes, that is often considered a smaller squad, but there are a couple additional things to keep in mind that make the situation look a bit better:
- Academy grads like Marcus Edwards, Kyle Walker-Peters, and Shayon Harrison can probably play early round Cup games.
- The concern about Champions League fixtures is over-stated: UCL fixtures might feature more challenging opponents than the Europa League, but in terms of travel schedules, the Champions League is far better than the Europa League.
- Most important, many of our 21 players can play other positions in a pinch. Eric Dier can play as a center back or right back. Jan Vertonghen can play left back. Mousa Dembele can play either midfield role or a wide attacking role. Dele Alli can play a midfield role. Harry Kane can play in the attacking band. Certainly, none of those situations are ideal, but they are acceptable emergency options given our financial limitations as a club.
Ultimately, there are only three obvious places where one could reasonably complain about our depth—right back, center back, and central midfield. We will be in bad shape if Kyle Walker, Mousa Dembele, or two of our center backs get hurt or suspended for any length of time this year.
But here’s the thing: Last season we might have had more players, but we had far fewer that we could rely on in big fixtures. We had 13 players capable of performing at an elite level—our locked-in 11 plus Son and Kevin Wimmer. (Maybe Ben Davies can be counted there as well.) Our other backups—Chadli, Mason, Bentaleb, Clinton, and Trippier, most notably—were major downgrades from the players they were replacing. This season, we almost certainly have 15 players we can count on to play considerable minutes at a high level: Our normal first 11, which is unchanged from last season, plus Son, Wimmer, Janssen, and Wanyama. If you trust Winks, Onomah, and Davies to be good enough to play regular minutes, that list goes up to 18. Georges-Kevin N’Koudou is a wildcard here as he might make 19.
For a club in our current financial situation, that’s excellent. We don’t have the means to keep 22 above-average-to-very-good EPL quality players on the books and happy with minimal playing time. We can’t afford to pay Pedro or Memphis major wages to be an occasional starter. A club of our size will only ever be able to afford ~16-18 established EPL-quality players. The rest of the squad will necessarily be made up of players from the academy, aging veterans, or bad signings who have no business playing at a club of our size but who are there because we need numbers. These days, the remainder is made up entirely of that first group—and that’s fantastic news for the club.
Heading into a season with 21 trustworthy outfield players, several of whom can play multiple roles, is totally fine. There’s no need to panic.