The advent the Christmas season also means that attention starts turning to the January transfer window. Tottenham Hotspur hasn’t done a whole lot of wheeling and dealing mid-season during Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure, but in an interview with David Hytner in The Guardian, he did have some things to say about Spurs’ transfer activity in general, and this upcoming transfer window in particular.
Specifically, Pochettino said that he’s interested in “tak[ing] advantage of the English market and add an English player,” but that he’s taking the long view and trying to beat his competition to next season, rather than focusing on someone who can help the team now.
“This summer was a very good example because we signed good players but it was so late and with no pre-season [for them], you pay. You then need six or seven months for the player to be fit, adapt himself in everything and that is always against us.
“The most important thing that we have been talking about is to identify our targets and, on 3 July, when we start our pre-season, they are here. If we don’t, it’s so difficult for them to help the team and then, during the season, you are going to pay. It’s so important today to identify your targets for the summer. If not and we wait until May and, before we sign, we sell, it’s so difficult to bring in players that can help.”
That right there is why Tottenham usually don’t make many, if any, moves in the January transfer window. Pochettino’s tactics are robust and take time to learn, and he relies on the fitness of his players to implement them. Rare is the player who can come into the squad halfway through the season and make an immediate impact. The past two seasons, the only transfer activity came from players departing Tottenham, either permanently or on loan; the last addition to the squad was Dele Alli in January of 2015, and he was promptly loaned back to MK Dons until the end of the season.
In fact, it’s exactly players like Dele that Pochettino is trying to target, and quickly, before they are snapped up by their top four rivals. It’s a suggestion that Spurs are again going to try and find young players who might be overlooked by the other clubs and who could work their way into the team.
“The Dele signing is a very good example of the need to anticipate. We cannot be reactive because if we are, we are going to lose. If we are going to compete in the same period with City, United, Liverpool or Chelsea, then we are going to struggle to bring in the players we want. Maybe we need to sign the player in January and they can join in the summer.
“We tried to make early signings last summer but we could not, for different reasons. Now, we are going to try again to do things early. If we cannot again, I am going to say: ‘Come on, we could not again!’”
But who is that mysterious “English player” that Poch refers to? The obvious answer would be Everton midfielder Ross Barkley. That saga appears to be far from over, and the signing would even make sense within the context of Pochettino’s “we need to move now” comments. Barkley is still recovering from a serious injury, and even if he signed in January it’s unlikely he would have an impact on the squad this season.
However, if Spurs do manage to sign him next month, he would have several months, plus the summer offseason, to work his way back up to fitness, learn Pochettino’s system, and acclimate. If you’re a believer that Pochettino can midfield-whisper Barkley into an elite midfielder, that should be music to your ears.
It might not be Barkley, though — Spurs are still linked to Fulham left back Ryan Sessegnon, who could serve as an eventual replacement for one of Ben Davies, and there have been spurious links in the past months to a few young English players in the lower leagues.
Pochettino also noted that the loan deals for both Josh Onomah and Cameron Carter-Vickers have release clauses in them. With Erik Lamela back and Victor Wanyama reportedly on his way, it’s unlikely that we could see either of them recalled, but it’s also nice to know there’s a “break glass in case of emergency” option.
By now we should not expect a whole lot of glitz and glamour in the January window, but if Pochettino is right, the club is already looking ahead to 2018-19. Any moves, should they come, might be with an eye towards Spurs’ first season in the new stadium and now their current campaign.