The transfer window is closed, and we’ve all had a couple of days now to think about how it went. Tottenham Hotspur ended up making five signings, when two weeks before the window slammed shut they hadn’t made any.
But Davinson Sanchez, Paulo Gazzaniga, Juan Foyth, Serge Aurier, and Fernando Llorente were not signed in a vacuum. It’s worth discussing how good a job Spurs did in the end. Did the club meet its goals? Did it fix the problems in the side?
Here are a few opinions, from members of the Cartilage Free Captain masthead.
On the one hand, Tottenham’s transfer window didn’t turn out to be as bad as it could have. But on the other hand, they didn’t end up filling roles that were absolutely critical to this team in a Champions League season. Spurs ended up with a young dynamic center back with a high ceiling, a top-five right back with a troubling reputation, a 32-year old striker who will no doubt turn into a fan favorite, a third-choice goalkeeper, and a defensive lottery ticket. What they DIDN’T sign (besides Ross Barkley, which is a positive) is any help at all at central midfield or attacking midfield, two areas that they desperately needed for depth purposes.
That’s inexcusable, frankly, and shows just how much it hurts this club not to have a functioning scouting and analytics network. It’s super frustrating that Spurs waited as long as they did to get serious about this transfer window, and there’s a strong argument that their dallying directly cost the club points in the first three matches of the season. Maybe Daniel Levy was waiting for a last minute super awesome deal. As much as I love him, Fernando Llorente ain’t it.
Serge Aurier is a very good player and will help mitigate the loss of Kyle Walker. Sanchez will probably turn into an excellent player. Still, Spurs ended the window with a +£20m net spend, meaning there was money to spend on better players. While I admire Daniel Levy’s fiscal prudence, this window was super dumb and Spurs could have and should have done much better.
Let me say that I'm glad the window is closed. It was a frustrating and, often times, infuriating window. It seemed like the club didn't have much of a plan even though they knew before the end of the season that Kyle Walker wanted to leave. Links never seemed to materialize or would stall out when a signing was imminent. In the end, there were some things to like and things not to like, so I'll break down my thoughts with the good, the bad, and the ugly:
The Good: Spurs kept their core together and managed to bring in new faces.
I know we're all terrified of the day when we hear of someone like Dele or Christian Eriksen saying they want to move, but this window did not bring that, even though Walker bolted and Danny Rose did an interview that raised all of our blood pressure levels. Kane, Dele, Eriksen, Sonny, Dier, Toby, Verts... all of them are still here. Spurs managed to bring in some names I can get behind such as Davinson Sanchez, who is a physical freak of nature. I have no idea what to expect from Juan Foyth so he's a lottery ticket in every sense of the description. Serge Aurier is about as close to a like-for-like substitute Spurs could get for Walker, and if he keeps his head clear and out of trouble, he'll supplant Trippier quickly as the first choice right back. Fernando Llorente was an interesting deadline day deal, but he had 15 goals last season and it seems he was brought in to provide depth and experience. Plus, look at that man: He's handsome as hell!
The Bad: While Spurs improved, others improved more.
I think this squad is at least as good as last season's squad or maybe slightly better. It's too early to tell, but I'm comfortable saying that it's at least on par. The problem with this is that other clubs improved by leaps and bounds. United, City, Pool, and Chelsea spent approximately all the money in the universe combined and, while I know we do not have the disposable cash that those clubs have, it's still frustrating to see huge names go to those sides and Spurs still had to settle for players who may blossom into stars but aren't stars just yet.
This team desperately needed some pace and skill on the wings to create a more dangerous threat but it ended up not being addressed. It needed depth in the central midfield area and that didn't get addressed. While I'm glad that the club is waiting on Ross Barkley and will attempt to get him for cheap in January, I have a hard time believing that Barkley was our only true target in that area other than the insane belief that an awful Andre Gomes was Plan B.
The Ugly: I have no faith that this team will sniff the title like they have the last two seasons.
Going into the season, we knew the direct rivals of Spurs were going to splash the cash to improve. I believe that City and United are going to be in a dogfight for those top two spots and the remaining Champions League spots will be contested by Spurs, Chelsea, and Liverpool. This season could be pure chaos with how good these top sides are, and while I love our Starting XI, our depth is still a problem. Fernando Llorente is not the type of signing I wanted to supplement the attack, there's still a lack of true quality options off the bench with one or two exceptions. This is going to cost us in the stretch, mark my words.
The writers, and specifically Michael Caley, talked about running a deficit to bridge us to the New White Hart Lane era. While I agreed that it seemed like a fine idea, I never got the sense that Levy was going make this kind of move, which would obviously be out of character for a hard negotiator who drives a bargain. The fact that we suitably replaced Walker, added depth at CB (which has a knock-on effect of adding midfield depth since it looks like Dier will play more CM), and added a proven scorer is a good step.
The question is whether a good step is sufficient enough, as teams like Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City have made massive leaps with new talent. After two successive seasons of progression -- both in results and in performances -- this is a year of treading water. People have said that we weren't supposed to be so good so soon under Pochettino, and I think this window reflects that we are just a little over our skis right now. Not a bad window, but whether it turns out to be enough is questionable.
Going into the summer I was expecting to lose Kyle Walker, keep the rest of our core, and make one very stupid signing (Barkley, probably) and one right back to replace Walker — probably Ricardo Pereira. Given that expectation, I am mostly OK with the way the summer went. Serge Aurier will be a capable replacement for Walker. Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth are intriguing prospects in central defense. Fernando Llorente offers something new up top. These are all good things. We also didn't have a Sissoko-type signing, although it would seem that it wasn't for lack of trying, given the persistent links to Barkley and Andre Gomes.
Ultimately, the problems we had at the start of the window are still there. The scouting and analytics teams are mostly non-existent at Spurs and we identify mostly crap targets as a result. I don't like how often I find myself looking enviously at Liverpool these days. That said, we kept the core together. We found a good replacement for Walker. We brought in some young prospects. There's a lot to like here. But the problems we had at the start of the summer are not any closer to being resolved, and that could still be a massive problem for us in the future.
Right now the window gets a C+, but the club has a chance to earn some extra credit post-window. With good actions on homophobia and raises for the likes of Toby, Harry, Dele, Dier, and Eriksen, I can get to a B. Spurs are still dangerously thin in attacking depth and missing out on a guy like Balde was a real letdown, as in addition to depth, Spurs are lacking in pacy dribblers that add a different look up front. Aurier's homophobic statements are a well-documented problem, which makes it hard to credit Levy for getting a deal there, even though in a vacuum he's at least as good as Walker and Spurs turned a profit in the exchange. If Spurs take actions to take on homophobia, I'll view that transfer differently.
On the other hand, keeping the core of this team together -- save Walker -- despite lower wages is an underdiscussed accomplishment, and I think needs to be considered the most impressive thing Spurs did this window. I hope to see raises that will continue that success into next year, when the stadium opens and Spurs have higher match day revenues. Spurs surprised me by not acquiring Ross Barkley, or for 12 scary hours Andre Gomes, for too much money. Llorente is pretty cheap depth who gives Spurs a different look against Pulis-ball and he has performed quite well as a sub in his older years.
The biggest open question is Davinson Sanchez. He is unproven and young but his numbers in the Eredivisie were excellent, especially as a passer and in buildup, and he could really make the back-3 system tick if things go well, marauding forward and helping create from the back. Foyth, well, who knows. If Sanchez comes good, Spurs have much more depth at CB and DM than they did last year, with Dier now one of four guys able to play in the first XI at each position.
GRADE: C+, potential to be a B