There’s no point sugarcoating it. Tottenham Hotspur’s 2018 summer transfer window was at best disappointing and at worst catastrophic, depending on which fan you talk to. For a club the size and status of Spurs, the idea of not signing a single player — nor letting any existing players of note leave — is almost unfathomable.
But we’ve all had (almost) a day to process this, and it’s worth some reflection: maybe this transfer window isn’t quite as bad as we all seem to think it is. Is there, to put it another way, a silver lining to not bringing anyone in this summer, but also not selling anyone either?
We put the question to the Cartilage Free Captain writing staff. Here are our thoughts.
Look, we should have signed somebody good. This is profoundly stupid and there aren’t silver linings to not signing anybody. In good news, it sounds like Toby might stay and play. That’s a pretty big silver lining. If Toby and Poche really did reach a truce (an armistice? a deténté?) then we’ve got a very strong back line.
In reasons for optimism despite it all: Lucas Moura looks really good and didn’t really play last year. He is playing for the best manager he’s ever played for and has loads of talent and adds a dimension to our attack that wasn’t there last year. I’m very excited to see what he can do and it seems like he’ll have every opportunity to do it. The other thing is that, well, we’ve got Dele Alli. He just turned 22 in April. Over the past three seasons he’s been everything Spurs needed him to be and has been very good but maybe all that change has prevented him from being truly great. This could be the year Dele leaps from stardom into superstardom.
[Editor’s note: Please welcome Avery to the Carty Free masthead as our newest contributor and opinion writer. I wish he had a better subject on which to debut.]
There’s been a fair bit of hysteria among Spurs supporters as we approached the end of this transfer window. I understand why. Going into our fifth season under Pochettino and moving into a new stadium, this summer was an opportunity to shore up our status as a team that will remain at the top for a while. Until now, each season’s success has felt uncertain: somehow, we manage a decent finish, but fall just short of greatness (I’m thinking of the second leg against Juventus this spring). And there’s plenty to worry about in this coming season. With everybody fully fit and present, we’ll be able to field a strong starting XI, but between the six injuries confirmed before our first game of the season and Sonny’s time off for the Asian Games, it’s easy to see how this goes wrong. Even one signing to bolster our attack (Kovacic, Martial, for example—I don’t rate Grealish) and/or one to bolster the defence (I was a fan of Yerry Mina before he went to Everton) would have given us the comfort to breathe out a little bit.
That said, I’m inclined to take a more optimistic view of our transfer window. Assuming that Poch and Levy haven’t fallen out, I trust their joint leadership. If our inactivity this transfer window was a product of a consensus between them, then they’re probably right. Yes, Levy might be too rigid about money and Poch too rigid about loyalty, but they’ve done quite well over the past five years. The transfers they did sign off on have mostly worked out, and our finances have been in good shape. Unlike Chelsea, Liverpool, or both Manchester teams, we can’t afford to splash cash around, especially now that we’re paying for the new stadium. This summer, with transfer prices continuing to spiral out of control, I’m alright with us sitting back—you have to know when to fold. If our starting eleven had a gaping hole, it would be a different story, but our younger players and academy prospects have shown they’re able to step up when necessary. For example, Sanchez isn’t Toby yet, but used properly, I think we can happily make do with him. Of course we’d be better and more comfortable with a few established stars to shore up our sketchiest positions, but the reality is that we’re going into this season with roughly the same group of players that finished behind only City and United last season and above Chelsea and Liverpool, and absolutely buried the Gooners. There’s no reason to believe we won’t manage the same again this, or higher. No doubt we’ll be making do, but we’ll be making do a promising group of players that I’m excited to watch.
Tottenham Hotspur continue to be trendsetters. Never before has a team made zero signings in a summer window. Well, Spurs did it. People said it couldn’t be done. Everyone online was like “Come on, there’s no way Spurs won’t sign anyone.” Or “They’re in talks with lots of players. Someone will be coming in.” Yeah, well, no one was coming in and you were all idiots. Spurs did it. The lilywhite half of North London dreamed the impossible dream and when it awoke it had accomplished the most outlandish summer of any club in the league. Say what you want about backing the manager and budgeting, but Daniel Levy did something this summer that no chairman has ever done before. He’s a damn hero.
To Dare is to Do.
After taking a deep breath and putting down the pitchfork, I don’t think this is a full out clusterf—k, though there is still a lot to hate about this. In the last week, watching the players move around, the only player I was remotely interested in was Mateo Kovacic. He’s a player that would instantly make our midfield better, but Real Madrid needed to sweeten the pot for Chelsea to sell off Courtois. We probably made inquiries, but it just wasn’t going to happen. Prior to this final week, Anthony Martial was at the top of my list. He ticked all the boxes of a player we needed for the attacking band, including backing up Kane as a true #9. Of course, Mourinho being Mourinho, he demanded Toby but refused to sell us Martial. I’m quite happy that Daniel Levy gave him the bird and left it up for the entire transfer window. The Jack Grealish saga I’m indifferent on. Yes, he would have provided some good depth in the midfield, but at Villa’s supposed asking price of £35 million? I’d rather walk away, and that’s what we did. Paying that sum of money for a 12-18 player didn’t exactly get me excited.
What this tells me is that, if Poch is truly on board with the direction this window went, it means he’s happy with the squad and he is also ready to give more youth a chance. I feel like we would have seen Tashan Oakley-Boothe on the ICC tour if he were healthy. We got to see Anthony Georgiou, Oliver Skipp, KWP, CCV and Luke Amos all get playing time against some good competition. Are they all ready? Of course not, but it shows that the club is looking to the future from within if they can find it.
While I’m happy to see both Toby and Moose still here for the time being, I do hope that things are patched up between them and the club (moreso Toby than Moose, obviously) because the club basically just forfeited £40 million in potential transfer fees to keep them around one more year. I have no doubt that Moose will be ready to step in and play. The wound may not fully be healed between the club and Toby, though. If it is and Toby gets substantial minutes, then our defense will be rock solid this year.
I’m angry at the fact that this club, a member of the Sky Six, opening a brand new stadium this season with Champions League football couldn’t sign one player to improve the squad. I’m not going to get over that. Yes, we are going to hear the spin about how Lucas Moura’s rise is like signing a new player given he only had seven appearances last year, but I don’t want to sound like we’re f—king Arsenal and using excuses like that. We’re a club on the rise and this feels like a major pothole in the highway to slow us down.
The good news is that this team is still good enough to finish in the top four, get out of a Champions League group, and win a domestic cup. The bad news is that there is not much more good news.
The squad, as it stands, is well built, and the first choice lineup is incredibly difficult to beat. In the short term at the very least, holding on to players like Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembele may be a good thing, barring injury and significant disagreements with Mauricio Pochettino, while Lucas Moura enjoyed an impressive preseason. Nothing has actively gotten worse at Tottenham in that regard, and the achievements of the last few years may be repeated once again this season.
That being said, the struggles of years past will likely also return, as Pochettino still lacks depth on the bench. Signing absolutely no one does not help, and the younger players that got a chance in preseason, for the most part, do not seem ready for regular first team minutes. One can hope that Harry Winks’s recovery from a long-term injury, and the returns of the others on the injury list, will boost the team once they return to health. To start the season. In the meantime, picking out lineups may be difficult for Pochettino, and the team may struggle in the early part of the season yet again.
Ultimately, less than four months after Pochettino said the club should “be brave and take risks,” the people at the top of Tottenham have taken some unexpected risks in being the only Premier League team in history to not sign a single player in the summer transfer window. Instead of attempting to make a significant step up, Spurs are exactly where they were a year ago. It has revealed that there may be problems in the way Pochettino and Daniel Levy approached this window, leaving many to wonder whether or not they can solve them for next time.
I am at the acceptance stage in my cycle of grief. I’m trying my absolute best to look on the bright side. The following scenario is wildly optimistic, but bear with me.
We finished 3rd last year. We didn’t lose anyone! Wanyama, Rose, Lamela, Winks and Alderweireld all played less than half of the season. If we can get 3/4 of a season out of those guys, plus add Lucas Moura (he’s like a new signing!!!)... we’ll probably finish 3rd again.
Obviously, the worst case is that no one is healthy, Poch is mad at Toby and Rose and they don’t play, Kane is broken. And you know what, we’ll still probably finish 5th or 6th.
The lack of investment is extremely annoying and I think down the line when some of the older/better players do start leaving and we have no depth it’s really gonna kick us in the ass. But right now, we’re still pretty good.