Tottenham Hotspur have not brought in any new players since bringing in Lucas Moura nearly one year ago. No new midfielders. No new fullbacks. The frequent presumption has been that Daniel Levy, his zero analysts, and one scout are simply failing to find and recruit players or he is unwilling to spend (some f’ing) money to improve the team.
This window, however, reports have increased that Levy is not the problem. In fact, Spurs have been linked with legitimately good players who fit their needs: Youri Telemans, Adrien Rabiot, Florian Grillitsch, Carlos Soler, Jack Grealish, and others. As Michael Caley pointed out, these are exactly the sorts of players that could help fill the Mousa Dembele sized hole in the midfield.
central midfielders under 24 with at least 3.0 progressive passes and runs per 90 and at least 3.0 tackles + interceptions per 90, big five leagues:— Michael "Chopsy Mug" Caley (@MC_of_A) January 29, 2019
Giovani Lo Celso
Instead, it appears that Pochettino is being extremely fussy about the players who come in. It seems that he has been burned with a string of recruiting failures at positions of need over the past few years: Janssen and Llorente at striker, Sissoko in midfield, and N’Koudou on the wing. Poche does not want players for players sake anymore. The problem with this formulation is that those players - other than Janssen, who was an Eredevisie numbers failure - were obviously not good enough before the transfer. N’Koudou was not great in the 5th best league in the world.
Georges-Kévin Nkoudou, Marseille 15-16. This... is not what I was expecting. pic.twitter.com/h64kQCaI9B— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) August 31, 2016
Sissoko was obviously not good.
Moussa Sissoko, £35M asking price. I mean... (left is AM template, right is MID template). pic.twitter.com/eNeVCk80kO— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) August 31, 2016
Llorente was waaaaasssshhhhed with just .29 xG/90 at Swansea where he nearly doubled his xG tally in goals. The problem was not the idea of buying squad players, which Spurs definitely need. The problem was buying bad players, which Spurs could have avoided if they had simply looked at some Statsbomb radars and seen that Sissoko had lead feet and that N’Koudou couldn’t do anything but dribble kind of well. Now Spurs are apparently scouting the right players and Poche is too risk averse to make the right moves.
Pochettino is now like a tournament poker player who lost some big pots and for a while, he begins playing too tight, unwilling to take the right risks that he needs to win. He has a large stack of talented players, perhaps some of the best top level talent in the world, but he’s been unwilling to make the moves that will allow him to have a shot at winning the tournaments. Instead he’s letting his chips (players) bleed (get injured) as he stays out of the pot. Worse, those original big pots were lost not from good play and bad luck (save for, maybe, Janssen), but instead bad analysis at the outset.
It is time for Pochettino to get analysts and scouts he trusts to allow him to take risks on solid, young squad players with upside to be stars. These players will be under 24, they will cost £15-30m, and some of them will go sideways, though fewer if Spurs are truly looking at a few statistical markers these days. Poche is right that Spurs are not Liverpool or Manchester City, but Spurs have struck gold on a number of cheaper buys. With smart purchases of good rotation options, Spurs could get close to that level even without spending £50m per player. But it’s time to get over past errors and start getting back in the game.