One day after his depleted, exhausted Tottenham Hotspur squad got pumped 4-2 at Brighton & Hove Albion, Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou appeared to warn fans about setting expectations too high on what the club can accomplish in the January transfer window. In embargoed comments after the match, Big Ange admitted the squad is “nowhere near” where they need to be to compete for the Premier League title, again reiterated that it’ll take multiple transfer windows to strengthen the side, and cautioned fans that “nothing magical” would happen this January.
“We are where we are. Nothing magical’s going to happen in the January window. What we need to do is just keep building.
“We’ve had one window with this team to change it around, to do things differently. The fact that we’re in the position we are is a credit to the players. For all the challenges we’ve had, we just kept planning forward and that’s what we’ll do.
“We’ll see what we can do in January but ultimately it’s about building a side that will get us to where we want to.”
To be fair, this is the same beat Postecoglou has been drumming all season long — he rarely gets too upbeat when the club is doing well, nor does he rant and rave when Spurs hit a bump in the road. Always the message has been clear: we’re not there yet, the players are giving me everything, we’re working hard, it’ll take time.
Spurs proved at the beginning of the season that they have a starting XI that when healthy can compete with anyone in the Premier League. The problem is that they’ve rarely been healthy, and the quality in the squad declines precipitously when you get a little ways down the bench. That’s hardly a unique issue among football clubs, but with Spurs enduring a significant injury and suspension crisis that has forced Ange to play players he might not otherwise turn to, it’s shone a bright spotlight on the glaring shortcomings in this Tottenham side.
But can you blame Tottenham fans for looking to January for answers? First, it’s the only opportunity Spurs have to strengthen the side before the end of the season, and also it’s easy to see where Spurs’ roster deficiencies are and how to fix them. Just go out and buy the best players, see? Simple.
Not so. Postecoglou continues to take the long view approach to this season, saying that there’s no panacea for what ails Tottenham this season and the only thing to do is keep working and be patient.
“I don’t think you need to go through injuries to see [which players have a long-term future here]. What it has done is test the limits of our ability to play the football that we want within the context of the injuries we’ve had. It would be unfair to judge some players.
“The way we play takes a fairly hefty physical toll, more than the way other clubs play. For us to sustain and maintain that and be a team, it’s no secret we need a strong squad. We’re nowhere near that at the moment, understandably so, obviously we’ve only had one window. It was never going to happen [so quickly].
“We’re still at the beginning. Within that context, we want to compete. We’ve got ourselves in a position where we can compete. That’s what we need to keep pushing forward for.”
That’s not pessimism, that’s pragmatism, and it’s probably wise. By praising his current squad of players for giving him “everything” and simultaneously acknowledging the team isn’t where it needs to be, he puts a suit of armor around his players and manages expectations about the team’s performance that are in place now, but were unthinkable at the start of the season.
That’s especially timely considering Spurs will need to put in a solid performance in just two days against an in-form Bournemouth side, and without potentially five of the players who started against the Cherries in week 2.
“The sheer effort of some of our players over the last eight or nine weeks has been enormous. I’ve got to make sure they’re protected. In terms of it’s not through lack of effort that we’re not consistently playing the football we want to. It’s just we’re asking it of too few.
“It will be a different challenge, obviously Bournemouth are in good form, they do play good football as well, they play football in terms of they want to play and get the ball down. It will be a good challenge for us.”
Tottenham kick off against Bournemouth at 9:00 a.m. ET / 2:00 p.m. GMT on New Year’s Eve.