Check out any of the sports betting websites and you can get odds on the chances of at least 50 players joining Spurs in the transfer market. Some are clearly just fanciful. Anyone wanting to put £10 on Gareth Bale returning to Spurs — even at odds of 33/1 — is in serious need of help. Likewise, I wouldn’t count on Pepe, James Rodriguez, Angel Di Maria or Cesc Fabregas being seen anywhere near Tottenham in the near future. Or ever, for that matter. But if you think I’m wrong, there’s a bookmaker willing to relieve you of your money.
Then there are the players, such as Ross Barkley, who have been consistently the subject of transfer rumours in recent weeks. But even for the Everton midfielder there is no real consensus in the betting markets. Barkley is listed as a 5/1 chance with one bookmaker and 11/4 with another. Just as inexplicable is that one firm is listing Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon as a 1/2 shot of joining Spurs — despite the left-back having only this week signed another contract to stay at Craven Cottage — while other bookmakers have him at a 10/1 chance.
The only consistency to be found in the variation of odds is in their inconsistency. And perhaps that is where the real story lies. As the players drift back to North London to commence preseason training this Monday, the Spurs squad remains almost totally unaltered from the one that ended the last campaign. There may be question marks over the likes of Kyle Walker — Manchester City have reportedly resumed serious negotiations for the right-back, with Spurs demanding a fee in excess of £45 million — and Eric Dier (though the rumour mill has gone a little quiet on his front), but for the time being they both remain Tottenham players.
While it may be frustrating for fans to observe other big clubs splashing the cash to strengthen their squads early in the transfer window, there is a great deal to be said for Spurs choosing to keep their powder dry. Big money doesn’t always guarantee results and no one knows that better than Spurs. Did Paul Pogba really justify the £90 million that Manchester United spent on him last season for instance?
In recent years, Tottenham haven’t always got equal value from their big-money signings. Roberto Soldado, Paulinho and Moussa Sissoko were all disappointments, while Erik Lamela has spent far too long on the injury list for someone who came to the club as a record £30m signing. Having missed almost the whole of last season — and some time the season before — it’s not even certain the Argentine is going to be fit for the start of the coming season. Sooner or later, Spurs are going to have to seriously consider cutting their losses on Lamela and planning a future without him.
The lesson that Spurs manager, Mauricio Pochettino, knows only too well is that spending money on new players is no guarantee of anything. While the odds might suggest that if you throw enough money at a problem then sooner or later you are going to end up with a brilliant, game-changing signing, the wiser option is not to do anything unless there is an obvious need to do so. And at the moment, there is no obvious need. Spurs have a strong, talented squad that has no glaring weaknesses.
It’s sometimes said that if you’re standing still in sport then you are really going backwards and other teams will overtake you. But this doesn’t apply to the transfer market. Spurs are still a young and improving team and there is no reason why, with another season of playing together under their belt, they cannot continue to get better. The arrival of new players into a squad inevitably lends itself to a period of readjustment and uncertainty. Spurs are in a position to build on the understanding players already have with one another.
So though it’s easy to see why some might be frustrated at the lack of transfer activity at the club, the reality is that it’s a sign of strength. Spurs have moved on from the bad times of seasons past when chairman Daniel Levy’s failure to do deals was a matter of machismo rather than proper strategy. Tottenham’s new mantra is only to buy when there is a vacancy in the squad and the right player to improve the team can be acquired. Buying someone merely because he is for sale is not Pochettino’s style. Rest assured there will be transfer action but not much and not yet. Sit tight, don’t panic and try to enjoy the ride.
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