The decision to close the transfer window before the start of the season was a good one. Nevertheless, those clubs prone to doing their business late have had to adjust their habits, with the security of that extra few weeks now having gone.
To think of last-minute deals is to picture Daniel Levy, dialing up agents in the half-light and trying to snag a deal from the dusk.
And from the inactivity at White Hart Lane, it seems that those old habits are dying hard. Despite the transfer period ending in less than month and each one of their rivals have strengthened significantly, Spurs have done nothing. They haven’t agreed the departures of any of their wantaway players, and neither have they added to their squad. The World Cup provides justification for that, to an extent, but it’s an obstacle which other sides have been able to overcome.
It’s difficult to understand. Higher price targets may need to be funded by sales – the dreaded transfer chain – but Tottenham have deficiencies which really ought to have been solved by now. Prior to the summer, Mauricio Pochettino was insistent on concluding as much business as possible before the beginning of pre-season. Alas, pre-season has arrived and nothing has been done.
It’s not unusual, but it does in this instance look very laissez faire. Spurs will not play their first pre-season fixture until July 25th, by which time they’ll likely have concluded a deal for Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, but few of the players still involved in the World Cup will make the entirety of that trip and, at best estimate, the club will begin the new season badly under-manned. That might be something beyond their control, but it really should have accelerated whatever plans they had over the off-season.
It hasn’t. Grealish would be a welcome addition, but isn’t someone who could be relied upon to contribute straight away, and – again, as ever – this way of business will almost certainly ensure that points are surrendered in August.
And it’s an awkward start this year. Newcastle away on the first day, presumably without Kane et al, will be a tougher prospect than it was twelve months ago, Manchester United at Old Trafford is always daunting, and Fulham at Wembley certainly won’t be easy. September will bring Liverpool to the new White Hart Lane, if it is in fact ready by then, and elsewhere there are unpleasant trips to Brighton, Watford and Huddersfield. The end of September remains a long way away and the World Cup should have little impact on those fixtures, but they do stress how important this summer is – and why, if possible, the club should have done whatever they could to move quickly.
It’s such a tedious discussion – it reappears every single year – but it’s one which Tottenham continue to provoke. They won four points from nine in August 2017, five from nine the year before, and three from twelve the season before that. They continue to behave as if August doesn’t really count and as if the points available aren’t worth as much.
There are excuses, such as the need to avoid bidding wars and the inability to buy before selling, but they’re becoming harder to bear and even more difficult to defend. While it may be entirely right to point to the recent upsurge and the three consecutive Champions League qualifications, it’s just as legitimate to claim that, because of this inefficiency, life is being made far harder than it might be for Pochettino, his staff, and his players.
Maybe it’s nothing but melodrama and, as before, these concerns will prove unfounded. Possibly. But it’s hard to believe that there wouldn’t have been at least some benefit to working at a greater pace and ensuring that the absolute most was extracted from pre-season.