In time, this may well be remembered as the summer when Daniel Levy out-thought himself. Between now and the close of the transfer-window, Tottenham are expected to do something, but at this stage there seems little than can be achieved other than appeasement. The club’s fanbase were sold and quick and decisive off-season and, of course, they’re received nothing of the sort.
But with just three days to go, what value can really be found?
One of the great myths which surrounds Levy is the wisdom of his strategy. Leaving deals until the last minute, according to popular consensus, helps to capitalise on the desperation of other teams. In theory that sounds rational but there’s little evidence from Tottenham’s past to support it. Not the club-record signing of Davinson Sanchez twelve months ago, certainly not the hopeless deal for Moussa Sissoko a year before. In fact, only the notorious Rafael van der Vaart transfer – nearly a decade ago now and really a market anomaly – provides any sort of counter-argument.
More often than not, it’s Spurs themselves who appear to end up on the wrong side of these negotiations – either in terms of the quality of player they end up with, the cost paid to buy him, or a combination of the two.
Employing that logic, it seems likely that any attempt to correct the wrongs of the past few months would end with a similar result. At the time of writing, Levy’s toes are being held to the fire by Aston Villa over the sale of Jack Grealish and, surely, any attempt to sign a first-team ready player from elsewhere would involve an enormous fee.
Maddening as it would be, surely the better approach is to acknowledge defeat, recognise that the club is not served well by this haphazard gambling, and spend the time between now and the next transfer period modifying its approach. Maybe it requires a reimagination of the recruiting policy, a more effective scouting department, or perhaps even great negotiating assistance for Levy himself.
Essentially: quietly learn the lessons from the summer of 2018, but don’t overpay in an attempt to cosmetically alter the perception in the meantime.
That stands to reason in a football sense, too. Any player who arrives between now and Thursday is not, realistically, going to be in position to contribute much between now and the turn of the year. By Mauricio Pochettino’s own admission, pre-season is critical and trying to retro-condition players who haven’t taken part is always an imperfect science. There were valid reasons why, at the end of 2017-18, he urged the club to do any business they had planned early.
If nothing is done over the next 72 hours, Spurs will suffer. That seems clear, because their midfield is riddled by injuries, they still lack pace in every department and too many first-teamers remain without credible deputies. There’s another argument though, which says that that will still be the case even if they do add a quick cluster of players – that they would end up with a bigger squad, but one which only provides the appearance of depth. Worse, they’d have to over-spend for the sake of creating that illusion.
The mistakes have been made and the summer is already a failure, but don’t accentuate the damage by trying to raise quick funds through player sales and then squandering the revenue. It’s the same mistake year after year and it needs fixing.