Tottenham’s transfer inactivity isn’t so bad

Words By Seb Stafford-Bloor
June 27, 2017
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This comes with a caveat: yes, while the teams above and below them are busy spending fantastic sums of money on strong players, it must be difficult for Tottenham fans to cope with the silence.

Manchester City have already spent nearly £80m, Liverpool tied up the signing of Mohamed Salah a couple of days ago, and Chelsea and Manchester United are rumoured to also be on the verge of major deals.

All the while, Spurs have done… nothing.

Pity Vincent Marcel, then, who is apparently set to join the club in the coming days. Marcel isn’t quite the brightest young thing in French football, but he’s highly regarded. Nevertheless, at just 20 years of age and with fewer than 10 Ligue 1 performances to his name, Bernardo Silva he certainly isn’t.

Neither is he Thomas Lemar, Douglas Costa or any of the other more established names that the club has been connected with since the transfer period began. The temptation is to feel disappointed, let down even, and to believe that, again, the club are fumbling a favourable position with their recruiting inertia.

Those with grievances are right to hold them. The law of averages suggests that there is only so long that, for instance, Manchester United can continue throwing money into the marketplace without getting something in return. Jose Mourinho seems intent on spending £150m or more every twelve months and that’s the kind of artificial advancement which is hard to stay ahead of.

You could argue, that it’s actually impossible to defeat those odds in a straight fight. By acting like Manchester United – or Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City or even Liverpool – Tottenham will always find themselves at a disadvantage.

Admittedly, a transfer window without any transfers is like a Christmas without presents. While every other supporter is under the tree giddily unwrapping their shiny gifts, Tottenham fans are having to sit on the sofa and pretend to still be interested in last season’s DVD.

But really, they should still be interested in last season’s DVD. After all, it shows how the club have become moderately successful and it contains hours of evidence which supports their approach to the transfer-market.

Vincent Marcel might become a Spurs player, he might not. Believing everything the transfer reporters tell you is an emotionally exhausting and unfulfilling way to spend a summer. What’s important is not whether he signs, but what he represents. While other clubs are busy trying to redesign their first-elevens in the space of six weeks, insisting that vast expenditure is imperative to progress, Mauricio Pochettino and Daniel Levy are seemingly content to trust their club’s culture.

That’s very precious – not least because it’s rare. In the 2017, football is an arms race where nothing matters more than short-term improvement. For a side to have a distinctive characteristic, then – as Tottenham do – is satisfyingly archaic. They are a side in an almost perpetual state of evolution: players arrive; players stay; players get better.

Imagine, for instance, that the top-six Premier League clubs were all rival greenhouses: into which one would you want to bed your rarest flower? Who takes the greatest care with the light levels? Who goes into weed the soil every day? Tottenham. Maybe that care doesn’t necessarily breed much day-to-day excitement – certainly not compared with Mourinho’s attempts to shove an oversized ficus tree into his greenhouse – but it’s hard to argue with the results.

And that’s something to take pride in. Being consistently outmuscled by teams who can afford to spend more money is no fun, but that’s not actually happening to Spurs. In fact, since the new television deal arrived and the spending accelerated, they’ve advanced by virtue of bucking the trend – and, revealingly, have only really stumbled whenever they’ve tried to play along.

The bluster around the transfer-market exaggerates its importance. Jim White, the prosperous totaliser on Sky Sports News, Deadline Day; all of these factors conspire to make it seem like a game show – one in which you lose if your club’s transfer outlay isn’t the most decadent in the league. But it’s a trick. All that actually matters on a performance level is that the right players play for the right coach under the right conditions. Spurs are doing that and if Vincent Marcel, or a player of a similar profile, is believed to fit within that equation, it would prove a transfer of enormous, real value.

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