For Spurs, keeping the first 11 together is a win in itself
The Premier League is well and truly cementing its status as the most competitive league in the world. There are six teams at the start of the season who could all conceivably win the title and seven that could compete for a spot in the top four.
Manchester City have broken the world transfer record for a defender. Twice. They have signed another expensive right back from Real Madrid and broken the world transfer record for a goalkeeper, all of this without even considering Bernardo Silva's arrival from Monaco. Manchester United have signed three key first 11 players. One of them has been widely considered a bargain even at £75 million.
Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have been relatively passive in the transfer market compared to the Manchester clubs. Still, the West London club splurged on Bakoyoko, Morata and Rudiger; so Conte must be fairly confused as to what the critics are ranting about. Arsenal and Liverpool, in the backdrop of quiet summers, made one statement signing each in Lacazette and Salah respectively.
Then there’s Everton. Having made a series of key signings across the pitch, Everton look poised to challenge the status quo. Pickford, Klaassen, Sandro, Keane and Rooney are all shrewd signings; and the signing of Sigurdsson will take their spending close to £150 million. Even with the departure of Lukaku, Everton are a fearsome prospect for the upcoming season.
And finally, there is the curious case of Tottenham who are yet to make even a free signing this summer.
No significant weaknesses in starting 11
Take a glance at the signings made by the rest of the top six and a clear pattern starts to emerge. All of them are addressing a void or weakness in their first 11. United needed a striker and a midfielder in place of Ibrahimovic and the ageing Carrick. City needed to revamp their fullbacks. Arsenal fans have been clamouring for an elite striker for years; Liverpool struggled last season in the absence of Mane; Chelsea needed to replace Matic and Costa.
A settled central defensive partnership; Trippier ready to take the place of Walker; solid CMs in Dier, Wanyama and Dembele; Alli, Eriksen and Son good enough for any Premier League team and Harry Kane the icing on the cake. Spurs’ first 11 is already a match for any the Premier League has to offer.
When Spurs splashed the cash last summer...
Yes, any Premier League squad needs depth; Pochettino and Levy need to take more interest in the transfer window, if only to bolster their squad. But Spurs would not have fond memories of their last few transfer windows. Vincent Janssen for £17 million and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou for £11 million hardly justified the respective outlays. Moussa Sissoko was an absolute disaster at £30 million.
In contrast, their very best players do not have large price tags weighing them down. Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld were all steals at their respective prices. Perhaps it isn’t a rule set in stone; perhaps cold hard cash isn’t the only route to success.
Pochettino’s team ethics
The case study of Moussa Sissoko perhaps best illustrates why Tottenham do not play by the same rules as the rest of the top six. The French midfielder did not possess the necessary work ethic that was demanded by the manager. Even the hint of discord ruffles Pochettino’s feathers, and Sissoko was promptly cast into the shadows.
The young, developing squad of Tottenham is attuned to the rigorous demands and team spirit demanded by Pochettino. Signing players too illustrious or with large egos to be in that company risks unsettling the well-oiled machine. After his arrival in 2014, Pochettino quickly shipped out the expensive flops of the previous regime like Soldado and Adebayor.
Restraint imposed by new stadium
With a new stadium under construction, Pochettino faces the same challenges that Wenger did a decade ago. Money needs to be wisely spent, wage structures religiously followed and signings sensibly made. Any large outlay will upset the books. Ross Barkley could have been a Spurs player by now if not for his wage demands.
Tottenham are the most sensibly run club in the Premier League. The move to a new stadium represents the next logical step in Spurs' steady ascent to the next level. A panicked glance sideways right now would be a step back for the London side, negating the painstaking efforts that have brought them to where they are now.
Premier League big guns splashing the cash is not something new. Though the figures involved have become astronomical, the same clubs who have shattered transfer records left, right and centre were more active than Tottenham last summer as well. And the summer before that. It is the new found expectations resulting from their recent success that have firmly put Tottenham in the spotlight.
But so long as the likes of Lloris, Kane, Alli, Eriksen and Alderweireld don Tottenham kits, Spurs have no reason to feel intimidated. Just as they rejected outright an approach from United for Dier and from City for Rose, they need to stand strong. The battle is not from July to August; it is from September to May.
For Spurs, keeping the first 11 together is in itself a win.