Spurs' new stadium: Could a new era in Tottenham history be ushered in with move to new home?
History was made for Tottenham Hotspur last night as their brand-new, 62,062 capacity stadium – officially the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, although it’ll probably become known as White Hart Lane as it sits on the same site as Spurs’ old ground – was finally opened for their Premier League match with Crystal Palace.
Thankfully for Tottenham fans, everything went to plan. Spurs ran out 2-0 winners in the game despite some nervy moments, with goals from Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen sealing their first Premier League victory since February 10th.
Spurs fans will be hoping the victory will mark an upturn in their form, allowing them to capture that all-important top 4 spot in the Premier League, and in all honesty their optimism probably isn’t too misplaced; they have a relatively soft run-in, with 4 of their remaining 6 games to be played in their new home, and 5 of them against teams they’ve already beaten in 2018/19.
There has been plenty of embarrassment around the delays in the opening of the new stadium – remember those notorious tube posters stating that the ground would be ‘The only place in London to watch the Champions League’?
That didn’t seem too smart when the stadium wasn’t ready for the start of 2018/19 and Spurs almost crashed out of Europe in the group stage, but of course, the ship was righted and Champions League football will indeed be played in the new stadium next week.
But can the opening of the new stadium usher in a new era for Mauricio Pochettino’s side? It’s honestly hard to say as there are so many factors to consider. One thing is for certain, though: a new era can only be ushered in for Tottenham if their success on the pitch continues and even improves – new stadium or no new stadium.
The first question that needs to be asked is the obvious one: Will the fact that Tottenham have to pay off their new stadium – which reportedly cost somewhere around £1bn – mean that they’ll be crippled financially for the foreseeable future, both in the realms of incoming transfers and in their ability to pay bigger wages? Spurs chief Daniel Levy has stated that this isn’t the case, but in reality all of the evidence points to the opposite.
It is true that Spurs made a profit last season; reports have been released today that state that the club made a profit of £113m after 2017/18 based on player sales, bigger crowds at their temporary home of Wembley Stadium, and their run to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
But profit is only good if it’s going to be pumped back into the club, and it feels unlikely that will happen.
Tottenham will need to pay off their new stadium, and while loans have paid for the majority of it, it’s still likely that Levy and company will want to tighten their belts going forward.
And in the last two transfer windows, we’ve already seen examples of that tightening, as Spurs failed to sign any new players in both August and January.
There are two schools of thought around this: the first suggests that manager Mauricio Pochettino was happy to keep faith with the current squad, and thus didn’t push to sign any new talent. And the second suggests that money simply wasn’t available. Again, it’s hard to decide exactly where the truth lies.
It is true that in comparison to some of his fellow managers, Pochettino shows an unusual amount of faith in his players. Despite the likes of Kyle Walker-Peters, Hugo Lloris and Fernando Llorente making crucial errors this season, Pochettino has never thrown any of his players under the bus – and most of them have paid him back in kind with excellent performances to bounce back from their mistakes.
However, August’s transfer saga surrounding Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish – essentially, Tottenham missed out on the player by attempting to force the price downwards and capitalise on Villa’s financial issues, only for the Midlands club to receive a cash injection that meant they no longer needed to sell – does suggest that things behind the scenes are a little tighter than Pochettino may want to make out.
The worrying thing for Tottenham fans when it comes to this issue is that the squad have clearly struggled with the heavy schedule of this season, with key players like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Harry Winks picking up injuries, and others like Kieran Trippier and Hugo Lloris struggling for form at times seemingly due to exhaustion.
While it is true that many Tottenham players were heavily involved in last summer’s World Cup – a great number reached the semi-finals of that tournament – and that won’t be the case after this season, the point still stands that Spurs clearly have the thinnest squad of the Premier League’s top six.
Pochettino has a tremendous reputation for bringing youth players through, as we’ve seen over the past few seasons with the development of Kane, Alli, Winks and other youngsters like Walker-Peters and Eric Dier, and it is true that Tottenham have a handful of serious prospects on their roster.
Marcus Edwards, for instance, has been in great form on loan at Excelsior in the Netherlands, Oliver Skipp has shown flashes of huge potential when Pochettino has used him, and Luke Amos was looking like a player to watch before a serious knee injury derailed him in the early weeks of the season.
But putting his faith in youngsters would be a hugely risky strategy for Pochettino at such a key time for Tottenham. The other sides in the top 6 are quite happy to spend huge money in order to progress; Liverpool, for instance, have come on hugely since spending £75m on Virgil Van Dijk and £56m on Alisson Becker. If Tottenham can’t match that, then they risk falling behind.
And the risk of falling behind comes with other, huge perils. A shiny new stadium may not be enough to keep top players like Alli, Eriksen and Son at the club for the foreseeable future.
Tottenham already spend far less than their rivals on wages; if they’re not willing to pay more money, and they slip out of the all-important Champions League, then their best players may demand moves. And that’d be absolutely disastrous for Spurs.
Simply put, Tottenham just can’t afford to miss out on Champions League football right now. They may already lose Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld – whose contracts are quickly running down – this summer, but two players are probably replaceable.
A major exodus, on the other hand, would be almost impossible to come back from – but it’s a distinct possibility should Spurs finish outside of the top 4 this season or in 2019/20.
In that sense then, what can we take from the new stadium? Well, in all honesty, it doesn’t change a lot for Tottenham. Sure, it’s nice for the club’s fans to be able to boast arguably the best stadium in the Premier League, if not the world, but a new stadium doesn’t guarantee success.
And in order to truly usher a new era in for the club, Tottenham either need to open their purse strings and throw money around in order to stay level with their rivals – or they need to win something big, and quickly.
Right now the latter seems more likely than the former – the best thing Tottenham fans could do right now is put their faith in Pochettino and hope he can either bring in some reinforcements on a tighter budget, as he’s done before, or turn someone like Edwards or Skipp into the next homegrown superstar – but as always with Spurs, the only thing that’s for sure is that nothing is for sure.