Tottenham Hotspur in need of major surgery
Put down your scalpels and scrappers. Leave your lancet and bistoury on the table there Doctor. This patient requires something a little more hardcore!
It might be tempting for some to think of this post as a reactionary piece to what was an abysmal performance by Spurs against Bournemouth last night. However, I would imagine that any true Tottenham fan who has the slightest understanding of the game that is Association Football will know that the writing has been on the wall for our current squad for at least the last couple of years.
Before the ranting really starts in earnest, let's take a look at some quantifiable data to back up that assertion. The below table charts the season on season ave rating for each Spurs first-team player who at least started the 2019/20 season with us. The ratings only take into account Premier League games. The nice big black line running through the middle is the average player rating for the season.
Above is the raw data from the rather crowded line chart
The trend shown in the above graph is fairly damning. This Spurs squad that first started coming together in 2013, peaked around 3 years later in terms of on-pitch performances and in regards league position (2016/17, Spurs finished 2nd with a record PL points haul of 86) and has been on a downward trajectory ever since.
Since 2016/17 when Spurs had the potential to really turn themselves into a side that was consistently challenging for trophies we have seen massive underinvestment in the footballing aspect of the club. Mauricio Pochetinno, for example, was given the princely sum of £28million net transfer fees to spend for his first 5 seasons at the club 2014 - 2019. When you compare that to the amounts that other Premier League sides have spent in the same time period then Spurs should consider themselves lucky to have been anywhere near Champions League football this past decade.
Net transfer spend in millions £ per season by the so called 'Big 6'
In his pre-match interview for the North London Derby tomorrow, Mourinho when asked whether he believed he could be successful at the club reminded everyone that it took Jurgen Klopp a while to deliver a title to Liverpool. Unfortunately, Mourinho nor any other Spurs manager is likely to benefit from the same level of funding that his peers at the other big 6 clubs have received in recent years while ENIC are still running the football club and such ambitions are comparative to a nice bedtime story until we see a change in ownership.
Beyond just spending power, it is the stagnation of this current squad that is apparent. While the graph shows clubs like Liverpool and Chelsea net spend as being similar to Spurs over the last 5 years, the numbers of players coming in and out of the club as well as those of the other top 6 dwarves what Spurs have done.
For a while, the message here was that Poch wanted a relatively small squad and didn't want to disrupt the harmony of the first team by bringing in additional players. It seems apparent from the way that things went sour over the last couple of years of Poch's reign that this narrative was more a result of Levy prioritising the financing of a new stadium over proper investment in the squad. Poch undoubtedly did want reinforcements of a high calibre but the board was not willing to back him in that manner.
Total transfers in and out including free transfers by the 'Big 6'. The graph does not include loans in or out
What we can see from the initial stats and the graph above is that there have been very few changes to this Spurs squad over the last 4 years. Without the threat of new blood being brought in, players in possession of a first-team place have grown complacent and confident that they can maintain their status and wealth by doing the bare minimum. No club that operates with success on the pitch as its number 1 aim is run in this way.
Major surgery is now required in the transfer market both in terms of player sales and player purchases in order to breath fresh life into this team and equip Mourinho with the tools he requires to do what he has done throughout his career - win trophies!
I would hope that with the exception of Kane and Son who we would struggle to replace and Lo Celso who looks a quality acquisition that we would listen to any serious offer for any other player currently within our squad. It is time to have a long hard look at even some of the first-team regulars such as Dele Alli, Erik Lamela and Moussa Sissoko and decide whether these are the type of personality and calibre of player that are going to take us back towards the top 4 and challenging for trophies.
While in the coming months a lot will be made of who Spurs are (or aren't as the case may be) going to sign this summer, I think the equally significant question is who are they going to sell? The last major purge at the club was in 2015/16 when we sold or released 14 players from the first-team squad. It's time to put sentiment to one side, dust off the hatchets and chainsaws and begin the process of cutting some of the fat off this failing squad!
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