Tottenham Hotspur have started the season in an unimpressive style. Fans could have reasonably expected four points from their opening two games against Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion instead of the loss and draw they have so far. Of course, it will take time for their new manager Andre Villas-Boas to put his mark on the team and get them playing to his style. He may not have that much time though, as his reputation in England is tarnished, seeing as they finished 4th last season. Spurs fans may feel that result should be the club’s ambition again this season.
However, the blame for Spurs (nearly traditional) slow start to the season may not lie entirely with AVB. The finger of blame could equally be pointed at their Chairman, Daniel Levy. All of their rivals have spent money and strengthened, but so far this season Spurs are about even in terms of transfer incomings and outgoings.
Levy is at the heart of what works well at Spurs, and conversely is also what is perhaps holding them back. He is a famously tough negotiator, seeking the maximum for his outgoings and normally very careful (David Bentley aside) with his incomings. He often will push things right to the brink, pushing through deadline-day deals when it seems there’s no more business to be done. Doubtless this has served him/Spurs well at times: getting a fortune for players like Berbatov, Carrick, and Keane and getting quality players like Van Der Vaart in for a steal.
Spurs have cleared out quite a bit of dead wood, and are keen to continue trimming things down—but the transfers of Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone have both hit snags, and Jenas, Dos Santos, and Bentley seem to be permanently on the verge of moving without ever doing so. The transfer of Luka Modric has finally gone through after about 48 years, but was it worth dropping points and having an incomplete team just to get an extra one or two million? Momentum is a priceless commodity.
It is obvious to most observers that Spurs are short 2-3 quality signings from competing with the other aspirational sides, and it seems that without any revenue from transfer, Spurs cannot bring anyone in. This means AVB is stuck with players he doesn’t want, they don’t want to be there, and he can’t get the players he does want. The season is two-games old already, and AVB doesn’t know his best team or even his captain yet. Though AVB has toed the party line and doesn’t speak out against Levy, he is correct in suggesting it would be better if the transfer window closed before the season began.
Levy’s financial nous is at risk of affecting the quality of the team. It’s a fine balancing act, and generally Levy has done well by Spurs, but he needs to take real care to understand that the cost and value of things, are very different.