There are two ways to judge a transfer:
- How good the transfer was at the time. Did it make sense? Did we get good value?
- Outcome. Did the transfer work out? Did they meet expectation?
For example, Naby Keita was a great signing on paper. He was excellent at Leipzig, he was young and a very exciting player. His move to Liverpool hasn’t worked out though due to injuries. Before this season you could have put Ndombele in this category but luckily for us he adapted for this season.
Every transfer has risk. Injuries, players not being able to adapt, not settling in the new city or with their new teammates and coaches. Or maybe their previous environment suited them perfectly and their new one means they aren’t playing to 100%. A player might come in and then a month later a new manager joins and plays a system he doesn’t suit or doesn’t get along with the new coach. A bad loan could stunt development or a player could lose all confidence and never get it back. Players are people and there are tonnes of factors involved. Hence a transfer can be a very good signing but unsuccessful.
How have Spurs done?
Here you can see this season’s transfers and the previous five seasons. I’ve ranked the signings from two perspectives on a scale of 1–5 (Hopefully you can guess green = good).
The average rating at the time is 3.80, while the average outcome rating is 3.12. It would be interesting to do this across more teams and see whose transfer record overperform expectation but that’s for another day.
2015/16 we signed Son and Alderweireld who have both obviously been very successful. Tripper was a cheap £4.4m but from Burnley who did decently in the end and we sold for good profit. We also made a lot of profit on Wimmer somehow.
2016/17 was a bad year. Janssen looked good in Holland but didn’t adapt. Sissoko was a terrible signing but has worked out decently. Wanyama was excellent until his legs stopped working.
2017/18 saw good signings on paper that didn’t work out. Sanchez did well to start but hasn’t reached expectations. Llorente was a stopgap which worked. Aurier has been Aurier, Lucas hasn’t been great but scored some goals in Amsterdam or something, and we’ve mismanaged Foyth in my opinion.
Then in 2018/19 we decided we didn’t need any new players, even though no other club has ever done that. And then unsurprisingly in 2019, our project crashed and burned.
The 2019/20 season saw some great signings. Gedson looked like a good signing at the time and was zero risk because we weren’t relying on him being good and it was a two year loan with an option to buy. If he turned out great then we know we’re getting a good deal, basically a two year trial. Ndombele took his time but is now one of the best midfielders in the league. Bergwijn has been decent but not set the world alight, I still have a lot of faith in him though. Sessegnon had a slow start with injuries and not getting many minutes and basically wasting a season, not his fault though. This season he’s doing well out on loan and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do next season, I think people have forgotten how good he was for Fulham.
This season, 2020/21 saw a mixed bag. Bale was exciting and sentimental but not really a good signing on paper and he’s unfortunately been able to reach fitness and have an impact really. Vinicius has done well in his limited minutes but we’ve barely used him. Rodon has been solid. Hojbjerg was a solid but underwhelming signing who has massively exceeded my expectation. Doherty was a risk but cheap and hasn’t worked out at all. Reguilon has been excellent.
So is our recruitment good?
Yes and no. We’ve made good signings, they haven’t all worked out as expected but that’s the risk you face. We’ve spent considerably low amounts, found decent value and had a successful period cheaply, even if we haven’t won anything but the Audi Cup.
However, not making signings in 18/19 was a mistake and we’ve failed to replace key players still. Recruitment is all about timing and luck. We didn’t make the right signings early enough. But it’s not easy, the right player might not be available at the time, it’s all about opportunity. We’re fairly risk averse and therefore want to maximise our recruitment, which is good but has left us without enough reinforcements at times if the opportunity isn’t there.
We went from arguably the best full back and centre back partnerships in the league to our current defence, where only Regulion has my complete faith and we only just brought him in. We took too long to sign quality midfielders and still have Sissoko playing most games. We’ve refused to loan out Dele while also not using him ourselves, which is only lowering his value and chances of a comeback. And it also took too long to bring in solid backup for Kane.
Overall, our recruitment has been pretty good and signed players of good ages at decent value. But didn’t prioritise the right signings and usually left it too late. We still haven’t effectively replaced Walker or Eriksen. Lloris needs replacing soon, we need more quality in midfield and at centre back. We also need more homegrown players. I also think that at times we’ve avoided selling players when we should have, for example Lamela, Dier and Aurier.
As I mentioned, the ages of our signings have been good. However, I believe that until this year our loan policy has been really poor. Our academy is producing very good players: Winks, Walker-Peters, Tanganga, Marcus Edwards and Harry Kane. While still producing exciting players to come like Skipp, Parrott, White, Cirkin, Fagan-Walcott and Scarlett. We’ve also brought in Sessegnon, Clarke, Foyth and Devine recently. But only this year we’ve implemented a loan policy which has seen success. Tanganga has struggled for fitness this season which has been frustrating but we didn’t let him go in January so hopefully he has a part to play the rest of the season.
The Current Squad
We lack quality in defence, depth in midfield and competition in attack. We have a good amount of players approaching their prime and the key members are in their prime years also. Within the next two years time you’d expect this squad to be in a very good position but it needs reinforcements, including more homegrown talent. We also have an exciting group of young players coming through with players like Skipp and Sessegnon impressing out on loan and ready to make an impact next season. While I wouldn’t describe any of our squad at dead wood, we do need to move on a few players to make room in the squad and wage budget for signings.
Hart has been poor, but to be honest it really isn’t important. Lloris has been world class in recent years and has shown massive loyalty to the club, but is ageing.
Reguilon has been excellent and was a great signing that I didn’t expect. As long as we can hold onto him, he’ll be great for years to come. Davies is very consistent and is a solid squad player who can also play in a back three and is a decent passer, crosser and defender.
On the other side, we have Aurier and Doherty. In short, neither are good enough and we still haven’t replaced Walker. Doherty was a risk to see if he could adapt but I can understand the signing for the value even if it didn’t work out. Fixing this will help our team massively.
Dier hasn’t adapted as a centre back and has shown some good signs but has made too many errors. Alderweireld still has quality but is ageing and has declined. Sanchez hasn’t progressed as hoped, Rodon looks promising and Tanganga hasn’t maintained fitness and it’s unclear where his future lies.
Hojbjerg, Skipp and Ndombele give us three strong options. Lo Celso is great competition and Winks is a good depth option but I don’t know how long he’ll be here. Bringing in a physical defensive minded midfielder would be good in my opinion, but does depend on what system we’re playing and how we’re going to deploy Ndombele.
Son is of course excellent. Bergwijn is well rounded and young and has a big future. I have faith that his end product will improve as we improve the team in general and he gets a good run of games. Lucas and Lamela should go in my opinion and Bale won’t stay past this summer. Kane is Kane but needs backup. Vinicius has looked bright but in very limited minutes but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of trust and I don’t think we’ll complete the deal in summer. We need more creativity, goals and general quality so we can do more in attack and spread the goals through the team and reduce our reliance on Kane and Son.
What do we need over the next 2 years.
Lloris has been exceptional in the last two years and hasn’t received near enough credit in my opinion. However, we are going to need to replace him soon and will be a big decision.
- Centre Back
Vertonghen and Alderweireld got old. Dier hasn’t adapted to defence well and Sanchez hasn’t progressed as hoped to be able to step up and replace a Belgian. Rodon looks good but need another player next to him as soon as possible.
- Right Back
We sold Walker and despite buying three right backs and promoting another from the academy in the last 5 seasons, none have been good enough and we’ve sold the better two.
- Defensive midfielder
Someone who can protect the back four, break up play and is good in transitions, and is also a competent passer and good under pressure.
- Attacking midfielder
Someone who can bring energy to the attack and break down defensive blocks. A creative spark who can take on players Ideally a set piece taker also, unless the winger is.
Someone who can compete with Bergwijn and give more quality off the bench than Lucas and Lamela. Quick, direct, able to score, create and take on his man.
- Backup Striker
Someone we trust and can reduce Kane’s minutes slightly. Probably someone 25+, don’t need someone super young as we have Parrott and Scarlett coming through.