Who’s in. Who’s out. And how the rules on squad size and composition are directing our transfer activity. Plus, why 17 is the magic number this summer...
Spurs activity in the transfer market this summer has – a reserve keeper aside – followed a very clear strategy. We’re after young, technically sound players whose value is likely to grow significantly. In fact, this has been our strategy for a long time, as witnessed by quadrupling our investment in Yago Falque this week despite him appearing in a grand total of one first team match. You can imagine Daniel Levy lying back in a bathtub and barking at an acolyte to toss in another bundle of new fifties for him to swim around in like Scrooge McDuck after that one.
But it’s not all about the money (although you can appreciate where Spurs fan Jessie J got that idea following a club run by Levy). There’s also a need to conform our squad within the Premier League 25-man squad limitations, and – more specifically – the 17 man limit on players who are not homegrown or under 21. For the coming season, under 21 players must be born on or after January 1, 1993.
Our concluded business this summer has so far seen Dier (under 21) and Davies (both under 21 and homegrown) sign, with possibly Lascelles (also both), and maybe Schneiderlin (homegrown – just) possibly coming too. But it’s the 17 non-homegrown players where we really need to get it right as when you look at that list, there isn’t a lot of room for manoeuvre.
Currently, according to the Spurs official site, we have exactly 17 non-homegrown first team players born before January 1, 1993:
Goalkeepers – Friedel, Vorm, Lloris
Defenders – Kaboul, Vertonghen, Chiriches, Assou-Ekotto
Midfielders – Paulinho, Lamela, Dembele, Chadli, Eriksen, Holtby, Capoue, Sandro
Strikers – Adebayor, Soldado
That means if we are to sign another player, who does not qualify as homegrown or under 21, we have to replace one of the above.
Easy enough for the mooted arrival of Mateo Musacchio, who would presumably just swap in for the ostracised Assou-Ekotto. Good luck finding a new club, Benny.
Outside of that list, currently the Spurs first team squad contains nine players that qualify as homegrown and over the age limit: Walker, Rose, Naughton, Dawson, Fryers, Lennon, Townsend, Mason and Carroll.
(Note: Kane, Bentaleb, Davies and Dier are all not yet old enough to need naming in the 25-man squad. Amazing when you think of how good they already are.)
So, with 17 non-homegrown and 9 homegrown, at least one of those names above will miss out. Presumably Carroll and/or Mason will go on loan to make that happen. But for any other arrival, they’d have to guarantee to be better than the above. Suddenly it’s easier to understand why we’ve considered offers for Chiriches and Dawson, or even Sandro and Holtby.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on the development squad. Hall, Khumalo, Ceballos, Fredericks and Obika are all of the age where they’d have to be named but it’s unlikely any would. Presumably this means all will be forced to find a loan or permanent deal to set up the rest of their careers (and give Levy the chance to top up that bathtub of cash of his).
The limitations on the squad explain Spurs’ moves in the transfer market. We aren’t likely to be after many players over 21 unless they are a significant, proven upgrade on a specific member of the existing ‘complete’ squad. Selling a couple of players is possible if their value is at its peak – which it probably is for Kyle Naughton, Michael Dawson or Aaron Lennon. The only question would be whether their replacements can be found either cheaper or in a player that will produce more profit down the line, whether bought in or brought up from the development squads.
Our owners aren’t afraid to spend big money but only if they see a likely large return on their investment. Pochettino doesn’t seem to mind this as he likes working with young talent (hard to tell but doubtful he’d have come to Spurs if he did).
When seeing us linked with names in the press, it’s worth bearing this in mind. What kind of return would Micah Richards offer on a transfer fee in 3 years when he is 29? Or Remy when he’s 30? Schneiderlin and Rodriguez on the other hand are bound to retain their value at the very least in a few years time. Football won’t suddenly stop being rich or investing silly money in players and, whatever you think of Daniel Levy, his approach is an excellent way to ensure Spurs remain competitive and produce enough revenue to grow the business on and off the pitch.
Last point on ages. With Benny as good as gone and Dawson clinging on, that would leave Adebayor, at 30, as our oldest player. Soldado is the sole 29-year-old. We will have a first team squad with more than 10 players aged 23 or under. That’s exceptionally young and also worth remembering if we struggle for form or concede silly, late goals at any stage during the coming season. Maybe it is worth keeping Dawson after all. Friedel is unlikely to see any significant game time this campaign, so where do we turn for leaders?
The one weakness in our current transfer strategy is that it makes it very hard for us to purchase proven, experienced performers who inspire and command respect from those around them, who have been there and done it before.
But that just means we have to develop our own players that fit that description. And that is what excites me most about this season ahead and those beyond under the current regime. Maybe we already have a new Ledley King or Steve Perryman in our squad and don’t know it yet.
With Spurs, you can always rest assured it’ll be fun finding out.