As the deluge of injuries and absences worsened on Sunday night at Fulham, Mauricio Pochettino must have been wondering what he has to do to get a break. When Dele Alli limped off at Craven Cottage, he could have been a metaphor for Spurs’ squad and their title ambitions. Full of promise and quality, but savaged by injury and fatigue.
The transfer window remains tantalisingly open until late next Thursday. However, most reports coming out of the club, are that Daniel Levy is unwilling to reinforce his manager’s stricken squad.
The timing of this injury crisis will not be lost on some nervy Spurs supporters. Pochettino’s future and the summer managerial vacancy at Old Trafford are elephants in the room in North London. The brutal reality remains for the club’s talented manager; Spurs cannot and will not be able to challenge for the major honours in the game, without real investment in their threadbare squad.
That much is obvious. What isn’t so obvious is how much of an effect this frustration is having on the Argentinean manager. His loyalty to Spurs appears sincere and encouraging, but this current decimation of his top talent, with no reinforcements on the horizon, could well prove to be the final straw.
North London blue print
In years to come, a giant 62,062 capacity stadium will pay dividends to Spurs’ finances. For the immediate future though, it remains the source of their austerity.
With loans reported to be in the region of £400 million and the total project cost, at a staggering £850 million and counting, there simply is not a penny to spare on new signings.
To hear Pochettino talk about the legendary Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, and his time at the Gunners, during their years of limp financial muscle, as the Emirates stadium was erected, is not insignificant. Wenger is known to have turned down a number of suitors during the barren years from 2006, when the club simply had to reign in its transfer spending, and he may well have had some sound advice for his younger counterpart.
Pochettino finds himself in strikingly similar situation. In fact, it would not be unfair to say, his is a much more severe case, as their now infamous zero spend on players in the summer window of 2018 begins to bite.
If the Argentinean was buoyed by Wenger’s loyalty to the Gunners, this inspiration may well have been wiped out by the current injury crisis afflicting his already depleted squad.
Alli’s hamstring blow has been set against injuries to Moura, Sissoko, Wanyama and Kane. Add in Son’s international duty and things look pretty grim. It is not unreasonable therefore, for Pochettino to hope for, and even privately have requested the club utilise this current window, to ease the crisis and keep the club in the top four.
The fact that there is no clear sign of a Levy funded Calvary, coming over the hill for Pochettino must be pretty tough to take, regardless of his happy public persona.
He is famous for working with what he has and bringing about wonderful improvement in his players. There is a kernel of optimism then, that youngsters like Oliver Skipp, Harry Winks, Kazaiah Sterling and Georges-Kevin N’Koudou could shine in the absence of the senior players and the guidance of their top class manager.
However this does smack, more than a tad, of clutching at straws. Blooding youngsters is fine in the early round cup games or in less intense European ties, but at the thick end of a Premier League campaign, it would be unwise and unfair to depend on these youngsters to get you over the line.
Pochettino has seen just £254 million spent on players, since his appointment in 2014. This is a figure simply dwarfed by his top six rivals and the fact he has managed to consistently keep Spurs in the Champions League spots, is a huge achievement in itself.
He is a manager of immense pedigree and talent. The temptation to measure himself at one of the biggest clubs in the game must be incredible. There would be plenty of gold pieces at Manchester United, should the right man need to spend them. It’s a contrast in riches that will not have escaped Pochettino’s attention as he pleads for relief from Levy for his injury woes.
Yes, he has Moura and Sissoko returning, which will help for now. But surely these meagre crumbs of comfort are not enough for Pochettino? That’s a question he’ll have plenty of time to ponder as he waits for his star players to ease themselves off the treatment table and come to his aide once again.