Has Harry highlighted the one flaw halting Tottenham’s progress?

Harry Redknapp, Tottenham manager After Tottenham came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Arsenal in November, Redknapp talked up his side’s chances of winning the Premier League. But, by last week, he had changed his tune; “You need top players if you are going to compete with your top four rivals. We were looking at an extra striker in the January transfer window like Andy Carroll or Sergio Aguero, but it’s impossible. We could never have afforded them.”

But is this really the case, or is he just making excuses for his side’s potential failure to finish in the top 4?

The first point to make is that, come the end of the season, Harry will not have to make excuses to anyone. The Champions League run shows he is one of the best managers in the League. Tottenham have had a fantastic season, even if they do finish 5th in the League.

But can he really blame financial restraint if his side do not finish in the top 4?

It is not a secret that Tottenham have spent a lot of money on transfer fees in recent seasons. With this in mind, you could say that Tottenham have had money to spend and have just not spent wisely enough.

The table below shows the net spending on transfer fees for the last 4 years, by the clubs that currently sit at the top of the Premier League.

Net Spending on transfer fees (£)
Team 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 Total
Man City 39.1 117.9 99 126.5 382.5
Chelsea 7.5 -10.8 17.5 87.5 101.7
Tottenham 33.9 19.4 -0.5 17.5 70.3
Liverpool 39.8 6.35 -8.7 -5.1 32.35
Man Utd 36.7 33.7 -64.5 13.5 19.4
Arsenal -13.4 0.05 -31 6.8 -37.55

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Tottenham may have spent £100m more than Arsenal and finished lower in the League every season, but Redknapp’s issue does not lie with Arsenal. Arsenal are one of the best clubs in the world at developing players and one of the only clubs who consistently play in the Champions League, and make a profit on net spending on transfer fees.

They have shown that it is possible to create a top class side team through player-development; Arsenal buy talented players young and develop them. However, this does not make for overnight success. Even now, as a team, they are yet to fulfil their full potential. Harry’s issue instead lies with the fact that he cannot compete with Manchester City or Chelsea’s spending.

Yes Tottenham have a large net spending the last 5 years, but only 1/5 of Manchester City. Chelsea have spent £30m more, despite already having a world-class squad in 2007/8. Chelsea might have not spent that much in the previous 3 seasons, but this year, when they were struggling they spent masses in January to try and rectify their problem, and this table does not include the £300m Chelsea spent on players in the early 2000s. It is amazing that Redknapp’s side have competed as well as they have done, considering this difference in net spending on transfer fees and wage bills.

Harry is frustrated that he could not buy a world-class striker this January. It is this type of player that Tottenham have missed and this kind of player that is hugely significant to a side finishing in the top 4. On Sunday he said, “If the top players get offered a £150,000 a week at Manchester City they are not going to come to Tottenham for £60,000 a week, are they? Their wage bills are far in excess of ours.” Yes, Tottenham have bought a lot of players and spent a lot of money, but what really sets City and Chelsea apart is the signings of proven players for colossal fees and the wages they can afford to pay.

For example City have bought Tevez (£25m), Adebayor (£25m), Dzeko (£27m), Balotelli (£24.5) and Santa Cruz (17.5) all for more than Tottenham’s record transfer fee. Chelsea have bought Torres(£50m), Drogba (£24m), Anelka (£15m) and Schevchenko (£30m). These strikers will also be demanding £100,000 a week and more.

Tottenham have been unable to spend that kind of money. If you take the current Tottenham squad and add to it Tevez and Carroll, I am sure they would finish in the top 4. That is what Redknapp is saying.

Critics might argue that it would have been wise to spend less on players and more on individual’s wages. It could have been wise to save the £14m on Pavlyuchenko and put it towards a £30m bid for the likes of an Aguero, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Even still, would the Tottenham board have been willing to pay their wages? Additionally, before Christmas, Tottenham’s strength over Liverpool was their strength in depth. However, with Liverpool’s recent acquisitions, and their new found exuberance under Kenny Dalglish, it is only going to be harder for Tottenham to finish in the top 4 next season.

Harry is not making excuses; he is just being a bit more realistic now than he was earlier in the season. The Tottenham board may be generous, but they are not in the same League as Abramovic or Sheik Mansour. Had it not been for Man City, Redknapp’s side would have finished in the top 4. He is not making up excuses, he is presenting facts.

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