Tottenham supporters will be forgiven for getting carried away this season. Even with the impending sale of Gareth Bale, this is the best summer of business anyone is likely to remember thus far. It’s 2008 all over again, the ambition now combined with real substance.
The goal remains to finish above Arsenal, but the ambitious spend of this summer has owed to greater and loftier targets, namely an assault on the Premier League title and a possible moniker as the dark horses behind Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
But Andre Villas-Boas has been quick and sensible to dampen that enthusiasm. The countless false dawns of the past feel as though they’re firmly in the rear-view mirror and are unlikely to be seen again. But it should not be underestimated how difficult and cruel football can be, especially to ‘newcomers’ in any arena.
And Tottenham are just that, newcomers to the land of the giants in a Premier League title race. It would be foolish to assume this team, no matter who the recruits are, will ride imperiously on towards victory in May. The fact remains that this could go one of two ways. The first being that a top four side is taking shape at White Hart Lane and a title challenge could eventually come. Or, the darker alternative, that it all blows up and comes to nothing.
It also needs to be stressed that title challenges take time and patience. Tottenham are quite clearly not part of the nouveau riche clubs of the modern day, and yet even PSG and Manchester City struggled initially to turn their ambitious spending into a tangible success on the field.
Manchester City stunned the football world with their takeover in 2008 and the signing of Robinho. Too little, too late in the day to make further moves in the market, but the club nevertheless promised Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Lionel Messi to its supporters. The Brazilian, of course, was said to be the topic of a serious but failed bid the following January. That season the club finished 10th in the league table, and while there was an obvious improvement the following season – Carlos Tevez, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Joloean Lescott arrived during the summer to supplement the January signings – the club still lost out to Tottenham in the battle for the final Champions League place in the league, finishing fifth. From the point of the takeover in 2008, it took City four years before they landed the Premier League title.
Much of the same is said for PSG. Only once the enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic and eventual captain Thiago Silva arrived last summer did the Paris club transform their fortunes into silverware. Prior to that, the club had spent lavishly within French football, then slowly expanding their market to the Italian Serie A with the signings of Javier Pastore, Jeremy Menez and Salvatore Sirigu.
Of course, Tottenham have a little more stability in the managerial department in comparison to those two clubs, as well as the obvious need to avoid erratic spending. But much in the same way as City, the Premier League can’t be conquered in a single summer. As has been said many times in the past, the title is won in May, not by what you do in July and August. Tottenham have shown phenomenal ambition to get ahead, but where is the sense that all of these players have come in from abroad? Where is the nod to the fact that the team’s best striker is used to a winter break, as well as midfield signing Paulinho never having played in a major league in Europe?
Villas-Boas’ calming of the situation was to buy this whole project time, not necessarily from Daniel Levy but from supporters. It’s an obvious need to not get carried away and then have hopes dashed before the game is up.
Talk of title challenges from White Hart Lane is correct, but certainly with less confidence than Napoli in Serie A. The Naples side finished second last season, have won the Coppa Italia and are now competing in the Champions League for the second time in three seasons. Much like Spurs, Napoli have reinvested the funds from their star player wisely and are arguably better off with their current squad. But they still have to juggle European football with the kind of form that will see them past Antonio Conte’s Juventus and the other clubs who are likely to be in the mix.
Unless their nearest rivals do something of note in the market before the window closes, Spurs will be favourites to finish fourth. But that’s the logical first step. Even with all the money in the world, there are no shortcuts or easy paths to glory. It still very much takes time.
Will Spurs challenge for the title this summer, or will the project take time?
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