It might seem a little bit of a left-field suggestion, but there are reasons why it might be a savvy signing: Tottenham should make a move for Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, valued at £8.5m by TransferMarkt.com – though would be signed on a free transfer.
Mauricio Pochettino has built a side who are currently punching well above their weight, having come third last season and look to have all but secured second this year. It’s a process built around continuous, solid growth: a team of young players who are improving together have spent the last two seasons playing a thoroughly modern and youthful brand of football. It doesn’t seem immediately obvious, then, that a player like the 34-year-old Ivorian would fit into the side. He doesn’t fit the age profile, nor does he fit the physical profile.
And yet, there are two compelling arguments for making a move.
For one thing, one of Tottenham’s greatest strengths is also one of their greatest weaknesses. The high-intensity game that has seen Spurs climb the ladder and join the elite of English football over the last few seasons has been helped by the young and hungry squad at the manager’s disposal. Pochettino himself, could be seen in the same light, a youthful manager leading a youthful team. But there is a distinct lack of league-winning experience, and although it’s overly harsh to suggest that they’ve thrown away a league title this season, it’s also likely that if they are to win trophies over the next few seasons, they’ll need an experienced head to guide them through it.
Toure doesn’t just have the experience of winning trophies in England and around the world – he’s won the league title in four different countries – but he’s also been the man to grab his team by the scruff of the neck and drag them over the line during plenty of City’s recent triumphs. And although, in the twilight of his career, it would be a fantasy to think that he could have exactly the same effect with Tottenham. It’s more what he can bring to the team’s mental and psychological development.
But that’s not to say that he wouldn’t add to the team’s performance on the pitch in a significant manner either.
Toure is the sort of player that Spurs don’t have already. He can unlock defences in a way none of Spurs’ current squad can, and has played almost his whole career in the sorts of big teams who spend entire games attempting to break down stubborn defences. Ironically – or, perhaps, crucially – Toure has a track record of scoring big goals for his team at Wembley.
Pochettino lacks that sort of player in his current squad, and that absence is arguably the one thing that has stopped his side from winning the title over the last two seasons.
It hasn’t been the way they’ve ended the campaign which has cost them the title. Not even last season, when draws to West Brom and Chelsea, coupled with defeat at Newcastle on the final day, saw Spurs drop to third. It’s been the way they’ve started the season that’s cost them. This year, six draws in their first 11 games saw Pochettino’s side drop 12 points early on. Last year, they only won three of their first nine, drawing five. Both times, more than half of those opening games have been draws.
They constantly leave themselves with too much ground to make up in order to win a title, even if Spurs aren’t yet at a stage where titles and silverware is expected before the start of the season.
And yet, turning just a few of those draws into victories could have changed the dynamic of the ends of both seasons dramatically. This year, turning just two of those draws into wins could have seen Pochettino’s side leading Chelsea, not following them. Last year, it’s a similar story. In the end, they left themselves too much to do both times.
There’s also the question of home form versus away form. 10 of the 12 games that Spurs have failed to win this season have come away from home, drawing six and losing four. They are yet to lose at White Hart Lane. Clearly, away trips, coupled with pressure and defensive teams is posing a problem.
Despite his age, turning draws into wins is something of a speciality for Yaya Toure. He has spent a career unlocking defences, and has a fairly unique mix of experience and specific abilities, as well as knowing how to deal with pressure.
It’s the kind of signing which would signal a change in approach from a young manager who has very specific ideas on how his team should play, and it’s already a strategy which is paying dividends. There may also be concerns around the club’s wage structure. But it’s also the kind of signing which would solve two of the most glaring problems in Tottenham’s current squad. And they are the two problems which have stopped this side from winning a Premier League title over the last two seasons.