No new players? No drama: Pochettino

Tottenham striker Son Heung-min signed a new five-year contract last month. But his club season will be disrupted by national duty with South Korea at the Asian Games this month and the Asian Cup in January.
Tottenham striker Son Heung-min signed a new five-year contract last month. But his club season will be disrupted by national duty with South Korea at the Asian Games this month and the Asian Cup in January.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Spurs boss puts on brave face over transfers, blames Brexit as stadium costs had spiralled

LONDON • Tottenham created an unwanted piece of Premier League history on Thursday when they became the first team not to make a signing since the transfer window was created in 2003.

But manager Mauricio Pochettino came out swinging in his pre-match press conference for today's trip to Newcastle United, believing that Spurs will be stronger despite failing to add numbers because they have retained key players.

"I don't feel the panic in football. Some people make a drama in football and drama for me is another thing," he said yesterday.

"Our decision was not to sign. That may look bad because of the perception and the history of football, but that is our decision to keep the best players and the squad.

"Of course, it's difficult to understand for people that Tottenham didn't sign players, but we believe a lot in our players and why not repeat a similar season like last year or the season before?

"We are going to be better , no doubt about that."

That wave of optimism back in May, when he rejected the overtures of Real Madrid to sign a new five-year deal to stay at Tottenham, may be starting to wear thin.

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Despite ending the season trophyless, the signs were still looking good: a young, close-knit squad with homegrown talent at its core, a committed manager, whose burgeoning reputation would help the Premier League club push on, and a spanking new £1 billion (S$1.75 billion) stadium to usher in next term.

This was supposed to have been the close season for Spurs to make a splash in the transfer market that would not only consolidate their top-four credentials, but also show intent to end their 10-year silverware drought.

Pochettino even called on chairman Daniel Levy "to be brave and take risks" after the final game of last season if Spurs were to be "real contenders for big trophies".

He sought to clarify his "brave" comments, insisting it took courage for the club to tie down key personnel in Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Davinson Sanchez to new contracts in the face of Brexit and the spiralling construction costs of their new home.

"What the club is doing is showing it is so brave," said the Argentinian, who had yet to decide which of his nine players who appeared in the World Cup semi-finals were ready to return to action.

"Building a stadium that is nearly £1 billion. With Brexit, it is worse because the cost is 30 per cent more, and then keep the best players. For me, (that) is to be brave.

"We have the Golden Boot in Harry, who is so disappointed because he says to me he should have scored more goals (at the World Cup). But it's good. It's good they feel we are all together, the same team as last season and we can all fight for big things."

While he has appeared to be on the same page as Levy with regards to Spurs' no-transfer policy, at least in public, he knows his team cannot afford a repeat of the sluggish start that marred the opening weeks of last season - if they are to challenge champions Manchester City and a Liverpool side who, by stark contrast, will feature £177 million of new signings.

A return of just two points from their opening three home games meant Spurs had to play catch-up virtually from the start, which they eventually did to finish third.

Victory against Rafa Benitez's men will provide the perfect response to the questions raised in recent days, yet whatever the outcome, Spurs' approach to the recent transfer window will continue to be placed under close scrutiny.

And anything less than a convincing win will stir debate about Levy's failure to deliver new players for his manager at the start of a campaign that will see the club move into the rebuilt White Hart Lane stadium after a year at Wembley.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2018, with the headline 'No new players? No drama: Pochettino'. Print Edition | Subscribe