In the last week, Arsenal played perhaps the best team in Premier League history—and for a half they were much the better side. A dodgy refereeing decision or two (perhaps) and their own foolishness cost them a result. Yesterday, we played the third-best team in the league, and we had most of our first choice squad (yes, our best two CBs were absent and we paid for it) and they wrapped us around their finger for the better part of 90 minutes.
Conte is right. The gap is huge between us and the three teams who control this league. We are much more a “middle” team than an elite team—and just because the same might also be said about at least two of our three 4th Place competitors doesn’t detract from the implications of that judgement. When he says one or two players and this current transfer window won’t be sufficient to turn things around, he is not claiming to be able to achieve our ambitions without new players—in fact is virtually the reverse. He now knows he needs a raftful and is doing what he always does, push his superiors privately and publicly to provide him with better options.
Ask yourself this question—how many of our current squad can you see as a Spurs regular (either starting most of our games or, if not, starting some and being used as a regular substitute) one year from now under Conte? I count Lloris (at the tail end of his career), Dier, Romero, Skipp, Kane and Son—that’s six. I can’t see another—not our central midfielders, not our wingbacks, not our other attackers. And if our true need for new talent is at least that many—as I believe it is—well then you have to examine just how the money will be available to get them. Will a Champions League placement help? Absolutely. What are our true odds of finishing 4th? Maybe 1 in 3. Play out this season and most of the time we are playing Thursdays next year. Will the revenue from (fairly) full houses at the ground help? Yes. But it is a COVID world and underline the word “fairly”. Will a few of our unwanteds attract some interest in the transfer market? Perhaps. But name one—Gio, Tanguy, Dele, Lucas, Bergwijn—that you think could fetch as much as 40 million.
We have two players that can yield a significant fee. I believe both have seen their best days in a Spurs shirt. One will turn 30 this summer, the other 29. If we believe that this a multi-year project—it must be founded on a group of young players who rise to their primes over that period (As happened under Poch)—not based on two ageing stars who have each declined this year and may continue to do so, perhaps more rapidly than we think.
The last time Son or Kane will yield substantial money is probably this coming summer. The last time their sale might give us the necessary funding to buy two younger players for each (or three) that could approach their levels under Conte is this summer. I think it is time to bite the bullet—and I would not rule out selling both. It will cause a huge alteration in the team’s makeup and culture—but—and I do not blame either for doing anything but playing hard and well the past 7 years—maybe that’s precisely what we need. Maybe the time for half measures is over.
Middle teams led by star players often need to ask themselves: how can we become great? It would be wonderful if Kane and Son leapt up under Conte as Mane, Firmino and Salah did under Klopp. But they’ve already advanced past the age when that improvement took place—Merseyside and at N17. That trio were all 23 or 24 when Klopp arrived and began to work his magic. That’s what we need—a trio (or quartet) of under 25 players, ready to hit their prime.
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