The way it’s looking, just a week away from the start of the new Premier League season, it’s clear to me that Spurs, along with Manchester City, are the teams who on paper look radically stronger than last year (though an eventual sale of Bale will obviously weaken Spurs).
I for one doubt it’s a coincidence that the only two teams in the Premier League with genuine sporting directors (or technical directors or directors of football, if you like) are the ones who have appeared the most prepared, structured and with clear strategies in their work in the summer transfer market. Of course, that’s an obviously predictable opinion coming from someone with my background – as readers will no doubt remind me – but if you compare their work with those of arch rivals Arsenal and Manchester United this summer, you may even concede I have a point.
They have acted swiftly and decisively – with City completing most of their summer deals by the end of July – in identifying the players they wanted, and getting the deals done. This is the way business tends to happen in continental Europe, where sporting directors are the norm. They predominantly secure their targets early in the window, unless it’s a big transfer which requires more time (for instance with all the game playing seen in the Luis Suárez and Bale sagas – it’s natural that such deals drag out). They want their squads ready in ample time for the start of the season.
Now, to be very general, Premier League clubs on the whole seem rather reactive in their general approach to transfer dealings: reliant on agent offers, wanting to wait and see in the summer what’s available, rather than having a wish list with multiple options and aiming even for those players that at first appear unavailable by sounding out potential interest early. Some even stick to the dated approach of “taking a late punt”. Without wanting to sound disrespectful – I’m a great admirer of English football and the Premier League on the whole – I do feel the approach to the transfer market is more haphazard in England, which may be put down to a weakness in the managerial system that rarely finds the space or the culture for high-level executives empowered to work exclusively on the transfer market and who are experts in the field.