Tanguy Ndombele signing can give Tottenham Hotspur impetus to push on despite Mauricio Pochettino's concerns
Ndombele's acquisition boosts the midfield of a side that despite reaching the Champions League final lost 20 games in all competitions in 2019/20
Perhaps Tottenham Hotspur were 90 minutes, a Moussa Sissoko handball and evidence of Divock Origi’s strangely magical evolution into football’s ultimate understudy from reshaping the game’s financial model.
Forget the culture of consumption, Spurs showed a way towards becoming European champions that entailed spending nothing.
So maybe agents breathed a sigh of life when Liverpool prevailed in Madrid.
Who finishes where in 2019/20?
In a sense, perhaps chairman Daniel Levy did too: Mauricio Pochettino has suggested both before and after the Uefa Champions League final that he could have quit as manager if Tottenham won.
The Argentinian’s continued presence represents the closest to a guarantee of future prosperity, even he has cut a frustrated figure of late.
Levy has opened the chequebook, but not as often as Pochettino wanted.
Jack Clarke, the first signing for 18 months, was promptly loaned back to Leeds United.
Tanguy Ndombele, the second, followed the same day, cost a club record £54 million (Dh241m) and is an auspicious signing. At 22, he has the potential to power Spurs’ midfield for a decade. He looks a cornerstone of the second team of Pochettino’s reign.
Yet no more additions have followed. Interest in Giovani Lo Celso and Paulo Dybala appeared further evidence of ambition, but an inability to seal a deal has brought irritation, not least from Pochettino.
But Ndombele’s arrival means a new-look midfield is taking shape: Sissoko and Harry Winks had breakthrough years last season while Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, who regressed, find themselves further down the queue.
Yet Spurs find themselves in familiar limbo with Christian Eriksen, who had eyed the exit, yet to generate bids.
Neither has Toby Alderweireld, who seems more reconciled to staying, or Danny Rose, omitted from pre-season games to prepare for a move that never came. Instead, the principal departure is Kieran Trippier, who joined Atletico Madrid talking gnomically about “things that happened behind the scenes”.
If Trippier’s faltering form last season suggests he will not be missed, the reality is that no new right-back has been signed.
It could point to more opportunities for the Under-20 World Cup winner Kyle Walker-Peters, though Pochettino has also experimented with the centre-back Juan Foyth on the right.
Given the importance attacking full-backs played in his most dynamic team, it looks a potential issue just as Ryan Sessegnon, a prospective arrival on the left and a player Pochettino could mould, would appear ideal.
It is the Pochettino way to develop players and if Spurs can appear in perpetual progress, the evidence is contradictory.
Tottenham are officially one of Europe’s two best teams, even if their magnificently dramatic Champions League triumphs over Manchester City and Ajax were scarcely convincing.
Yet they also suffered 20 defeats last season and did not take a point on the road after January.
If that reflects a focus on Europe, it also offers scope for improvement.
Tottenham allowed more shots on their goal than Everton and Leicester City, averaged fewer efforts in the penalty area than Crystal Palace, ended the season in worse form than Fulham and only took one from the last 18 available against the top six.
It is a selective interpretation of statistics, and the alternative approach is to say that Son Heung-min reached 20 goals for a third successive season, all without even being Spurs’ top scorer.
Pochettino has plenty of firepower and if Ndombele’s signing allows Dele Alli to operate further upfield, perhaps the Englishman could rediscover his scoring touch after finding the net only seven times in all competition last season.
With Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen gone, the prolific pair of Lucas Moura and Son double up as Harry Kane’s understudies.
And if the striker’s more frequent injuries present one cause for concern, Spurs can savour the thought of a first full season at the new White Hart Lane.
They should not finish 26 points off the top two again, though catching either, even if it does not win Pochettino that elusive first trophy, would be some feat.
Updated: August 6, 2019 12:02 PM