One of the cardinal sins in modern football is what several pundits have dubbed “short-termism.” It’s the tendency to over-react to every struggle and think that every problem is best solved via a change in management or new signings. And the January window has given us no shortage of examples of short-termism in recent years. Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll famously moved for a combined £85m on deadline day in 2011. Torres would score 20 goals for Chelsea; Carroll would have 8 for Liverpool. So Chelsea paid £2.5m/goal for Torres while Liverpool paid £4.375m/goal for Carroll. (To put that into perspective, Swansea snapped up Michu for £2m while Everton signed Leighton Baines for £5m.)
Torres and Carroll aren’t the only bad January signings, however. Chelsea also splashed out £10m on Scott Parker in 2004, QPR spent £12.5m on Chris Samba in 2013, while Milan spent £19m on Mario Balotelli in 2013 only to sell him at a loss 19 months later. The lesson of the January window is that you cannot use the January window to reboot a team, introduce a player with questionable history or no clear role in the team, or to sign a player that will transform a team’s style. You simply go from weakness to weakness, with the only change being in what your fans call in to complain about on talkSPORT. The January window is useful for introducing a player who will fit your team’s style or for adding a key role player or two.
But if you try to do any more than that, as Liverpool and Chelsea both have in recent years, it’s likely to end in awful results on the field and even more upheaval in the club.
Given how much short-termism has plagued the team in recent years, it’s perhaps surprising that Tottenham haven’t done anything too terribly stupid in January. That’s almost certainly down to chairman Daniel Levy’s tight nature rather than any virtue in the club, but it’s something for which Spurs supporters should be grateful. What’s more, this year’s team is actually set up quite nicely to be helped by the upcoming window. Unlike the previous two seasons, it’s clear what Spurs are and what they’re lacking: They need another striker, though not a big money signing given Harry Kane’s form. They also need a tidy box-to-box midfielder. Beyond that, it’s probably best to leave the team alone and not make any radical changes. That said, if midfield flop Paulinho leaves in January, as looks likely, Spurs could perhaps do with signing a second midfielder.
The key will be finding players who are both affordable and have experience playing in a faster paced European league. Spurs have been linked with Colombia striker Teo Gutierrez, but as Gutierrez has no experience in a major European league, it’s unlikely that he’d be able to offer any immediate benefit (the fact that he doesn’t know English will also be a problem). There are similar problems with Porto target Jackson Martinez. Two other rumored targets are more promising, however. West Bromwich Albion striker Saido Berahino has done well for the Baggies and can count Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino amongst his admirers. Given his youth and experience in the Premier League, he’d be a good signing for Spurs. The fact that Harry Kane is in form and Berahino won’t need to lead the line right away will also help as it should take some of the pressure of Berahino.
The other promising target for Tottenham is PSG youngster Adrien Rabiot. While there may be issues with his mother-lawyer Veronique, a young midfielder from France, particularly from a club of PSG’s stature, would almost certainly do well in England. Most midfielders from abroad struggle to adapt in England because of the pace and physicality of the league. Spurs have themselves seen this in recent years with both Lewis Holtby and Paulinho. Even Sandro struggled a bit before bedding in late in his first season. But French midfielders generally adjust a little bit quicker because Ligue 1 is much closer to the Premier League in terms of style than Italy, Spain, or Germany.
Though the last French midfield signing Spurs made, Etienne Capoue, hasn’t been spectacular, a number of other former Ligue 1 midfielders have done quite well in England. Yohan Cabaye and Mousa Sissoko both took to life in the northeast quickly with Newcastle. Morgan Schneiderlin has starred for Southampton. Add to that historic examples like Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele, both of whom began their careers in France before ending up in England, and it’s not hard to see why English teams often fancy French midfield players. If Spurs could add Berahino and Rabiot, it would be a very good window for the side. If they could also unload one of their two misfiring strikers, Emmanuel Adebayor or Roberto Soldado, as well as expensive marginal players like Paulinho or Aaron Lennon, even better. But the goal should be strengthening what the club already has rather than making major changes. Those likely need to happen as well, but it’s best to wait for the summer when prices are lower and players have time to settle in before making such moves.