Stoke prosper as Spurs choke

Tottenham 2  Stoke 2          

There is certainly something to be said for transfer window brinkmanship in the era of the mega-money deals.

And Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is nothing if not a shrewd operator when it comes to buying and selling on the ever-inflated market.

It is less than two years since he banked for Tottenham a world-record fee for Gareth Bale after a long, hot summer of negotiations with Real Madrid. Only 12 months earlier, the same Spanish club wired Spurs around £30m for Luka Modric days before the transfer window’s closure. Again, it brought an end to months of back-and-forth between Levy and Madrid.

It is an admirable and bullish strategy. Wait until the buyers are so desperate to land their target, wait until they have ran out of time to get somebody else, and you can command the highest fee.

The problem is transfer window brinkmanship is a two-way street: now Spurs need to buy as their need for a new centre-forward lurches towards desperate after the 2-2 draw with Stoke.

Any club that negotiates with Levy between now and the close of the window will know this is a Spurs team for which the failure to bring in a new striker would be a disaster. With world-class No. 9s are at a premium, Spurs know this could be a costly summer.

Following the sale of one-time club-record signing Roberto Soldado to Villarreal last week, and given the exiled Emmanuel Adebayor has no future at the club, Kane is currently the only senior striker in the entire squad.

He starred for Tottenham last season and punctuated an incredible campaign with 21 Premier League goals in 34 outings. However he returned to the club late this summer after featuring for the England Under-21s at the European Championships, and Pochettino concedes he is still well short of full fitness.

That is why the manager withdrew the striker after just 64 minutes at White Hart Lane with his side 2-0 up. It meant Tottenham played the remaining 26 minutes with six midfielders, four defenders and absolutely no focus in attack. Kane had played well, produced two particularly incisive first-half passes and at least given Stoke something to think about going forward.

Pochettino explained: “He needs time to improve his performance, his fitness level and to build his confidence again.”

Once he had departed, the visitors poured forward, scoring twice and finishing looking most likely to find a winner. It was no less than Stoke deserved in front of the watching Xherdan Shaqiri, signed from Inter last week.

It was ironic that Stoke, who have landed proven attacking talent in Shaqiri and Ibrahim Affelay, were White Hart Lane’s first visitors given the context of Tottenham’s inability to sign a new striker so far.

As if to counter those thoughts, Spurs paraded their five new arrivals on the pitch before kick-off. Among them was N’jie Clinton, the 22-year-old attacker signed from Lyon. But, with seven goals in 37 Ligue 1 appearances.

But the quintet’s appearance on the pitch brought with it a feelgood factor which was reinforced by two Tottenham goals in 26 first-half minutes. Eric Dier nodded home the first after 19 minutes before Nacer Chadli followed suit just before the break.

Early in the second half, Chadli teed up Kane who really should have put Spurs out of sight but Jack Butland produced a fine save. It was the England striker’s last meaningful act before his exit.

Marko Arnautovic scored from the spot in the 78th minute and Mame Biram Diouf secured a point seven minutes from time. Butland, meanwhile, agreed the withdrawal of Kane was the key.

“To see him go off was a bit of a relief. Without them pushing, it gave us a bit more time on the ball. We got hold of the game and started to dictate it.” Spurs and Levy must hope the opposition don’t do the same.

TOTTENHAM:

Lloris 6; Walker 5, Alderweireld 6, Vertonghen 6, Davies 7; Dier 7, Mason 6 (69 Bentaleb 6); Dembele 6, Chadli 7, Eriksen 5; Kane 7 (64 Lamela 5).

STOKE:

Butland 7; Johnson 6, Muniesa 7, Cameron 7, Pieters 6; Whelan 7, Van Ginkel 6 (59 Ireland 7); Walters 6 (59 Joselu 7); Afellay 6, Arnautovic 6 (90 Adam); Diouf 7.

Referee:

Robert Madley.


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