LONDON -- Mauricio Pochettino has suggested that stuttering Tottenham are paying the price for leaving their transfer business late and says they are determined not to make the same mistake next summer.
In a veiled message to his chairman Daniel Levy, Pochettino warned that Spurs, who are 18 points adrift of league leaders Manchester City, would suffer if they remain "reactive" in the transfer market.
He also revealed that Spurs could try to agree deals in January for next summer -- as they did with Dele Alli in 2015 -- to avoid competing with their wealthier Premier League rivals.
Davinson Sanchez was Spurs' first signing of last summer on Aug. 23 -- a week before the transfer deadline -- and Juan Foyth, Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente followed in the final 48 hours of the window.
More than three months later, they are all still settling in at Spurs, and Pochettino said: "It's so important today to identify our targets for next summer.
"If we wait until May and sell before signing, it's so difficult to bring in players that can help. This season is a very good example. We signed good players but it was so late, with no preseason and then they have to play.
"You need six or seven months for the players to adapt themselves to the team, the dynamics, everything. And that is always against us. We were talking about how important it is to identify our targets and on 3 July, when we start preseason, have them here. If not, it's so difficult for them to help the team. And during the season, you're going to pay."
City, by contrast, signed Bernando Silva six days after the final game of last season and they had completed six deals by July 24. Pochettino described City's approach as "a good example" but stressed that Spurs would have to adopt a "different strategy" to their United Arab Emirates-backed rivals.
"Maybe we need to sign players in January and bring them in six months before," he said. "If not, we're going to compete in the same period as City, [Manchester] United, Liverpool and Chelsea -- and we're going to struggle to bring in the players we want."
Spurs agreed a deal for Alli in January 2015 -- their last signing in the winter window -- and immediately loaned him back to MK Dons, allowing him to train regularly with his new club before joining at the start of preseason.
"That is a very good example that you need to anticipate," Pochettino said of the deal for the two-time PFA Young Player of the Year. "And today we are at a club that needs to anticipate. We cannot be reactive because if we are, we are going to lose."
Spurs have already maxed their quota of foreign players allowed in the Champions League, meaning Erik Lamela was not registered for the group stage, and Pochettino also said they will need to "take advantage" of the English market, while refusing to rule out recalling homegrown midfielder Josh Onomah, who is on loan at Aston Villa, next month.
And the manager was surprisingly disparaging about his five summer signings, suggesting that Spurs had not been able to attract top-class players, despite boasting Champions League football.
Asked if they would need a top-four finish to buy the best players, he said: "But you have a very good example. Last season, how did we finish? Second. And who did we attract? We attracted?"
Pochettino was told that Spurs had attracted club-record signing Sanchez, a highly-coveted young centre-back.
"We attract a 21-year-old. Yes or no?" he replied.
"We tried to do [early business] last summer," he added. "We could not, for different reasons. Now, we are going to try again to do it early. When it's a World Cup, we cannot wait because you need to do some business before.
"There's an earlier [transfer] deadline. And you need to be clever because before the World Cup is finished, some players are maybe down here and after a good World Cup, they are up here, and then you say [waves good-bye], forget it."
In response to a question from a supporter about leaving transfer business late, a Spurs spokesperson told the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust on Friday: "The Club always looks to conduct business early -- this is not always possible and contrary to the suggestion here not down to the club -- three parties need to agree any deal and that's before you have competition from other clubs or indeed outstanding decisions on other players you are pursuing. Most transfer activity takes place in the last week of the window."