The attention before and after this weekend’s Premier League fixtures was focused towards Stamford Bridge and the first meeting of Chelsea and Manchester United since the European Cup final in May.
Fans of clubs outside the ‘big’ four’ often bemoan their lack of coverage in the media but one club should be thanking their lucky stars that Chelsea played Manchester United this weekend and also that Mike Riley had a stinker.
This is a club that has been the closest in recent years to making the ‘big four’ into a ‘big five’. This is a club who has spent millions of pounds trying to bridge the gap and get into the Champions League. This is a club that ruthlessly sacked a manager who had led them to two successive fifth placed finishes.
This club is Tottenham Hotspur and for all their history and all their ambition, they find themselves bottom of the Premier League. And to add insult to injury, their bitter rivals Arsenal are top, after a superb 3-1 victory away at Bolton.
Last summer after spending a fortune on new players the club got off to a disastrous start in the league and the board began to feel that perhaps Martin Jol wasn’t up to the job.
The teams inability to beat any of the big teams and some strange tactical decisions made by Jol, particularly in the FA Cup at Chelsea, had already led to Daniel Levy, the Chairman, to question Jol’s position. The poor start confirmed his doubts and after a not-so secret meeting with Sevilla Manager Juande Ramos, the Spaniard was appointed as Jol’s successor.
Ramos had been hugely successful at Sevilla, where he had led them to back-to-back Uefa Cup wins and had developed a squad and playing style that was the envy of many of the bigger European sides. However Ramos felt he had taken the club as far as he could and was eager to test himself elsewhere. Tottenham seemed like the perfect destination for him to do this.
A year on and things haven’t really changed. On arrival at the club Ramos complained of the squad being unfit and overweight, so he made them undergo a second pre-season during October. He wasn’t happy with the quality of the squad so immediately set about identifying new players, along with Director of Football Damien Commoli, to bring the squad in line with his vision.
After such a poor start the first test for Ramos was to get Spurs winning and moving up the table. The fact that they won the Carling Cup by beating Chelsea in the final and thrashing Arsenal 5-1 in the semi-final second leg seemed to gloss over the fact that this didn’t happen. They finished the season in 12th position and effectively went on holiday after the cup victory.
Christian Gross’s ill-fated spell at the club was seen as an unmitigated disaster but the statistics show that the Swiss won more points per game (1.30 to 1.28) than Ramos has since he took over.
If Ramos is as good a coach as the reputation he gained in Spain suggests, then he should have been able to use the players that he had in the squad and get them playing in a way that produced results. This shouldn’t have been too hard given a squad containing the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Aaron Lennon.
Yet it seems that Ramos wanted to have more input in the purchasing of players than he did when in Spain. At Sevilla working alongside Sporting Director Monchi, they discovered a host of young unknown talents like Dani Alves, Julio Baptista and Luis Fabiano and turned them into world class stars. Yet the players Spurs have purchased in the last year all seem to have two things in common. Over-hyped and over-priced.
The Spurs board have given Ramos the money to sign new players, yet at the same time they have undermined him with their dealing of the Dimitar Berbatov transfer.
While it is important for clubs like Tottenham not to role over as soon as bigger clubs want one of their players and they should be applauded for the reluctance to let the player go, if it wasn’t that their desire to hold onto the player was all about maximizing the profit on a player who they bought for £10m two years ago. In the end the deal was concluded at midnight on September 1st, leaving the manager no time to sign a replacement and leaving his squad unbalanced.
This may seem like making a mountain out of a molehill because the season is still young and the new players need time to get used to their new surroundings and blend with their new teammates. Ledley King’s injury problems have not helped Ramos, as he has been unable to field a consistent back four and Robbie Keane’s desire to join Liverpool was also a blow.
Neither the board nor Ramos can shirk the blame for the situation the club is in. But what is important is that they stick together and do not make any rash decisions.
Ramos has today dismissed reports that he is unhappy in London and that his family are unsettled by saying: “I am delighted to be in London and I’m delighted to be at Tottenham. I’m having a marvelous experience.
“We need time. Some players came in only just before the close of the transfer window and there have been big changes.”
He came to Tottenham looking for new challenge and there can be no doubt that is what he has got.
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