Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy Faces the Biggest Decision Of His 12-Year Tenure
Daniel Levy this week took the decision to dismiss Tottenham Head Coach Andre Villas-Boas, although the official line will read that the Portuguese coach’s departure was by mutual consent, we can be pretty sure this was a measure taken by the club. This decision came after Tottenham have endured a difficult period following their impressive start to the season, goals have been hard to come by for Spurs whilst goals at the wrong end of the pitch have been conceded with an all too worrying regularity as Manchester City and most recently Liverpool found out.
After much deliberation during the summer months, it was agreed that Tottenham would reinvest the majority of the money brought in by the sale of Gareth Bale into the playing squad, much to the delight of Andre Villas-Boas, who at that time worked with newly hired Technical Director Franco Baldini to bring in seven new players to the club for an outlay of around £110million. The team began the season well with Christian Eriksen looking every bit the technical genius everyone close to Ajax had professed him to be whilst Danny Rose had taken the left-back position from the controversial Benoit Assou-Ekotto with consummate ease.
An injury suffered by Rose in late September was really where things started to unravel for both Tottenham and Villas-Boas. Results started to slip away, Roberto Soldado was enduring a difficult time in front of goal whilst the Portuguese coach was unwilling to put either Jermain Defoe or Emmanuel Adebayor into the team on a regular basis and defensively Jan Vertonghen had to play out of position to cover the loss of Rose at left-back.
As pointed out in Jason Burt’s column for The Telegraph on Villas-Boas’ dismissal, Levy and Villas-Boas had become distant as a result of the failed attempts to offload Adebayor during the summer and the unwillingness to reward the Portuguese coach with a new contract after he had turned down the advances of cash-rich Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the summer. This chain of events right from the outset of the campaign left a shadow over Villas-Boas in the sense that is was always likely he would face a higher amount of pressure than certain other managers in the Premier League. The fact Daniel Levy had sanctioned a far greater spend than ever before during his relatively financially prudent tenure only made the string shorter.
Daniel Levy now has to make the most important decision of his twelve year spell at White Hart Lane, and that is which direction to take the club with regards to appointing a new manager. Many have drawn parallels between the current situation at Spurs following Villas-Boas’ departure and the situation in 2008 that saw Juande Ramos sacked and Harry Redknapp brought in. This was a gamble at the time with Redknapp having not worked at a club the size of Tottenham Hotspur for a long time at that point, yet the former Portsmouth boss brought everything that was needed to steady the ship and eventually improve to Spurs.
Harry Redknapp is the archetypal plucky English manager in that he gets the absolute best out of players, he can set teams up to go and play a rip-roaringly offensive game and get a result against the odds just as he did with Tottenham in Milan in 2011. This approach to management worked excellently right up until Redknapp’s final few months at Tottenham. However by then it became apparent that in order to sustain regular Champions League football, the club had to move forward. Redknapp, in terms of his managerial style, is cut from the same cloth as one Sir Alex Ferguson. They both take risks in football matches and both look to attack. However Ferguson succeeded and adapted where Redknapp failed at Spurs. The former Manchester United manager surrounded himself with the absolute best technical staff he could bring to the club. After consistent European disappointment during the 1990′s, aside from the European Cup Winners’ Cup win in 91, including a painful defeat at the hands of Juventus in 1997, Sir Alex knew things had to change if United were to match the behemoth Juventus And as such, he brought in the forward thinking technical expert Steve McClaren to aid United’s push for glory in the Champions League. Ferguson has since done the same with Carlos Queiroz on two occasions and most recently Rene Meulensteen, which kept Manchester United in the running with the rest of Europe.
After the Redknapp era at Spurs, Daniel Levy wanted to ensure the club remained a regular feature within the Champions League and brought in Andre Villas-Boas as the man who was technically astute and could take Tottenham to the consistent heights that Redknapp couldn’t. As we now know, this wasn’t successful although it could be argued Villas-Boas should have been given more time in the job this season at least until the seven new signings acclimatized to both English football and his coaching methods fully.
With the plucky English manager approach having worked to a point, and the technically brilliant foreign coach having not brought the consistent improvements, Levy envisioned it is very much a case of shrugged shoulders and ‘What now?’ for the Tottenham chairman.
A large proportion of Tottenham supporters would like to see Harry Redknapp reappointed in the hope of the short burst of success he brought to the club being replicated. However Tottenham are in a completely different position now for that to work. The current Spurs squad is filled with technical quality. Christian Eriksen has already proven himself to be an excellent playmaker whilst Erik Lamela may now be given a chance to shine following Monday’s managerial change. And Harry Redknapp simply wouldn’t be the best choice to take this potentially exciting team forward on a consistent basis.
The early suggestion is that Tim Sherwood may be given longer than the three matches he is expected to take charge of as Interim Head Coach with his coaching methods having impressed those at Tottenham in recent months as well as the belief that he could motivate the majority of the squad. However this in itself would be a gamble Daniel Levy can’t afford with his popularity with the Spurs faithful consistently up and down. One option that hasn’t been explored by Daniel Levy is the experienced coach, someone who has the know how to command respect from every single member of that squad but also be successful in developing the club and its players at the same time. The two names in this category that stick out more than any other are Fabio Capello and Guus Hiddink.
Neither would be a long term measure much to the displeasure of some supporters but I’m not sure that is too much of a bad thing in this instance. If one of Capello or Hiddink was to come into the club for a season, possibly two at the maximum, they will have the time to work with the squad, motivate the squad and ultimately build a platform for the next manager to work from.
You just have to look at the trophies won by both Capello and Hiddink. For example a European Cup, Italian Serie A titles and an Intercontinental Cup (now Club World Championship) to understand the respect every single member of the Spurs squad would have for the incoming manager. This respect would transmit to events on the pitch, performances would improve and invariably with the quality within the Spurs squad which cannot be forgotten, a top four finish would be achievable.
This essentially steadying period would put Tottenham in an excellent position for the future with the club being rescued from the apparent free fall it currently finds itself in but whilst also being successful and developing at the same time. Many suggest that appointing an experienced coach for such a short period of time would then lead to a similar scenario of chaos when he eventually leaves the club, but for me it wouldn’t.
The players would have regained confidence in their own individual abilities as well as those of the team, the club would be confident as a result and be able to offer continental football to potential new signings. The next managerial appointment would be walking into a far more stable situation, which would make the overall ambition of appointing a young hungry coach such as Tim Sherwood a more viable and safe option two years down the line rather than right now. With the pressure off and the freedom to shape Tottenham into a successful force for years to come, this would be the formula for success.
Editor’s note: For the latest Spurs news, analysis and opinion, visit the Tottenham Hotspur team page.