SO FOR THE third time in two years Tottenham Hotspur are looking for a new manager. Little over five months after Tim Sherwood took over from Andre Villas-Boas the rookie manager was fired after Spurs failed to qualify for next seasons UEFA Champions League.
Much has been said in the media of the decision to part with Sherwood, with many questioning what the former Blackburn and Spurs midfielder did wrong. After guiding the club to a sixth place finish and boasting the best win percentage of any Spurs manager since the Premier League begun, his sacking has disappointed many. Including fellow managers.
Steve Bruce and even Arsene Wenger have criticised Daniel Levy for the decision to part with the Englishman however after reports in the press in early April of Sherwood’s expected departure, Tuesday’s announcement didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Everyone will have their opinions on the sacking, and time will tell whether or not it was the right thing to do, but Sherwood’s reign has had many flaws:
1) Despite boasting the best win percentage he also had the highest loss percentage in the Premier League of any Spurs manager.
2) Whilst in charge Tottenham were dumped out of the Carling Cup, FA Cup and Europa League in limp performances.
3) In January Sherwood was asked whether he wanted new players but he stated how he “had a good bunch at his disposal” after a promising start to his reign. Come March, when the going got tough, he soon changed his tune and said he was left with a squad full of ‘deadwood’.
4) Performances against the top four have been very poor and heavy defeats to Chelsea (4-0), Liverpool (4-0) and Manchester City (5-1) were deemed unacceptable by the board. His style of play has also attracted plenty of criticism with the Spurs fans disappointed with the capitulations they have witnessed and lack of fight.
5) Fallings out with the players has been rife in recent weeks. His disagreement with Sandro was made public on twitter and in the managers press conference and further disagreements with Paulinho and Vertonghen have also been made public knowledge.
6) Finally his criticism of his players treating him like a “supply teacher” with “little respect” didn’t go down well with the squad. Indeed the Daily Mirror reported earlier this week that some of the Tottenham ‘stars’ had given a ultimatum to the board suggesting they would leave the club if Sherwood was kept on.
Sherwood’s record against teams below them in the league was very impressive with only two defeats in 17 games however due to the reasons outlined above the board felt it was time to look elsewhere.
After spending over £100m on seven players last summer and a change in management half way through; finishing sixth in the league would generally be deemed as a good return. But at a club like Tottenham only the best is accepted.
Many have questioned if Daniel Levy is the problem at Spurs with former greats Clive Allen and Gary Lineker questioning his future, however that debate is for another day.
So who will become Spurs’ 10th manager in 12 years? Will anyone want a job that has proved to be a poisoned chalice for many years? Louis Van Gaal certainly wanted it but with David Moyes getting the boot at Old Trafford the door opened for the Dutchman. As he gears himself up for a crack at the biggest job in English football, with Ryan Giggs in his backroom staff, Spurs are now having to look elsewhere.
Three names that have been heavily linked to the post are Rafael Benitez, Frank de Boer and Maurico Pochettino. Each one has proved successful at their respective clubs and would certainly attract the Tottenham fans, and two of them have voiced their interest in the position. The question is though, which one would be more suited to the role and will Levy listen to the thoughts of the fans?
The Spaniard has only been in charge of Napoli for 12 months but it seems he is ready to quit Italy for another crack at the Premier League as he feels he has unfinished business. His wealth of experience in the English game attracts Tottenham and with successful trophy-laden spells with Liverpool and Chelsea he certainly knows what it takes to manage in this country.
Whilst at Anfield Benitez won the UEFA Champions League in the 2005 thriller against AC Milan and he endured a difficult six months in the hotseat at Stamford Bridge, yet despite animosity from the fans, he won the Europa League and FA Cup to prove he still had what it takes to manage at the top.
Fast forward to this year and he has once again proved his worth with Napoli, taking the club to Coppa Italia glory, and more impressively to third place in Seria A, 2014/2015 Champions League qualification. That feat alone has Levy and co interested and with only a year left on his contract in Italy, the Spurs board know they won’t have to fork out too much money for compensation.
As mentioned earlier Spurs’ record against the top four this season has been very poor with only one point collected in eight games however Napoli beat Fiorentina, Juventus and Roma at home this season to prove that Benitez has what it takes to beat the best.
This season Spurs have found it difficult to hit the back of the net with the club only netting 55 goals in the league. They also conceded 51, finishing with a +4 goal difference; which is their worst return since 2008/2009. On the other hand Napoli scored 72 goals and only conceded 38 – Juve were the only team to outscore the Azzurri.
Benitez’s ability to combine flee-flowing attacking football, with defensive stability and discipline is very impressive and once again shows his strengths as a manager. Something Tottenham have been lacking for a number of years.
With Benitez reportedly interested in speaking about the vacant job at White Hart Lane it remains to be seen whether Spurs will approach the former Liverpool boss however his achievements in the game won’t go unnoticed at White Hart Lane.
Frank De Boer
The Dutchman has led Ajax to four successive Dutch titles and his managerial credentials are soaring game by game, with many pundits in his homeland singing his praises. Being a club and national legend certainly helps of course.
His credentials as a manager has been helped in recent years thanks to his success at the Amsterdam Arena and now it seems he is ready to quit Holland and further enhance his skills in the big time.
One of the main flaws De Boer has is his inexperience at managing in a top European league, and many fear the demand that comes with the Tottenham job could show in his managerial ability. The impatience that the Spurs hierarchy have could also hamper his chances of getting the job, but what cannot be taken away from him is the quality of backroom staff he would bring to White Hart Lane if appointed.
After learning from one of the best in the game in Louis Van Gaal, De Boer has a number of former team-mates at his disposal including Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp and former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam and with the prospect of them both moving to North London, with De Boer, it has got the Tottenham fans excited.
Social media has been awash in recent weeks of Spurs fans calling for De Boer to be appointed however comments in the media a few weeks ago could have hampered the former Barcelona man’s chances.
Speaking before Ajax’s last match of the season in early May; De Boer stated how he had been approached by Levy about the job after Ajax had given them permission to speak to him. That didn’t go down well with the Spurs board who feel betrayed that such a story was leaked to the press, despite Tim Sherwood still being in charge at the time.
No one knows whether De Boer will get the job however his brother has confirmed that he would be very interested in speaking to the club. When Ronald De Boer was asked he said: “Frank’s feeling is important, the club’s philosophy is as well – what kind of football they want to play – that will be decisive, he will take his time, to think about it. Frank knows some of the players there, like (Christian) Eriksen and (Jan) Vertonghen – (Nacer) Chadli and (Mousa) Dembele too – there’s lots of quality at the club. I think he can build something. It is a nice club with history, one of the nicest clubs in the Premiership. The club has ambition and the budget for it.’
Those words have gone down a treat with the Spurs faithful who see De Boer as the kind of manager who would see the return of free-flowing football which they are synonymous with. His relationship with Jan Vertonghen could be vital to the Belgian’s future after it appeared his Spurs days were numbered a few weeks ago. Eriksen was signed by Spurs last summer and De Boer is eager to be reunited with the Danish international once again.
If the Spurs board want to please their fans they would be advised to do all they can to prise De Boer away from Ajax, with his reputation in the game, and his style of play attracting the supporters, who want to see a return on the attacking talent they signed last summer.
Since taking over from Nigel Adkins in 2013 the Argentine has taken Southampton to a top half finish in the Barclays Premier League and has gained many plaudits in the game. The way the Saints approach the game, with their free-flowing attacking football and defensive discipline, has been very impressive this season, and with the club boasting three players in the England squad for the World Cup, fans on the South Coast are having the time of their lives. However that could soon be about to change. With rumours of star player’s potentially leaving, news of their manager being chased by Tottenham has got fans worrying.
Pochettino said after Sunday’s last game of the season that the current project at Southampton “had come to an end”. Less than 48 hours later Tottenham had dispensed of their manager with the former Espanyol man the bookies favourite to take over. But why are Spurs so interested in him?
His achievements at Southampton have been mightily impressive and his attention to the youth players has attracted Tottenham. Calum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw have come through the club’s ranks and impressed heavily this season, and after spending over £100m on new players last year, it is hoped that Pochettino can have a similar effect at White Hart Lane.
In Nabil Bentaleb, Tom Carroll, Harry Kane, Alex Pritchard and Danny Rose, Tottenham have five young players who have bright futures and could go on to have successful careers in the top-flight. Under the Argentine’s tutelage it is hoped that he can a similar effect on them like he has at Southampton.
Pochettino’s style of play is also something that attracts Spurs, with his free flowing attacking football being a delight to watch at St Marys this season. Not quite the tika-taka that Barcelona possess, but it is similar. Even against the top teams Southampton’s ability to keep hold of possession and attack with purpose has been mightily impressive and a joy to watch at times.
Tottenham boast many attacking players such as Emmanuel Adebayor, Chadli, Eriksen, Aaron Lennon, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Robert Soldado, Andros Townsend and forgotten man Erik Lamela and it is thought that a man like Pochettino could prove to be the man to get them to tick.
Lamela was voted as one of the biggest flops of the season after he joined the club from Roma in a £30m deal last summer however due to Lamela and Pochettino both being Argentinian, it is hoped that this could help the winger to prosper and prove he has what it takes to turn his career in England around.
How likely is it that Pochettino will end up at Spurs? The answer is very likely. After a change at boardroom level early this year it was said that Nicola Cortese exit had a damaging effect on Pochettino who had a strong friendship with the Italian. There were rumours that he could end up leaving as well but he dismissed that notion and confirmed he would stay at least until the end of the season. Now the season has come to its close; and his top stars are being courted by the big boys; now would be the perfect time to quit Saints and try his luck elsewhere.
Some would say he even deserves a crack at a top club after his success on the South Coast and a job like Spurs’ doesn’t come round too often. If Spurs do come calling it will be very hard for the Argentine to turn it down.
In recent weeks Spurs fans have voiced their opinions on social media stating that Frank De Boer is their preferred man due to his success at Ajax. The personnel he would bring with him is also an attractive proposition and could see aspects of ‘Total Football’ come to the Lane.
His inexperience in a European league is one of his main flaws; however that could be easily overcome with help from his coaches – most notably Bergkamp and Stam.
Pochettino’s success with Southampton has impressed Levy however it was his time with Espanyol in La Liga and his transfer dealings which won’t help his chances. When he was sacked in 2012 Espanyol were battling relegation; and since they dismissed the Argentine they have risen to mid-table. His record on spending money at Southampton has seen him criticised with his big money moves for Gaston Ramirez and Dani Osvaldo proving to be disasters.
The case of Rafael Benitez is an interesting one. It has only been a few days since Benitez said he would welcome the opportunity to manage at White Hart Lane, and many Spurs fans would jump at the chance to see the Spaniard take over. Even though De Boer ticks so many boxes, the opportunity of appointing a man who has won trophies on a consistent basis, and settle down clubs that have been through tough times (like Tottenham) is a fact that would be hard to pass up. Whether Levy would entertain this idea will be something to look out for but if you ask most Spurs fans they would jump at the chance to see Benitez handed the reigns.