Well, well, well. It was another day, another sacking. And another for Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday under the watchful eye of Daniel Levy.
The last two managers at the club, Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood, have the best win percentage out of any Tottenham boss over the past 22 years, but it still wasn’t good enough. They just happened to achieve it in seasons where in order to grab their precious fourth place they needed a good deal more points than is usually necessary to finish in that position.
Under Villas-Boas last season, Spurs came fifth yielding 72 points (their highest in the Premier League) while the side directly above them, Arsenal, gained 73. In recent times only one other side has amassed more points and only finished in fourth spot and that was Liverpool with 76 in 2007-08. Prior to that it was Manchester United in 1986, also with 76. And that was over 42 games instead of the 38 that Tottenham and co. took part in.
This year it took 79 points to get that coveted position, and before that, if three points for a win instead of two was employed for the 1971-72 campaign, then the 57 points accrued by that season’s fourth placed side, Manchester City, would have turned into 80. This was, again, over 42 matches.
The Lilywhites under Villas-Boas and Sherwood ended the season just gone on 69 points, which was enough to reach fourth as they did two years ago under Harry Redknapp, and would have been for many other seasons, but it just so happens that challenging clubs have been pretty much exceptional. One cannot account for that sometimes.
It’s all very well aiming for fourth from a financial, musical and emotional perspective, but for a club of Tottenham’s stature to have only won two major trophies in 23 years is not good enough. The desperation for Champions League football has led the club to virtually abandon the cups. Hasn’t done them much good, though, has it? They might have done well to take them seriously.
Some clubs’ revolving door policy when it comes to managers still reaps awards – Chelsea for one – but if the rumours are true that Levy wants someone to overhaul the playing style from top to bottom of the club – from the kids to the first team – then that would pave the way for Frank de Boer, who has helped carry it out at Ajax. If he wants someone to virtually guarantee success for the first team then it has to be Rafael Benitez.
Despite his impressive CV and his brand of attacking football, many, many people do not appear to take to the Spaniard and the idea of hiring him. Maybe it’s his arrogant and somewhat less than gracious ways of celebrating goals and wins? Or the annoying wispy bum-fluff goatee that he will insist on growing and then keeping, regular trims an’ all.
Whatever it is, he certainly has the credentials. He won two La Liga titles and a UEFA Cup with Valencia; the Champions League and FA Cup with Liverpool, plus mounting the club’s first serious title challenge in 2009 since they won it in 1990; won the Europa League for a second time, this time with Chelsea in one go with an attacking brand of football that Tottenham are renowned for. This, while Spurs have failed in it each and every time they’ve been in the competition since 1984. He then went on to add the Coppa Italia with Napoli to his ever expanding list of honours.
After the supposed failures of the last six managers he hired, Levy will want to get the next appointment right, and for it to be a long-term situation. Admittedly, Benitez would probably be short-term. He did well at Liverpool, but despite their silverware, there was no legacy left for his successors, no philosophy or particular style of football that the next manager could work with seamlessly.
Maybe that’s asking for too much, and besides, coaches are there to do a job there and others will have their own ideas on how to improve things. The man wins trophies; it’s as simple as that. And if that’s not good enough he can still get you top four.
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