Transitional period after transitional period. That’s Tottenham. The current campaign has been, shall we say, a bit of a mess. One manager sacked, another set to be dismissed, summer signings written off, ownership called into question; Spurs fans won’t look back fondly on the 2013/2014 season.
A recent statement from Daniel Levy suggests there will be no major overhaul this summer. Tottenham’s chairman believes the new stadium is integral to the future of the club both financially and on the field of play.
Regardless of the distant future, the immediate aftermath of the current campaign is expected to bring change in terms of both management and the playing staff.
Major developments at the club, such as the completion of the new stadium, won’t happen until 2017. Until then, it is important that Spurs remain at least within reach of the Champions League places. To do this, whoever is in charge must get the best out of the current personnel, as well as carefully recruiting new players.
Most of those supporters are of the opinion that Tim Sherwood is rather out of his depth. And it now appears that Daniel Levy thinks the same. At the time of writing, the infamous Sky Sources have reported Sherwood is to be replaced in the summer.
The most alarming trait Sherwood has displayed in his short tenure has been his inability to select a team that takes into consideration threats posed by the opposition. With tongues firmly set in cheeks, Sherwood has been accused of picking his starting eleven out of a hat each week.
Injuries haven’t helped. But the Tottenham boss has struggled to recognise certain players’ best positions. This is harmful to the side, especially when coupled with a clear lack of opposition scouting and preparation.
Sporadic reports suggest Holland manager Louis van Gaal will take over after the World Cup, but nothing is concrete. Van Gaal has a history of requiring more control than your average football manager at previous clubs.
This brings Franco Baldini’s future into question. The club’s Director of Football has been criticised for recruiting completely from foreign leagues. A new, controlling manager may feel that Baldini’s assistant is not required. In addition, former Chief Scout Ian Broomfield is expected to return to the club, meaning Baldini’s role as head recruiter may become redundant.
Moving up the management ladder, there have been calls, here and there, for the Tottenham ownership to shape up or ship out. Since taking over at Spurs, Daniel Levy has been praised for his economic guile and tight businessmanship. However, it appears that the Chairman lacks a strong knowledge of the game after a string of questionable appointments and sackings.
Perhaps it would be best for ENIC to appoint a - for lack of a better word - footballing person onto the board to work as a conduit between Levy and the manager. Baldini was expected to fill that role, but that clearly has not materialised.
Spurs also ought to be stricter with how managers deal with press conferences. Sherwood has been digging his grave for weeks now with utterly needless, nonsensical comments, a la Harry Redknapp. Andre Villas-Boas didn’t help himself in his final weeks as manager either.
Most importantly, though, development on the pitch will correlate with improvement in all areas of the club. Next season’s head coach, whoever it may be, will hopefully already be thinking about who will be retained, who will be let go and who will be brought in.
Hugo Lloris is far too good not to be playing in the Champions League. That’s the harsh reality for both the club and Hugo himself. The Frenchman has been a vital part of the team under both Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood, mainly because both managers deploy a high back-line for which Lloris is perfectly suited. Regardless of whether employ a manager keen to stick with the high line, it is crucial for Spurs to retain the goalkeeper’s services.
There will be interest from big clubs in Europe; if Atletico Madrid fail to keep Chelsea loanee Thibaut Courtios, it is foreseeable they would target Lloris having all but guaranteed Champions League football for next year. PSG and Monaco are also thought to be keen. Tottenham’s shot stopper has remained admirably professional while others have lacked desire at times this term. Hopefully he will remain patient and stay at the club for at least another campaign.
Spurs really should be seeking an apprentice, or at least a dependable stand-in, for Lloris. Brad Friedel isn’t a bad goalkeeper, but he is becoming all the more limited with age. Cardiff City’s Ben Marshall has been linked after receiving high-profile plaudits all season.
If anything, the fact that Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose have made numerous appearances this season goes to show the Gareth Bale money was not properly reinvested.
Both Naughton and Rose have not progressed as footballers since making their respective debuts. To be fair to the latter, it is impossible to top his first appearance in a Spurs shirt. Harry Redknapp was determined Rose had a future as a left-back, after originally plying his trade on the left of midfield. The ex-Leeds United trainee has neither the positional nous to play in defence, nor the attacking quality to play on the wing at a club pushing for a top four finish.
As a unit, Tottenham’s defence has been a shambles all year, especially in big matches. This is mainly a result of deploying a system that doesn’t suit the current personnel. Villas-Boas didn’t learn from the mistakes he made at Chelsea, where he persisted with John Terry in a high back-line despite his evident lack of pace.
He did the same at Spurs. Like Terry, captain Michael Dawson lacks agility. Jan Vertonghen is quick when he wants to be, but his attitude means that he is almost as useless as Dawson in a high line setup. Younes Kaboul, hindered by two years of constant injuries, is no longer as agile as he once was.
The only centre-back who suits the system is Vlad Chiriches, who will be a key part of the team next year regardless of who is in charge. Kaboul will almost definitely leave as his contract ends in the summer. Dawson will be retained for his leadership qualities, which will help in no end during another inevitably transitional period at White Hart Lane.
Vertonghen is a bit of an enigma. He’s evidently a very good player. Last season, the Belgian put in some of the most intelligently composed performances I have seen from a centre-back at Spurs. Unfortunately, he has been in sulk-mode for months. He just doesn’t look bothered, which calls into question his captaincy at former club Ajax. Many won’t be sad to see the back of Vertonghen. Perhaps a new coach will reinvigorate him. Perhaps he will leave. Barcelona have been linked, despite their pending transfer embargo.
In terms of who will be brought in at centre-back, Steven Caulker has been tipped to return to the club. In hindsight, it may have been a mistake to let him go in the first place. Caulker certainly displayed his shortcomings in his debut season at Tottenham, but at just 22 years of age, there is time to improve.
His goal scoring ability from set pieces has disguised an arguably adequate year at Cardiff. Realistically, Spurs probably won’t fork out to bring back a player who was let go just a year ago. Furthermore, Caulker presumably left north London for more first-team football. If Tottenham wouldn’t give him appearance assurances this season, why would they do so in the near future?
The amount of rotation in Spurs’ midfield this season has been incomprehensible from the outside looking in. But any Tottenham supporter will inform you not one of the current crop of midfielders has been good enough to nail down a place in the starting eleven.
Eriksen has shown promise. He is clearly extremely talented. At times he goes missing, but dropping him is almost unacceptable. He has often been the only creative outlet in the side.
Sandro has been hampered by injuries. Many have called for the Brazilian to be named captain next season, but he misses a lot of games. On form, however, he is one of Spurs’ very best performers. He must be retained.
The rest of the central players continue to raise questions. Nabil Bentaleb has received far too much criticism, and has a reputation already harmed by his connection to Tim Sherwood. The 19-year-old has performed with composure beyond his years since earning his place in the team. Retaining possession is an underrated trait, and Bentaleb does that very well.
Another player who shares an ability to keep the ball effectively is Mousa Dembele. The problem with both Bentaleb and Dembele is their apparent inability to take risks. It is very rare to see either player attempt a through ball. Whether they are instructed to take care in possession, or they take it upon themselves, is unclear. They must look at introducing new aspects to their respective games, or they will ultimately falter in terms of development.
Paulinho: the Brazilian Jermaine Jenas. Many have suggested he has not been properly utilised in a positional sense. For me, he has not done enough in any position to suggest where he is strongest. It can’t be stressed enough how important a new man in charge will be for the future of Tottenham’s central midfielders. Potential candidate Louis van Gaal took credit for transforming Bastian Schweinsteiger from a wide man into a central stalwart. Tottenham’s personnel will thrive under a similar level of influence.
Spurs’ cheapest summer acquisition, Nacer Chadli, has improved immeasurably of late. He seems to have gained confidence, having struggled to impose himself in a new league earlier in the season.
Chadli has appeared particularly impressive because of the deterioration of Tottenham’s alternative attacking wide players. Andros Townsend has done nothing to quell suggestions his early season form was based on momentum – from an above-average loan spell at QPR – rather than ability. Aaron Lennon, despite his incredible work rate, is unfortunately becoming slightly redundant. After years of exciting-but-fruitless wing play, the winger has been well and truly found out. His final ball is almost never the right one. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Lennon leave the club alongside fellow expected departees Etienne Capoue and Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Erik Lamela recently returned to training after a long spell on the sidelines. I would expect Tottenham’s record signing to stay for at least another season. Daniel Levy will want some sort of return on his investment, so unless a bid of £30 million-plus is received, the Argentine will be given another chance to prove himself at White Hart Lane.
The same can be said for Roberto Soldado. The Spaniard simply hasn’t done what he was brought in to do – score goals. His link-up play is exquisite, his hold-up play is very, very useful, but he was bought as a goal scorer. Again, it is expected he will be given another campaign to justify his transfer fee.
Emmanuel Adebayor has one year left on his contract. Because of this, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see ENIC attempt to cash in on arguably Tottenham’s player of the season. Only time will tell, but Spurs are expected to recruit another striker in the coming transfer window.
Romelu Lukaku has been heavily linked in the last few days. Rumours also suggest there is interest in Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke. Both, however, are unrealistic prospects. Lukaku is perhaps destined for a return to Chelsea, or a permanent move to Everton, whereas Benteke’s recent injury means a probable stay at his current club.
Regardless of who is brought in, the media clearly believe Spurs are looking to recruit home-based players this summer, as opposed to more foreign talent. Franco Baldini’s role will come under scrutiny come the appointment of a new manager. Until then, it is difficult to predict the scale of inevitable changes.
Despite Levy’s promise of no major overhaul, another period of transition will soon be in full swing at Tottenham Hotspur.
Name - Steve Jennings
Twitter - @SteveJenn93