Tottenham's Next Manager's First Task Is To Fix The Squad's Attitude

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A little over twelve months ago, Tottenham Hotspur were still in with a chance of finishing fourth in the Premier League going into the final game of the season. Andre Villas-Boas’ side were scraping victories through sheer willpower and Bale force.

Bar a certain Welshman, there was an apparent lack of quality in the squad. The White Hart Lane outfit had to rely on the world-class form of Gareth Bale. But the effort put in by the rest of the squad was evident. This aided Bale and Spurs immeasurably. It worked both ways. There was a clear team spirit, spear-headed by winning goal after winning goal from Bale, which in turn pumped confidence into the players around him.

But it was all in vain. Arsenal, predictably, pipped Spurs to fourth on the final day despite more Bale heroics. As if you need reminding, Daniel Levy, assisted by newly appointed Technical Director Franco Baldini, cashed in and set out to reinvest.

On the face of it, those decisions have not worked out. Whether it be down to poor scouting, mismanagement or ill-sanctioned sackings, it is obvious an inexplicable lack of effort among the playing staff has played a big part in a season of backward steps.

One man who cannot be accused of lacking effort is Hugo Lloris.

While others appear to think having nothing to play for turns competitive matches into friendly fixtures, the Spurs stopper continues to guard his goal-line as if his life depends on it. He will have a healthy highlight reel for potential suitors to look at, too, if he is indeed seeking a move away from North London.

And who could blame him? The 27-year-old is simply too good not to be playing Champions League football. Levy and co. believe the club is worthy of Europe’s elite competition. Ambition and reality are two different things entirely. The hiring-and-firing nature of the club means there will always be uncertainty in that regard while ENIC are in charge.

In contrast to Lloris, if Paulinho hopes to jump ship, he should probably attempt to prove he is an actual footballer.

It is possible the £17 million midfielder is saving his energy (and ability) for the World Cup. If he has as poor a tournament as he has had a league season for Spurs, however, Paulinho shouldn’t expect Jose Mourinho to be too keen on taking him to Chelsea, as rumours suggest.

Against both Stoke City and West Ham United, opponents simply drifted past a player who is, somehow, a key part of a Brazil side that could potentially taste glory on the world’s biggest stage next month. The fact he has kept his place in Tottenham’s starting eleven in recent weeks is baffling, especially with countryman Sandro warming the bench. This is made all the more strange by Tim Sherwood’s demands for effort from his players – something Sandro brings to the team regardless of what there is to play for.

But who’s to say Paulinho won’t improve next season? It must be said he was superb for his country in last year’s Confederations Cup. A real box-to-box midfielder, the former Corinthians man showcased impressive stamina, aerial ability and penalty-area anticipation.

His lack of form may be down to a relatively break-free period in his career. Effectively, Paulinho has played non-stop for two-and-a-half years. The World Cup could make or break the Brazilian’s Premier League career.

For many, the now infamous wall incident at Upton Park last weekend was the final straw. Paulinho was chastised, as was his partner in crime Emmanuel Adebayor.

If Tim Sherwood receives praise for one thing, it should be his hand in the return of Spurs’ star striker. Now a dead man walking, Sherwood wiped the slate clean when appointed, ignoring his predecessor’s conflicts. Adebayor greatly profited from this, and became an integral part of a short-lived team resurgence.

By now, Tottenham fans should know what they are getting with Adebayor. There are times he would fit into any team, but there is often an absence of application, while sporadic moments of inexplicable inability hold him back from greatness. The striker’s effort is inconsistent and, as such, is damningly frustrating.

The contrast between quality and effort is apparent in defence too. What Michael Dawson lacks in ability, Spurs’ skipper makes up for in endeavor. His intentions are legitimate, but Dawson’s execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Nevertheless, the captain’s armband suits him far more than it would defensive partner Jan Vertonghen. Poor form seems to have drained the energy from the Belgian; he has noticeably lost the resolution that was so palpable in his performances of old. There is a fine player in there somewhere, but an attitude problem has become worryingly noticeable.

Perhaps this is something that will put off bigger clubs this summer. And perchance this is a good thing for Tottenham. Feasibly, Vertonghen could re-find the form that saw him so admired last season.

Like Dawson, there are others that rely on effort to retain a place in the squad. Aaron Lennon and Gylfi Sigurdsson fall into this category. Both work hard, and perform admirably defensively when deployed in wide positions, helping their full-backs to no end.

One up from that category sit Kyle Walker and Lewis Holtby. Both engage in laborious effort when needed, and both have the potential to be important to potential future successes of the football club. Again, Sherwood’s preference for players stocked up on elbow grease is contradictory to Holtby’s temporary departure. Why loan out a player who will fight when fight is needed?

A quick browse at any successful team in the history of football is enough to prove that class must be matched by effort and a will to win. The best managers in the business work to get the best out of the footballers they have at their disposal, but sometimes that means shipping out those who are not driven to succeed where they are. Tottenham Hotspur’s next manager must separate the labourers from the layabouts.

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