Daniel Levy may be weighing up his next move in appointing Tottenham’s managerial successor to Tim Sherwood, but the Spurs chairman should first look to re-evaluate his own expectations.
An ambitious Tottenham is good for the continued growth of the Premier League. The team were applauded for their attacking adventure under Harry Redknapp and the chairman is praised, most of the time, as one of the game’s toughest negotiators.
But Levy hires and fires with such regularity that not only can Spurs never develop any consistency, you also start to get the feeling that Levy holds a sense of entitlement for the top four. If a manager fails to reach the Champions League, it’s deemed his failing rather than the club as a whole accepting that it was simply out of reach.
Tottenham have the sixth biggest wage budget in the Premier League, so it’s natural to think that their standing is a Europa League place. Over the past few seasons, Tottenham have finished fourth twice, with Harry Redknapp punching above his weight to get the club in a final league position that bettered Manchester City and then Chelsea.
The problem is Levy expects the top of the mountain to be reached at first time of asking. There was an unrealistic expectancy that Andre Villas-Boas would hit the ground running with the wave of new players bought with the Gareth Bale money last summer. The Portuguese manager didn’t always make life easy for himself, but ultimately he was failing to meet Levy’s expectation for a place at least in the top four.
What will Levy’s expectation be for either Frank de Boer or Mauricio Pochettino? The former has never been a head coach away from Ajax and has no experience of English football from his playing days. The latter has done well with Southampton in a much more relaxed environment, but has no history of finishing in a Champions League position, either in England or Spain.
Money won’t guarantee instant success. In addition, Tottenham don’t have another £100 million to squander this summer or in the coming years. Levy wants top European football, which is understandable. But does he ever take into account what’s going on around his club in the Premier League? Tottenham aren’t serial top four finishers, and yet he sets the same target each year no matter the manager, or the club’s transfer activity, or the strength of other teams in the league. When the inevitable happens, a good manager is let go.
Tottenham have a good structure and good players. What they lack is a strong leader, a leader who can resist the temptation to hand out dismissals when the team hits a rough patch.
Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, and Liverpool will strengthen this summer. One of them won’t be in the top four next season, yet each of them are better placed to finish in those positions than Tottenham.
Levy understands the importance of a modern stadium and the revenue it provides. Tottenham have neither that nor the sponsorships that can match those other five teams. It’s far from a failure if Spurs can’t overcome those odds and simply remain in regular contention for Europa League football. A failure, a catastrophe even, would be a six-position fall similar to that of Manchester United.
In the absence of financial strength, the club should be focusing on consolidating their current position, so as when the opportunity does arise to push on, it won’t feel as though they’re starting from scratch. Bring in a manager who will be allowed to stay in the job for three or four years and build a team. That of course necessitates the hiring of the right manager and not just someone who has done well elsewhere.
Tottenham can finish in a Europa League place with ease. They’re the strongest team in the league outside of those five previously mentioned. So wouldn’t a strong cup run do the club a lot of good? Juande Ramos was brought to Tottenham in 2007 because of his success with Sevilla. That club came close once but ultimately couldn’t challenge Barcelona or Real Madrid, yet they still saw plenty of success in cup competitions.
Would the White Hart Lane faithful really say no to back-to-back Europa League titles, a European Super Cup and a couple of domestic trophies? Levy needs to know where the battle can be won.