When things go wrong in the Premier League it’s very easy to point the finger. Everybody needs a scapegoat, and the man to blame for Tottenham‘s poor start to the season has unanimously been named Andre Villas-Boas.
No doubt, the Portuguese played his part in Spurs’ £110million summer transfer revolution failing to hit the ground running. When you’re playing in a way that sends the home fans to sleep, averaging less than a goal per game and losing 5-0 to Liverpool, a team the North Londoners were expected to be effectively competing with for a Champions League spot this term, you make yourself a sitting duck waiting to be picked off.
Especially when you’re spitting with anger at Daily Mail journalists, and shifting the blame onto the White Hart Lane faithful when it takes a poorly-awarded penalty in the last minute to scrape a home win against Hull. Just a few of AVB’s many crimes as Tottenham gaffer this season, before being swiftly replaced by the far more likeable Tim Sherwood. A manager who at the least seems to enjoy the practice of interacting with other human beings, unlike his predecessor.
But as much as one can point out the obvious flaws of playing Roberto Soldado as a lone striker, and the sacrilegious error of dumping a £100k-per-week striker in the reserves purely based on a single season of low goalscoring output, it’s time for Tottenham to look at the bigger picture of what’s been going wrong over the last few months.
Or rather the man in charge of looking at the bigger picture, Daniel Levy.
The Tottenham chief has been chairing the Lilywhites since 2001, and in that 13 year period there’s certainly been a few individual feats to write home about.
On the transfer front, the Essex-born businessman certainly deserves his lion’s share of praise for snapping up Luka Modric in 2008 for £16.5million, and then flogging him to Real Madrid for twice as much four years later, resisting a wealth of Premier League interest in the process.
And this summer, the special relationship with Los Blancos continued. Gareth Bale is obviously a unique talent, but Levy’s role in securing a record-breaking £86million deal for a goalscoring midfielder who had only reached double figures in his final Premier League campaign should never be underestimated.
Similarly, Levy has administered six top five finishes during his time in the Lilywhites boardroom, a drastic improvement on the decade of mid-table obscurity prior to his appointment, where Tottenham finished no higher than seventh and as low as 15th.
But for a man who has been so prominent in Tottenham’s continuous transfer successes over the years, which has undoubtedly played a major part in the club’s sturdy rise towards and into the Premier League’s top four, you have to question his influence over the Lilywhites’ summer transfer policy.
You can certainly understand what the Spurs chief, working in tandem with new Technical Director Franco Baldini, were hoping to achieve – in a nutshell, turning a one-man team into an eleven man team, without the reliance upon world-class talents such as Modric and Bale to take the club to the next level.
But at the same time, bringing in seven first team players, in addition to welcoming two -Danny Rose and Andros Townsend – back from loan for their first campaigns in the Spurs senior squad, suggests a level of dangerous naivety you wouldn’t expect from a chairman regarded as one of the Premier League’s most astute when it comes to all things transfers.
Additionally, with none of Tottenham’s summer arrivals having any English top flight experience whatsoever, whilst seven proven Premier Leaguers, in the form of Scott Parker, Steven Caulker, William Gallas, Tom Huddlestone, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Clint Dempsey and Gareth Bale, were sent the other way, immense teething pains of the less than a goal per game variety should have been a conundrum Levy had seen coming, not one he eventually sacked AVB for.
Which nicely brings us onto the next topic of Levy criticism – his appointments. In summer 2012, he declined the opportunity to offer Harry Redknapp a new contract, despite the fact the now QPR gaffer had achieved two top four finishes in the space of four seasons. As Redknapp left the Tottenham training ground in his car, soon to be replaced by Villas-Boas via a (what must have been incredible) Power-Point presentation, he told journalists Levy was looking to take the club in a ‘new direction’. Unfortunately for Spurs, that new direction has been down the league table.
Enter his succesor, AVB. A man who had never lived up to the hype at Chelsea and lasted just a matter of months at Stamford Bridge. A man who achieved Tottenham’s highest points total of the Premier League era, but judging from his efforts this season, that had more to do with Gareth Bale than the Portuguese himself. After the disastrous start to his second campaign with the Lilywhites, it’s unlikely the former Porto boss will ever be given a managerial post in England again.
There have been similar lukewarm appointments over the years, or atrocious appointments in some cases. Juande Ramos left Spurs at the bottom of the Premier League table before he was axed in favour of Harry Redknapp, bringing in such transfer gems as Heurelho Gomes and £9million flop Alan Hutton during his matter-of-months spell in North London.
And now, in the Tottenham dugout, administering a side that cost well in excess of £160million over the last three transfer windows to put together, is Tim Sherwood, a former player who has never managed at any level of the English game, or anywhere for that matter, before. Is he the man to save Tottenham’s season? Judging by the fact his tactical understanding starts and ends at an optimistic 4-4-2, it seems very unlikely.
That’s not to suggest Levy is the ultimate cause of Tottenham’s failings this season, and there’s no doubt he’s been a bedrock behind the North London outfit’s successes over the last decade.
But considering the number of his managerial appointments that have unceremoniously failed to live up to their billing during that time period, and the unanimous underachievement of Tottenham’s summer transfer policy, perhaps Spurs fans should be considering whether their chairman’s performance has been up to standard, rather than simply letting AVB become the poster-boy of this season’s frustrations.