In the summer of 2019, just weeks before Tottenham Hotspur’s loss in the Champions League Final, Mauricio Pochettino warned that a “painful rebuild” was needed at the club. That rebuild never happened.
Instead, Spurs tried and failed to take a shortcut to success in appointing José Mourinho. With his miserable tenure over, it’s time now more than ever to look to the future. But with a bloated squad, no permanent manager and a pariah of a chairman, the club is in its most perilous position for years.
Mourinho took over the reins from Pochettino because he could win silverware. He was someone who could finally rid Tottenham of the trophyless hoodoo that has plagued the club for over a decade. Someone who could reward Harry Kane for the sheer number of hours in the gym he must have done to carry the team on his shoulders for this long.
But the appointment of José at Tottenham never felt right. A club which prides itself on attacking, free-flowing football found itself clashing with Mourinho’s defensive, counter attacking brand. The one thing fans could hold on to was the idea that it would all be worth it if they could finally win something. But as this season went on, winning something seemed to be of least concern. José’s poisonous grip was starting to tighten at a rapid rate, choking the life out the club and leaving its fans questioning what it stood for.
After an incredible 24 hours where chairman Daniel Levy became one the villains of the Super League story, Mourinho was gone as quick as he came in, leaving behind a divided dressing room, unhappy players and zero trophies. His final chance to win any silverware came a week too late but with the inexperienced Ryan Mason put in charge, fans weren’t too upset. Finally they could feel a bit closer to their club.
However, with or without José, there was little chance Spurs would win the Carabao Cup final against a team like Manchester City. Despite valiantly denying Pep’s side of a winner until the dying minutes and a small sense of pride flooding back around the club, they lost yet another chance to bring home a trophy.
Four years ago, Harry Kane said:
I want to win the Premier League, I want to win the Champions League, I want to win the FA Cup. In three years’ time if I haven’t won a few trophies by then I think it would be disappointing.
It’s hard to hear those words back and see Kane staying beyond next season at Tottenham. And anyone, even Spurs fans, would be mad to question his decision. Trophies look far away, further away than they were four years ago.
Years of underinvestment and failed shortcuts are starting to lead to real consequences. The squad is stale, worn out and ageing. There are players like Moussa Sissoko, Harry Winks and Eric Dier still starting games who should have left two seasons ago. Now, with the effect that that the pandemic will have on the transfer market, they look impossible to shift and continue to add to Spurs’ bloat.
So, what’s the solution? It all starts with who takes the helm for next season. With Daniel Levy’s first choice Julian Nagelsmann now heading to Bayern Munich, Brendan Rodgers is first on the list. His impressive return to the Premier League with Leicester has cemented his position as one of Britain’s most talented coaches. Leicester was a club starting to drop away after their fairytale season but Rodgers has pushed them right back into the top six.
The Northern Irishman would fit in well at Spurs. His Premier League experience, brilliant man management and exciting brand of football is the perfect combination for Levy as the Spurs chairman needs now more than ever to bet on a real winner. However, Rodgers is in a comfortable position at Leicester. Reports say he has full control at the club and with Champions League football looking surer each week for the Foxes, why would he leave?
A much more feasible appointment would be Erik ten Hag. The Ajax manager may not be the first name on Levy’s list but he could well be the most practical choice come the summer. Like Rodgers, ten Hag has a background in coaching youth players while at Bayern Munich. He plays an attacking, possession-based style of play that is tactically astute and has brought the club back into the mix of Europe’s elite. Unlike Rodgers, he would not be a sure bet in the Premier League. It’s a big leap to take for both him and Levy, who won’t want another managerial failure on his hands.
One of the more interesting options for Spurs’ next manager is Ralf Rangnick. Famed for his multiple promotions with Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, Rangnick implements a philosophy of building clubs from the ground up. The German is hailed as a massive influence for Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann and has an almost mythical aura when talked about by the people he’s worked with. His progressive ideas and involvement in all club aspects could bring in some real changes to Tottenham’s stagnant situation.
With experience both as a manager and director of football, Rangnick would be a massive coup for Tottenham in either capacity. Speaking to Coaches Voice this year, Rangnick explained how his philosophy changed the clubs he worked at:
The fans identified themselves with the style of football that we were playing. This, for me, is a very decisive factor. Identity among the players, the staff and the fans brought everyone together.
Once the manager’s seat is filled, fans will start to look upwards. Pressure is already mounting on ENIC and Levy to leave the club. Last week, the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust issued a statement calling:
for the immediate resignation of the executive board of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, and for the owners to work with us to appoint a new board that has elected and accountable fan representation on it.
Levy has been a controversial chairman over the years but the decision to join the Super League has caused the most outrage to date. The subsequent exit and statement added fuel to the fire, proving Levy to be part of an increasingly out-of-touch executive class within a working-class sport.
Yet Levy is a Spurs fan and truly cares about the club. If ENIC were to sell, which is very unlikely, there is potential for a much more out-of-touch chairman to replace him. Levy’s only bargaining chip here is that it’s better the devil you know than the one you don’t. It’s hard to see if that will help him much if he continues to under-invest in the squad.
When you look back on Pochettino’s words back in 2019, it’s easy to see that the same problems are still at the club.
When you talk about Tottenham, everyone says you have an amazing house but you need to put in the furniture.
Now, as we fast approach the end of another turbulent season both on and off the pitch, Tottenham’s house is still empty. The question now is who is going to be around when the furniture finally arrives?