I had high hopes for the current season and I had bought into the hype surrounding the 2013-2014 squad. I actually thought the squad that had been assembled could challenge for the league title. The flux that was occurring at the top of the table appeared only more inviting. Manchester United has faltered as I expected as their defense and midfield have been mercilessly exposed, even within the confines of Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho has led Chelsea to fourth place but his squad’s inconsistency has worried onlookers. However, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Everton have all excelled and are above Tottenham.
Andre Villas-Boas and the 125 million euro additions were floundering in seventh position with 27 points. A squad without Gareth Bale and consisting of new talent was one point ahead of the team from last year. In 26 games in all competitions under Andre Villas-Boas, the squad had 18 wins, 5 losses, and 3 draws. Nevertheless, the damaging results against Liverpool and Manchester City and the overall play left Daniel Levy with what he believed was his best option, to fire Andre Villas-Boas.
The search for a new manager dug up a bevy of new and old names as replacements. Glenn Hoddle, Martin Jol, Murat Yalkin, and Fabio Capello were just some of the managers believed to be on the shortlist. Over the last week, football pundits, writers, and supporters have weighed in on the pros and cons of every name brought up in the papers. Too young, too old, employed, unemployed, retired, or not the search for the next Spurs boss took on many elements.
THE NEW/OLD GUY
Tim Sherwood’s playing career spanned 18 years over six clubs. His playing career is marked by two different stories. ‘The Grafter’ was an integral part of Kenny Daglish’s second place finish in the 1993-94 season. The 1994-95 season saw Blackburn Rovers finish one point above Manchester United, winning the FA Premier League title. Sherwood and three of his teammates were named to the PFA’s team of the year. The rest of Sherwood’s career was unassuming as he spent four years at Tottenham before a falling out with manager Glenn Hoddle. Sherwood retired in 2005 at the age of 36 with Coventry City.
Tim Sherwood is also the man who blocked Zinedine Zidane from moving to Blackburn Rovers. The story goes that Kenny Daglish saw Zinedine Zidane as a rising talent and wanted to add him to his midfield ranks. The owner of Blackburn Rovers, Jack Walker asked “Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood.” The rest is history as Zinedine Zidane went on to unbridled success and Tim Sherwood moved to Tottenham for 3 million pounds. Asked about the situation in 2008, Sherwood replied “He was a great judge of player, that Jack Walker. No come on, you shouldn’t even put me and Zidane in the same sentence.”
Also in 2008, Tim Sherwood was hired under Harry Redknapp to be a coach for Tottenham Hotspur. He has worked with the u-21’s as a coach and technical coordinator for the past four years before Tottenham’s rough spell thrust him into the spotlight. Sherwood assumed the managerial spot for Tottenham’s last two games, the lost to West Ham and a victory over Southampton. Sherwood made it known that he wanted the interim tag taken off of his position and to some extent Daniel Levy did that today by announcing Tim Sherwood as the new manager. Tottenham is Tim Sherwood’s first managerial experience raising many questions. But whatever Sherwood lacks in ‘experience’ he makes up for in his knowledge of Tottenham. Sherwood’s 4-4-2 against West Ham saw Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor partner up top. Townsend, Dembele, Sigurdsson, and Lennon were in the midfield and makeshift defender Etienne Capoue started next to Vladimir Chiriches. The team possessed the ball 68% of the time peppering West Ham’s net with 21 shots. But only one went in for Tottenham and a nervy twenty minutes saw Tottenham concede two goals and crash out of the League cup. Sherwood decided to field an even more audacious 4-4-2 featuring no recognizable defensive midfielder. Watching from up top, Sherwood’s 4-4-2 was being shredded apart by Adam Lallana and Southampton’s quick, incisive play. After running to the touchline and making adjustments, Tottenham sprung out to a lead on an Emmanuel Adebayor volley. Lloris’ continued insanity let in a Rickie Lambert goal but an own goal from Jos Hooiveld before that and another strike from Adebayor saw Tottenham gain the three points.
The 4-4-2 has provided Tottenham supporters with the goals and excitement they have craved. Furthermore the inclusion of Nabil Bentaleb brought smiles to supporter’s faces. The youth squad has been producing some solid talent for some time now and Bentaleb’s inclusion may be a sign of a youth revolution. Sherwood’s throwing caution to the wind may have won the hearts of a few supporters but his all-out attacking onslaught looked shaky against Southampton. Clubs will be able to expose the middle of the park if Sandro, when healthy, is not restored to the starting lineup. The current lineup of Tottenham could begin leaking goals, especially if Hugo Lloris cannot recapture his form.
Tim Sherwood may be officially Tottenham’s new manager but his 18 month contract still has the sense of carrying the interim tag with it. The question rises of whether Tim Sherwood was the best choice or the only choice to led Tottenham for the rest of the year. Another name seemed high upon the list but the 2014 World Cup ended any chance of him taking the reins for the time being.
THE ELDER DUTCHMAN
Aloysius Paulus Marian van Gaal, better known as Louis van Gaal is a member of the Dutch “total football” family. Rinus Michel’s “total football” sparked Ajax and the Netherlands footballing success during the 1970s. Louis van Gaal has led some of Europe’s biggest clubs on some of their most successful seasons. He won 11 titles with Ajax in six years amassing a winning percentage of 68%. Louis van Gaal then moved to Barcelona winning a league title two out of the three seasons in charge. Like Pep Guardiola who played under van Gaal in Barcelona, Louis van Gaal moved to Bayern Munich from Barcelona in 2009. He nearly led Bayern Munich to a treble in the 2009-10 season before being outfoxed by Jose Mourinho and his Inter team in the UEFA Champions League final.
Louis van Gaal has recently been leading a resurgence in Dutch football following the collapse at the 2012 Euros. By reinvigorating older players and introducing youth, van Gaal’s KNVB have a good shot at making it past the group stages and into the knockout rounds of the 2014 World Cup. When asked about the position, van Gaal seemed intrigued but maintained his focus was the Dutch national team.
If Tottenham were able to sign Louis van Gaal, van Gaal would add stability and European experience. His attacking philosophy would be pleasing to Tottenham’s supporters who clamor for goals and excitement. Louis van Gaal’s enthusiasm and past success would be welcoming to North London. Furthermore, van Gaal has experience with a less stable team such as Ajax, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich when he led the unlikely AZ Alkmaar to an Eredivisie title in 2009.
The English Premier League is a daunting new frontier for Louis van Gaal. As a manager with considerable success and experience and a complex footballing mind, van Gaal could be exactly what Tottenham are looking for. Andre Villas-Boas was fired from Tottenham like Chelsea before him because of his stubbornness and inflexibility in tactics. During his time as a manager, van Gaal has employed numerous formations and tactics. Louis van Gaal himself describes his football ideas as being more of a philosophy than a system. This sort of flexibility and attacking spirit could bring out the best of a deep, young, and strong squad.
The downside of van Gaal is his age which will be 64 if he took over after Tim Sherwood’s contract ran out. Also, van Gaal has admitted his complex tactics take players two to three seasons to fully master. Tottenham supporters and specifically Daniel Levy are not the most patient when waiting for success from their club.
Nevertheless, Louis van Gaal would be an amazing managerial coup for Tottenham. Nearly twenty years of leading Europe’s biggest squads to numerous titles, van Gaal may be headed to the white side of North London. If the Dutchman were to arrive he may bring about the age of success everyone thought Tottenham were on the verge of this season.
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