It’s all change at the Lane as Levy looks to elevate Spurs to the next level

by Nicholas Godden

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

In January of this year Tottenham sat third in the table, and as the winter window opened, the opportunity for the club to make a real statement of intent presented itself. Manager Harry Redknapp was keen to strengthen the squad as consolidation at the top of the table was at the forefront of his mind. As is common-knowledge, Redknapp, out of respect, will not discuss other club’s players, under any circumstances. He did let slip however – probably during one of his obligatory car-window interviews outside Spurs Lodge – that Gary Cahill and Carlos Tevez, the then Manchester City outcast, were both players Redknapp ‘liked’. The fact that Daniel Levy instead concluded short-term deals for Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen was a clear indication that the Spurs chairman didn’t view Redknapp as the man to lead the club forward long-term.

That became apparent last month as Levy, somewhat surprisingly, called time on his tense relationship with Redknapp. The club statement read: “Harry arrived at the club at a time when his experience and approach was exactly what was needed.” It was never Levy’s intention that Redknapp would remain in the White Hart Lane dug-out for any great length of time. The experienced manager was hired to clear up the terrible mess left by his predecessor, Juande Ramos. That decision was vindicated as Redknapp rescued Tottenham from certain relegation, well not certain relegation exactly, but as near to certain as it can be after as few as eight games of the season.

After taking care of operation ‘clear up Juande’s mess’ and overseeing the club’s most successful period for two decades, missing out on the Champions League did for Redknapp as Levy mercilessly pounced on the opportunity to begin implementing his vision for the club, a vision in which an old-school manager like Harry Redknapp could never feature. Levy is keen to move Spurs in a new direction that focusses as much on the future of the club as the present; the same could not have been said about Redknapp who concerned himself only with the here and now. Player development plays a key role in Levy’s blueprint for the future, across all levels of the club. It is certainly an area that requires improvement; Ledley King is the only notable product of Spurs’ youth academy to excel in the first team since the turn of the millenium.

Redknapp’s departure was the first step towards actualizing the vision. Levy’s next move was to appoint Andre Villas-Boas. Last week’s announcement came as little surprise following lengthy talks between the club and the former Chelsea boss. It was reported that a clause in Villas-Boas’ severance package from Chelsea restricted him from officially managing another Premier League club until July 1, which explains the delay over his appointment. But following Redknapp’s dismissal Levy quickly identified Villas-Boas as the man to revolutionize the club, despite the Portuguese’s recent ill-fated spell in West London.

It’s a bold move by Levy, not only to employ a man whose brief Premier League experience ended so abruptly just a few months ago, but also to return to a structure that failed so spectacularly the last time it was implemented. Like Ramos, Villas-Boas has been assigned the title of head coach rather than manager, suggesting he won’t be heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the club. It is a system popular on the continent but Levy obviously feels it can be effective in the rough and tumble of the Premier League too. As the term head coach implies Villas-Boas will earn his crust on the training ground and on Saturday afternoons, or rather, Sunday afternoons courtesy of Villas-Boas’ former employers.

If it was Levy’s intention to hire the managerial opposite of Harry Redknapp he could not have filled the vacancy more precisely; the pair are chalk and cheese. Villas-Boas is cut from a new cloth of forward thinking coaches – meticulous, intelligent, highly technical and pays great attention to tactical details. His natural place is working with players to develop and improve their footballing ability. Redknapp, on the other hand, is a veteran of the English game whose managerial style is more akin to an arm round the shoulder than a constructive discussion about positioning or spacial awareness, while throwing another striker on when his team are a goal behind is just about as tactical as it gets from lovable uncle Harry. And any hope held that the bullish Villas-Boas might provide a jovial interview through his car window will certainly be quashed.

Two fourth- and one fifth-place finish in the last three seasons would suggest that, actually, Redknapp wasn’t doing a whole lot wrong. It speaks volumes about the board’s ambition, then, that they felt compelled to completely change the culture and direction of the club. It is an ambition that is shared by the new head coach. Speaking to the media for the first time since his appointment Villas-Boas, in typically assured fashion, made it clear that he had come to the club to challenge for titles. He also intimated that had Roman Abramovich not ‘quit’ on him, he too might have led Chelsea to Champions League and FA Cup glory. So it would be wise to take discussions about titles with a pinch of Maldon’s finest.

Inherent in English culture is a tendancy to write managers off after a single unsuccessful spell, but Villas-Boas’ ability as a coach certainly shouldn’t be judged wholly on those eight months at Chelsea. You don’t win a domestic and European treble by accident. The fact that Villas-Boas admitted he has learned from mistakes made at Chelsea will offer Spurs great encouragement. To revolutionize an ageing squad bulging with big personalitites while continuing to gratify the owner’s desire for instant success was a remit to make even the most experienced of managers wince. At tottenham Villas-Boas will discover a less pressured environment in which to  flourish.

This unassuming Spurs squad are likely to be more receptive to a new playing style and different training methods, while the dressing room will seem like a nursery in comparison to the egotistical lion’s den that Villas-Boas was thrown into at Chelsea. Tottenhm’s speed and dynamism will be well-suited to the fluid 4-3-3 sytem that brought Villas-Boas so much success at Porto, while the pace of Younes Kaboul, Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto suggest the defence could make the transition to a high line with relative ease. Spurs are not in need of radical reform, and Villas-Boas will do well to realise that quickly and a level of diplomacy that was damningly absent from his spell at Chelsea will also need to be demonstrated to avoid a repeat of unnecessary ostracization.

The club has wasted little time in reshaping Villas-Boas’ squad. Since the Portuguese was officially unveiled  last week deals have been concluded for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen; both signings are a reflection of plans to reduce the overall age of the squad. Ramos’ short tenure as head coach was riddled with overpriced and underachieving signings; Alan Hutton, David Bentley and Roman Pavlyuchenko to name a few. The triumvirate of Levy, Villas-Boas and technical director, Tim Sherwood, will be hoping to look back on this summer’s recruitment process with less disdain. And this time round Levy will grateful if Villas-Boas can save him the embarrassment of beginning another managerial search eight games into the new campaign.

By Nicholas Godden

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  • Sanch

    Nice article. Nothing new but well put.

  • Steve

    excellent article, just one thing.
    i don’t consider roman pavlyuchenko to be overpriced or underachieving.
    i think he was an excellent who loved the club and it’s fans and gave his all whenever he had The Cockerel on his chest, but just wasn’t given a chance by a manager too foolish to rotate the goddamned squad.

  • Will

    Sensible summary…well done!! ,long as we don’t get lumbered with Kaka

  • Keiran

    Personally, and I guess also realistically, I’d like us to sign Jack Butland, Ezekiel Fyers, Jamaal Lascelles, Oscar, and Leandro Damiao.

  • Mystical Mike

    blah blah blah, yet another Spuds revolution!

  • BazSpur

    @Mystical Mike. You sound worried Son LOL.

  • davspurs

    They say hindsight is a wonderful gift and i told all my fellow fans after January window closed points would be hard to win. This had nothing to do with Harry but more to do with two things out of Harry’s control. can win the The first point is tapping of players in the media carried on right up our great win against Newcastle and then it got worse. That 5-0 nil demolition caused a media frenzy Harry for England Fergie said Harry’s the man and then it was Spurs can win the league Wenger complained about Ady being on loan from City his form dipped after City his paymasters told him who he is owned by.We had Modric for Utd Bale for Barca van for Germany Walker fro Madrid all getting tapped on a weekly bases till we finished out of the top three. Harry was being touted by every team we where about to play for the England Job Fergie Wenger Hughes and all the players, This was when Levey looked for a cheap option for Harry Bondy and Joe he found Avb Martin Freund all cheap and Levey sent Harry and his knew agent packing and now we are in la la land and we have to hope Ramos two is a better sequel than the first one. I love Spurs and my love prevents me from telling my fans how our season will finish but if he dismantles to many of our team we will have a new broom at the helm and on the field and that spells disaster Defoe is a player too far 16 goals from about ten full games worth cant be sold or he will do what Crouch Stoke did rob 5 points that would have seen us on 74 points . I hope for his sake he carry s on the good work Harry has done you are all forgetting what others media and some managers said we played the best football and Harry was loved by the media lets hope croaky voice gets his voice and our team loved once again.

  • KingGlenn

    Davspurs, you’ve got to live him! And for once no mention of performance drugs. I am more confident about next season. Good signings already, hopefully a couple more to come. Looking forward to a coach who can max the potential from a young, fit and skilful squad who were crying out last season for leadership and tactical flexibility. Bring it on. COYS

  • Spurs afar

    Well written rehash of other articles NOT new independent spurs thoughts.

  • Lilywhite London

    Well said Davspurs. Could we have got 3rd had Harry been able to freshen up the squad a little better than he was allowed in Jan? Some people blame only Harry for the slump but there were many reasons and not backing him in Jan was a big one in my opinion. He wanted Krasic, Cahill and a better, younger striker than Saha but he only got older players out the bargain bin and everyone blamed it all on Harry. However, nobody can take away the football we played under H.R, or our two highest EVER Premier League placings of 4th which he also delivered. Also remember that he managed that with the 7th largest player wage bill in the league which seems pretty good going to me!! I wish AVB all the best and every manager has different methods that we must respect them. Time will obviously tell but totally changing the management and coaching structure at the club and selling our best player this summer means he has one hell of a job on his hands.
    After about 6 games we will see if things are looking hopeful or not, just have to wait and see. Oh and by the way Steve, on Pav, the bloke was rubbish in the Premier League, lazy, slow and offered little apart from some quality finishing. That just isn’t enough and that’s why he’s returned to Russia, nobody else fancied him for the money he would command. Another superb signing by Comolli…

  • Enorme Nuez

    @Lilywhite London: Cahill chose Chelsea over Spurs; Krasic dragged his feet, eventually stating he wanted a permanent move verses a loan which ‘Arry wanted.

    The simple fact is, at the time Spurs had a solid squad. Redknapp could’ve recalled Corluka and Caulker from their loans; not sold Pavlyuchenko and actually rotated the strikers; not loaned Pienaar out and used him when Lennon was injured or as competition; used Kranjcar to spell Modric. Redknapp could’ve also utilised the youth players too. There was no reason the likes of Harry Kane, Andros Townsend, Jake Livermore, Giovani dos Santos, Iago Falque, Danny Rose, Tom Carroll, and Adam Smith could not have played, or played more.

    My point, Redknapp had ample talent at his disposal. Instead he played favourites, froze out others, dunce work in loaning out players, and never rotated. His demise, and subsequent dismissal was of his own making.

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