Two moments stand out and serves to summarise Tottenham’s season. The first is the euphoria felt by our fans after signing seven players with big reputations worldwide, for an investment of £105m and an investment of expectation. The second is Tim Sherwood throwing his gilet to the floor during the North London Derby at White Hart Lane.
Questions, questions, questions. How? Why? What now? What next?
When dissecting Tottenham’s season, most people go back to our transfer dealings (usually in the form of ‘they spent £100m on sh*t’). At the start of September, not one writer or punter saw those dealings as a negative; although we sold Bale, we seemingly replaced him by buying talent in all positions. The oracle that is Garth Crooks summed up this stance by boldly: “Tottenham had sold Elvis and bought The Beatles”.
As the season went on, a realisation grew amongst the footballing world: by selling Gareth Bale, Spurs lost their match-winner and the focal point of their team and that the players that Technical Director Franco Baldini brought in could not possibly replace what the Welshman possessed. By September, AVB had a team built around a man that no longer existed in Lilywhite. If you doubt the importance of a star player to a team, look no further than Liverpool, who’s focal point in Suarez has placed them in a title challenge. Melancholic it may be to think Tottenham could be achieving what Liverpool are doing right now, but it’s only the truth.
Tottenham find themselves currently in a position of numbness. Some say the season ended after being obliterated by Liverpool at Anfield, illustrating a start contrast between the two clubs at present. Others say it ended in December with the sacking of AVB and replacement of Tim Sherwood, seemingly gambling away the season before even the halfway point. Our squad is lacking confidence, form and desire, redeemed only by the successes of Adebayor and Eriksen. The media have condemned our club to our current place of purgatory – ‘Spurs are where they have always been and should expect no more’.
With the news that Sherwood will be replaced in the summer, fans can now think towards the future and what to expect for next season. Will we have a summer of upheaval and refurbishment, selling the players we signed and replacing them with more prospects? Will we try and build around the few gems carved from the pit that is this season?
The new manager, whoever he may be, must first look at what we have in our squad. I refuse to place the failures of our season on the players that we signed in August 2013. Take Soldado for instance. Yes, he has a had a dire season, failing to deliver on the promise of prolific goalscoring. My point is that Roberto Soldado was bought for £26m as one of the most prolific goalscorers in Europe, scoring more than 20 goals for each of the past four seasons. Just because Soldado has not lived up to expectations this season, it does not mean that there is nothing to be had in him next season.
This concept goes with the other players too. The Premier League is littered with players who came from foreign leagues who had poor first seasons but prospered in their future careers. Lamela showed glimpses of talent before being sidelined since December. Paulinho is still considered one of Brazil’s top talents, despite having a mediocre first season in England. Eriksen has been our stand out player this season, despite his inconsistent start.
There will be areas that will need improving in the summer. A young striker must be a priority after selling Jermain Defoe in January to Toronto. Younes Kaboul looks likely to be leaving in the summer when his contract runs out, so a centre-back should also be looked into. We currently possess average full-backs in Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose, so it is likely the new manager will need to strengthen there. On the whole though, our squad possesses talented individuals and is not in the need of another upheaval.
If Tottenham actually have the foundations of a talented squad, what is needed is somebody to create the blueprints needed for future success. Building this project will take years; we cannot hope for Chelsea-style instant success. A long process of evolution is needed, implementing the modern possession-based style of play which has proved successful in Europe, distancing the boardroom from management and stabilising a club in constant transition.
Tottenham’s season is a quagmire, an example of how to regress as a club. Selling your best players, sacking your manager midway through a season, replacing him with a manager with no professional experience whatsoever, deteriorating the relationship between the board and the fans off the pitch (the list goes on). Next season will have to be the start of an evolution and a project for future success if Spurs ever want to be at the top level of English football.