And so Daniel Levy has rolled his Tottenham dice again (although perhaps ‘wielded’ would be the more appropriate verb where Levy is concerned).
Mauricio Pochettino becomes the tenth Spurs manager in the Levy era, and the cutthroat manner with which the Tottenham chairman has disposed of all Pochettino’s predecessors will serve as a useful guide for the Argentine. If he doesn’t succeed, the five-year contract that he was given at the beginning of this week will not be worth the paper it’s written on.
It may be that Levy will break the mould this one time, but given his track record, it seems unlikely. With that in mind, let’s look at the five things that Pochettino must get right if he wants to make his move from St Mary’s a success:
Play attacking football that wins football matches
Daniel Levy is a hard taskmaster, and his unpredictability in terms of what he expects from his managers is staggering. Levy is perhaps the clearest modern example of a man wanting to have his cake and eat it too.
If one casts their mind back to the Harry Redknapp era, attacking football was in abundance at White Hart Lane. Playing a nominal 4-4-2, everyone’s (least?) favourite East Londoner made sure that his side was easy on the eye, and if we’re honest, he was pretty successful at doing precisely that.
But in the end that attacking football didn’t bring quite the success that Levy had anticipated, as a Chelsea Champions League win in 2012 meant that Tottenham failed to qualify for the Champions League for the second season in a row. Goodbye Harry.
What is clear from that situation is that while Levy preaches the need for attacking football, if it doesn’t come attached to serious success, the chairman isn’t impressed. When Pochettino was unveiled Levy spoke of the importance of the Argentine’s attacking pedigree, but the stark facts of the matter are that if Pochettino fails to qualify for the Champions League whilst playing an exciting brand of football, he’s unlikely to fulfil more than two years of his five-year deal.
Get the best out of Franco Baldini’s players
While the word on the street is that Pochettino is going to have some money to spend at White Hart Lane, a massive part of his job at Spurs will be to extract the very best level of performance from the expensively assembled squad in North London.
When Gareth Bale departed last summer, Franco Baldini was the man tasked with bringing in players to replace him. To say that the transfers were an unmitigated disaster would be close to a compliment. None of the players brought in by Baldini had any Premier League experience, and, Christian Eriksen aside, none of them impressed in their debut seasons.
Most of those players were brought in at no small cost to Tottenham, and the idea of cutting their losses on these players will be highly unpalatable to a businessman like Levy. I would expect most of the players to stay, with Pochettino tasked with coaxing more impressive performances out of them.
His track record suggests that this is well within his capability – the work he has done with Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana at Southampton has been startling, and Levy will be hoping that he will be able to do something similar at White Hart Lane.
Not embarrass his chairman in the press
While Andre Villas-Boas was (for the most part) respectful of Levy in his comments to the press, there was a time at the end of his tenure where he began to hint in press conferences that he wasn’t hugely impressed with the players recruited by Baldini.
Given that Villas-Boas was the head coach and that it was his job to coach the players to a higher level of performance, it may well be that these hints were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Levy seems a very proud man, and the idea of his reputation being besmirched in public will not have impressed him.
However, Villa-Boas’ comments seem like nothing in comparison to the way Tim Sherwood repeatedly embarrassed the club and himself in public. British journalists liked Sherwood’s ‘refreshing’ attitude towards his dealings with the press, but the public nature of his comments regarding his future will have been a key reason for his dismissal at the end of the season.
Given that Pochettino is yet to give a press conference in English, it would appear that the Argentine is unlikely to go down the Sherwood route anytime soon, but he would do well to heed the warning. Levy does not like to be criticised.
Solve the ‘style of play’ crisis
Ever since Redknapp’s era, Spurs have failed to construct a true playing identity, and Pochettino will be charged with changing this.
Villas-Boas could legitimately be irritated with the previous statement, but the reality is that although the Portuguese’s era yielded a record points total for Spurs, his side of 2012/2013 too often had to rely on Gareth Bale to bail them out.
His team began last season poorly, and in the end Villas-Boas was made to pay with his job. Sherwood then took the reins, and although the side started to score more freely, there still appeared to be no discernible pattern of play. This is what Pochettino will be asked to develop. And he must do it quickly because…
Get into the Champions League
The fact of the matter is that Daniel Levy wants Tottenham to be playing regularly in the Champions League. Pochettino may well be given a season in which to shape his team, but he will be well aware that ultimately, unless he manages to qualify for the Champions League soon, he won’t have a job for very long.
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