19 December 2013

So, um, who'll be managing Spurs when we face off in the FA Cup?

Normally, I don't like to go slumming around, but it's a long week between matches, and, let's face it, it's just too fun to wallow in our dear friend's misery over at White Hart Lane. An embarrassing 5-0 loss at home to Liverpool was followed by another, perhaps more-embarrassing 2-1 loss at home to West Ham in the League Cup. One expects to concede goals to Liverpool (unless you're, um, Arsenal), but to crash out at home to West Ham is another matter entirely.

It's a striking contrast to draw when, on the same weekend that we conceded six goals to Man City but emerge with a shoulder-shrug, Spurs concede five and sack their manager. Of course, having lost 6-0 to Man City themselves probably didn't help the situation. Andr√© Villas-Boas can be a shrewd tactical manager, but his decision to play a high line against both Liverpool and City, perhaps more than his inability to deliver results despite being handed £100m's worth of new players, sealed his fate. The devastation at the Etihad should have taught Villas-Boas the risks of playing a high line as Spurs were simply eviscerated in late November. However, despite going into the Liverpool with a make-shift back-line that thrust √Čtienne Capoue into an unfamiliar center-back, Villas-Boas committed to that high line and watched helplessly as Suarez, perhaps one of the best and running behind defenses, led Liverpool to a 5-0 thrashing of Spurs. Villas-Boas was sacked the next day. Excuse me, "the decision was by mutual consent and in the interests of all parties."

So who's next? The list of pedigreed managers is awfully short even in the best of times, but it's even shorter in the middle of a campaign. Caretaker Tim Sherwood, elevated from his previous post as youth-coordinator, admitted that he doesn't know if he'll be in charge when Spurs travel to Southampton on Sunday. It's almost enough to inspire pity for them—almost. However, we are discussing Spurs at the moment, and "pity" doesn't really warrant a mention. I may not hate them as much as I'm apparently supposed to, but I do enjoy a bit of schadenfreude when it's available. It's almost as good as those kebabs that Podolski sneaks into the dressing room.

The FA Cup's third round pits us against Spurs on January 4th, and by then, I'd imagine that they'll have settled on a manager by then. However, as rare as it may be to find a quality player mid-season, it might be even harder to find a quality manager. The current odds-on favorite seems to be Frank de Boer, currently managing Ajax in the Eredivisie. He's hardly unsettled, having led Ajax to three consecutive league titles and hot in pursuit of a fourth (currently second, two points behind Vitesse Arnhem). Furthermore, de Boer and his agent Guido Albers have scuttled any rumors, at least for now. Albers said, "Through various channels it has become clear to me that Spurs are interested [in de Boer], but the club has not contacted Ajax. So from our point of view there's not much to say about it. Frank isn't even thinking about it. He's fully focusing on Ajax."

Nabbing de Boer might prove a bigger coup than any of the player-signings of the summer, as it wouldn't be the first time that the man seized the reins of a club in crisis and steered it towards glory. When de Boer stepped up at Ajax, replacing Martin Jol, he led Ajax to its first Eredivisie title in seven years. Coming to Spurs would reunite him with former Ajax players like Vertonghen and Eriksen, and his intelligent, positive sense of how to play football might offer Spurs a refreshing change of pace from the dour micromanagement that Villas-Boas sometimes preferred.

The sacking of Villas-Boas, though it might throw Spurs into a bit more turmoil in the short run, could lead to a resurrection of sorts, similar to the one de Boer forged when he took over at Ajax. He and his agent have talked down the possibility of moving to White Hart Lane, but talk is cheap. We'll probably see an announcement of one kind or another before the week is out. Will it be de Boer? Capello? Maybe Laudrup? Time will tell...