Tottenham's Rapid Reinvention Can Put Them Back on Track
If failing to qualify for next season's Champions League and losing their successful manager in the space of a few weeks was a disaster for Tottenham Hotspur, the club's rapid response has put the emergency services to shame.
It seems like no one has stopped working at Spurs over the past month, such has been the alarming rate of change that has swept through the club in the wake of them missing out on a place in Europe's biggest competition and rendering the dugout vacant.
An all-new coaching setup and some impressive new signings have walked through the doors of the club's brand spanking new training complex this week. All these elements have combined to give Spurs a great chance at pulling off a major re-invention without losing too much ground to their rivals in the top half of the table.
Typically, the phrase "transitional season" is code for fans having their faith tested by effectively writing off an entire campaign. Spurs will hope that their emphatic actions early in preseason will limit the extent to which their 2012/13 season is affected by the significant changes throughout the club.
In 2008, Harry Redknapp pulled the club out of the mess created by his predecessor, Juande Ramos, and took the club all the way from bottom of the Premier League to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
However, Redknapp's tactical limitations on the pitch and his penchant for sharing whatever crossed his mind with the media off it—from other clubs' players to the vacant England job—tried Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy's patience to the limit and eventually saw Redknapp's three-and-a-half-year tenure terminated last month.
That opened up the opportunity for Andre Villas-Boas to return to the Premier League just five months after he was sacked by Chelsea.
While Blues fans can justifiably use the fact they won the FA Cup and Champions League following Villas-Boas's dismissal as ammunition against their London rivals, Tottenham have hired him in the belief that their board and players can offer him the time and power to embark on his project at White Hart Lane that he was never given at Stamford Bridge.
As the Portuguese said himself upon his first meeting with the media as Spurs head coach (as quoted by Eurosport): "I respect the decision of the owner of Chelsea [Roman Abramovich], but I will never accept it.
"I told him that for me it was him quitting on me when he had been so much involved in the beginning in bringing me in and he was the one also who was not putting up to the things he promised."
Backing from the club's hierarchy is certainly not something which has been lacking in Villas-Boas's short time at the club. As head coach, he may not have the same overall control as a traditional manager such as Redknapp would have had, but he could barely ask for more as he starts work at a club which, under normal circumstances, would be preparing for a Champions League playoff right now.
Spurs have already completed that long-mooted signing of defender Jan Vertonghen and the opportunistic capture of midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. A deal bringing striker Emmanuel Adebayor back to the club on a permanent deal following last season's highly successful loan spell is expected to signed and sealed at the weekend.
The former two signings have been made in light of the expected losses of Ledley King and Luka Modric to retirement and sale, respectively.
The windfall from the Croatian playmaker's departure is expected to be reinvested in Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho and perhaps even another goalkeeper. Losing Modric will be a blow, but it will give Villas-Boas the opportunity to adapt the team's playing style to more closely match his.
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It is not just recruitment of the playing staff in which Spurs have been shrewd this summer. Villas-Boas has been involved in the assembly of a backroom staff that looks well-equipped to start a new era at the club.
Another Portuguese, Luis Martins, has been employed as first-team coach, and judging by this piece on him by Portuguese coaching blog Bento Corner, he is a man who shares Villas-Boas's philosophy.
A smart piece of recruitment has brought former Spurs fan favourite Steffen Freund back to the club as assistant head coach after building his career at several youth levels of the German national side. Freund will provide a great link between the club and its supporters, and will add more than a dash of exuberance to the dugout to compensate for Villas-Boas's often bone-dry rhetoric.
This new-look Tottenham setup will also have a home to match as this week they began work at the club's new £45 million training complex. The new base in Enfield is closer to the club's north London heartland than their old Spurs Lodge training ground in Chigwell, Essex.
Despite all of the positive noises coming out of the club and from the fans, there remains the nagging fear that things may not go to plan. After all, for all the rationale as to why Villas-Boas failed at Chelsea, it is difficult for the worry that his limitations will again be exposed at Premier League level in his second job.
With Manchester City now a firm fixture among the top clubs, Newcastle's steady progress continuing unabated and Liverpool also embarking on a major rebuilding project, this is a pivotal season for Spurs. Failure to keep pace over the next 12 months could result in them being left behind for good.
All the conditions appear to be in place to avoid that happening. The club has done what it can, and it is now up to the players and coaching staff to successfully launch a new era for Tottenham.
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