For Tottenham Hotspur fans, the 2013-14 season promised so much.
Sure, Gareth Bale was sold but for the €100 million, and the money was re-invested quickly to haul in a glut of international-calibre star players in every area of the pitch.
Erik Lamela was to take on the slack and provide ingenuity up front; Vlad Chiriches was a surprise, yet inspired, signing to shore up the back; Danny Rose had returned from loan to give the club a starting left-back; Christian Eriksen could unlock defences anywhere on the pitch if asked.
But big, big losses to fellow top-four contenders saw Andre Villas-Boas fired and Tim Sherwood instated on a temporary basis. It started rather well, but "Tactics Tim"—a nickname earned ironically by some sections of the British press—has faded along with the team's faint hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League.
"People and the club think we will finish top four… wake up" remarked Sherwood in a morose tone after Tottenham's heavy 4-0 loss to Chelsea last weekend. It was a sad indictment of the depressing aura surrounding the final stages of the Lilywhites' disappointing campaign.
The aura of the attacking 4-4-2 has evaporated, the shine on Emmanuel Adebayor's revival worn off. Tactical tweaks that Sherwood has tried haven't worked, and their chances of winning the UEFA Europa League look slim given their 3-1 loss at home to Benfica last Thursday.
Come summer, Sherwood will almost certainly be gone. In his place, who knows? Perhaps Louis van Gaal, as purported by The Guardian, or perhaps Frank de Boer will reconsider the offer placed on the table before the current incumbent was hired.
There has been failure on every conceivable level of the club this season; Players, managers and chairman must all share a portion of the blame and own up to it.
Lamela, who cost circa €30 million, has made just three Premier League starts this season, Etienne Capoue has been up and down, Eriksen has been played out of position and Chiriches has had bad injury issues.
But whoever walks into this job for the 2014-15 season will inherit a deep squad packed with talent just waiting to be unlocked. Key players are in place and under little threat of being poached, and several of the additions have better days ahead.
If the new man can keep his squad together, revive the mercurial Lamela and sprinkle a dash of quality in up front, this is a squad which can challenge for the top-four again—and it won't have to spend €100 million to make it happen.
Spurs fans will see the 1-0 loss to bitter rivals Arsenal on Sunday as the end of a dismal season and that's probably true. But a clever managerial appointment this summer could see the 2013-14 campaign quickly forgotten, as the club move full steam ahead.
The pieces are there, but it's up to Daniel Levy to find the right man to take the club forward. It's become eminently clear it's not Sherwood, and Spurs will be entering the market for a new man at the right time of year.
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