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May 13, 2014

End of season review: Tottenham

ESPN FC's Janusz Michallik recaps what went wrong with Tim Sherwood and Tottenham as the 2 sides part ways.

It’s rare that there is a feeling of positivity around a club that has just sold its best player, but that was the case with Spurs last summer. The money had been spent decisively, with much admired players such as Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela joining the club for record fees.

Tottenham’s transfer activity was described as selling Elvis and buying the Beatles. Unfortunately, the majority of the seven signings have made an impact more akin to Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe than Lennon and McCartney. In retrospect the club bought too many players from outside the Premier League and managed to continue to neglect glaring problems within the squad. Spurs have only had one proper left-back for two seasons now, while the lack of a replacement for Luka Modric has arguably been felt just as keenly as the absence of Bale.

Spurs looked terrible in the early stages of the season and Andre Villas-Boas paid with his job. This may have been justifiable had there been a quality replacement available, but instead Tottenham were reduced to appointing a rookie in the form of Tim Sherwood. With Sherwood on a short-term contract, the season felt like a waste of time from that point on and so it has proved as he was let go on Tuesday.

Star Pupil

Christian Eriksen deserves credit for making the most impact of the new signings and promises much for next season, but it’s a more senior player that’s impressed me the most this season: goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has kept his standards high while other seasoned internationals such as Jan Vertonghen and Paulinho have let theirs slip. He’s made mistakes but these have been vastly outnumbered by impossible saves that few goalkeepers in the Premier League could match.

Detention

There’s a lot of competition here. Time has caught up with Michael Dawson, while Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose have had error-strewn seasons in which their confidence has gradually unravelled.

Yet with so much money spent in the summer, Tottenham had a right to expect more from their star signings. Of all it’s Paulinho that’s disappointed me the most. He has talent, as demonstrated in a good performance in the last game of the season against Aston Villa, but it’s his effort that disappoints. Since picking up an injury in December, the Brazilian has played without commitment. No player wants to get injured before a World Cup, but Paulinho’s performances have revealed a player that has no regard for the club that pays his wages.

Teacher’s notes

There’s two men to rate here, who proved to be polar opposites. Andre Villas-Boas was too rigid with his tactics. With the right players in place they could work, but even though it was clear that he didn’t have the right ingredients, AVB persisted with the same recipe.

No one could accuse Tim Sherwood of tactical inflexibility, or indeed of possessing much tactical sense at all. He changed formations and personnel as often as the wide range of official club merchandise he sported. There was plenty of bluster, with little to back it up.

Ultimately it has been his inability to shut up that has proved his undoing. As was the case with Villas-Boas, results under Sherwood have been pretty good. It’s the overall performances which have been more revealing, especially against the top four, from whom Spurs took just a single point in eight games.

Final grade

Despite everything that has happened to the club, Tottenham somehow managed to finish with just three points less than last season’s record total. They say that the league table never lies, but it doesn’t always paint a clear picture either.

Spurs have not looked like serious challengers for a top four place, which has been best demonstrated by the largely chaotic performances against the teams that did qualify for the Champions League. Instead, fans have been left hoping that the side finished seventh rather than sixth, to avoid another season in the Europa League.

The biggest disappointment has been the feeling of pointlessness to this season that came with Tim Sherwood’s appointment as manager. He was never likely to last in the job past the summer, creating an issue for both him and the squad. It’s Daniel Levy that must take the blame for this and the resulting grade of D+.

To use a well-worn phrase from a school report, Levy must do better. That now has to start with the appointment of his next manager.