1. What’s The Long-Term Strategy?
As part of the day-job, AANP can often be found swanning around town claiming to help create strategies of all things, for individuals and organisations gullible enough to lap up this sort of thing. In truth, this typically involves asking such folk where they want to end up, in the long-ish term; charging them the earth for the privilege; and then decamping to the nearest bar to knock back a splash or two of something stiff and rattle on about the glory days.
I mention this because as I watch on from my perch, it’s increasingly difficult to fathom what the hell is the strategy (there’s that word again) at Spurs. And for clarity, I mean football strategy, rather than the ‘Make More Money’ approach so earnestly peddled by D. Levy Esq. every waking minute in our shiny new bowl.
Under Poch, a strategy of sorts could be detected. Press high up the pitch; scamper around pretty indefatigably; attack; and develop the younglings – these seemed broadly to number amongst the key factors. It helped create an identity about the place and aligned with the traditions of the estate, so to speak.
It did of course help that we generally won a heap more than we lost, but by and large we the honest punters were pretty happy with how things panned out each week.
Fast forward to the final days of Poch, and more specifically the aftermath, and if you were to wonder what the devil the overall masterplan was then I’d shake you by the hand and suggest you’d hit the nail pretty squarely on the head.
In short, once Poch was out the door and wandering the streets of N17, any semblance of a broad strategy and long-term aim went with him.
The appointment of Jose? Put charitably, the strategy here seemed to be ‘Win Something Shiny’, with the parenthesised addendum ‘In Whatever Manner Necessary’. Less charitably, it seemed to be an opportunity for Levy to buy himself a long-coveted toy. There was no regard for style of play, and no consideration to the longer-term consequences – either in terms of playing style, or, crucially, the potential fall-outs and internal rifts for which Jose had become pretty famous.
Once that experiment ended, even the long-ish shortlist of would-be paramours this summer gave little hint of an obvious strategy in place post-Jose. If a specific style or identity had been identified, a common thread would have run through all the half-dozen or so managers courted. I suppose in Ten Haag and Poch Mk II there was a similarity, but Conte and Gattuso seemed cut from pretty different cloth.
The eventual decision to plump for Nuno, while essentially born of desperation and the realisation that if we started the season with nobody in charge we would look pretty comical, again gave little consideration to the identity of the club. In a sense, this was more understandable, because by that stage we needed simply to hire anyone who would take the damned gig – and when necessity comes calling, strategy is generally shoved out the door without so much as a ‘Cheerio’.
But with Nuno now bundled off into the sunset, and the chase on for Conte, the question that springs to mind is again the one being mumbled when Poch was axed – viz. what’s the strategy here? Or, put in another couple of ways, what’s the long-term goal? What’s the intended identity of the club?
There seems to be much of the short-term solution about the current pursuit of Conte. This is not just a reference to the supposed 18-month contract, but more pressingly to the fact that he historically does not care too much about long-term planning when creating his teams, and certainly not when ostracising players the cut of whose jib does not tickle him.
In a sense, this is actually understandable enough, and one sympathises. Our lot are in the dickens of a spot, and this is no time to entrust young Mason or whomever with 18 months to learn on the job. Making a beeline for the most qualified sort currently available is, one could persuasively argue, a no-brainer.
And if Conte hauls our mob up by the bootlaces, and drags us kicking, screaming and minus a few rotten eggs into the European spots come May, Levy will understandably beam from East stand to West.
Put another way, the pile of steaming dung is now so sizeable that consideration of long-term strategy, and identity and whatnot, ought to be placed on hold for a couple of years, while the club simply arrests its decline.
And as indicated, this is understandable enough. For the record, AANP still rather furrows the brow at it, but one has the decency to appreciate the logic.
Nevertheless, were I pulling the strings of this particular puppet-show, the next appointment would be one that gives greater consideration to the style of play and, more importantly, the broader identity of the club.
I can hardly claim to be an expert on Conte’s tactics, but from what I’ve seen and, more pertinently, from what Chelsea-supporting eggs have informed me, he likes a solid defence and a counter-attack. Not necessarily the ultra-defensive type that many have proclaimed, but equally not a fellow on whom one can necessarily hang their attacking hat.
As such, AANP’s covetous stare (presuming that Poch is still otherwise engaged for at least another 18 months) is directed towards Graham Potter. Having seen our lot spiral disastrously downward I’ve taken the opportunity in recent weeks to study Brighton, and bearing in mind that their individual players are hardly of the ‘Seasoned International’ ilk that we boast, I’ve been mightily impressed with the way in which they earn their weekly wage.
Most notably, when they attack they do so swiftly, their football featuring no end of early passes and off-the-ball movement. Rather than receiving the ball and pivoting back towards defence like there’s a prize on offer for whomever can do it most regularly, they show a spot of bravery and attempt to play forward. Most eye-catchingly, to repeat, they play quickly, with one- and two-touch football, the sort of stuff for which I currently yearn at Spurs. And this against teams including Liverpool and Man City, mind.
The lad Bissouma is generally on sentry duty in front of the back-line, and the full-backs seem to have no qualms about charging north to aid and abet things – but without getting bogged down in the specifics, they seem to have an identity and an attractive style about them.
And for that reason, I’ve thrown my hat in with Team Potter. I imagine he would not just attempt to create an attractive style of play, but he’d lay a foundation that would bring with it a longer-term identity.
(To the practical objection of prising him away from a project with which he’s presumably perfectly happy at present, I counter that apparently £15m is being waved at Conte, and whether or not that’s true, the principle, I would suggest, remains that if Levy were set on him he’d be able to throw enough money at the thing to effect it. Might not work with PSG, really ought to work with Brighton.)
Of course, there would be no guarantee of success, and one could reasonably point out that Potter has not won a damn thing in England as yet; point out that he took a hammering in the Man City game I’m using to showcase his supposed talents; point out that he’s yet to manage players as high-profile as ours; and no doubt trot out a string of further objections, each of which would probably be pretty difficult to counter.
But, having been observing from AANP Towers all day as this whole spectacle has unfolded, I thought I’d lob in my tuppence worth – and most specifically hammer home the point that the identity of our club has disappeared within the raft of short-termist appointments, and – while, as ever, I’ll back him to the hilt once in situ – the cueing up of Conte would do little to change this.
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