Who Should Replace Tim Sherwood At Spurs?
According to ‘Sky Sources’ Tim Sherwood has formally been told that he has no chance of keeping the job next season. The club and Sherwood failed to confirm this yesterday but they also failed to deny it. Reading between the lines it seems very much like Sky are on the money this time. With this there comes questions about who will succeed Sherwood. The Telegraph has suggested that there are two names in the frame - Louis van Gaal and Mauricio Pochettino.
Van Gaal has said that he wishes to manage in the Premier League as his final challenge. He is set to finish up with the Dutch national team this summer. He has been linked with both the Spurs and Manchester United jobs. The improvement in United’s form coupled with their philosophy of wanting a long-term successor to Ferguson is likely to buy Moyes a bit more time. Pochettino has refused to sign a new deal with Southampton and has just one year left. This is coupled with Pochettino’s ally Nicola Cortese leaving in January he is said to be considering his future on the south coast.
As two contenders for the same position they could hardly be more different. The wily veteran who wants one last challenge to prove he is still the best after hundreds of fights under his belt versus the young upstart looking to move up a division after winning admirers for his stylish victories. So who does the tale of the tape favour in this case?
With his eighteen years in the managerial game Van Gaal has significantly more experience, both in terms of the number of games he has overseen, the variety of roles he has undertaken, and the competitions he has been in (and won). Pochettino has less experience, but most importantly, less experience of top level challenges. He did a relatively poor job at Espanyol before being a big success at Southampton. A plus for Pochettino is that he does have experience of the English game, though Van Gaal has shown adaptability in a variety of challenges and leagues already.
The counterargument to Van Gaal’s experience is that this is likely to be his final job. Realistically, three seasons is likely to be the most he would be in the job. In the constant search for the next Wenger or Ferguson, a long-term success, Van Gaal is unlikely to be the answer.
Pochettino has the potential to be that long-term manager. He is young with a modern approach to the game, and has had some success. There are two issues with this. Firstly, it sounds very similar to Andre Villas-Boas and we all know how that worked out. Neither Levy or Tottenham supporters have the patience for a long-term dynasty if it doesn’t bring immediate success. Additionally, if Pochettino was a success, who is to say he would stick around. With the relative paucity of top-level coaching options around (see Barcelona and PSG seriously considering Villas-Boas last summer), if Pochettino were to be a success he would likely move on in the same time-frame as Van Gaal.
Stylistically they aren’t that dissimilar. Both favour a high-pressing approach, predominantly with one striker. Both have shown the ability to develop and trust young players they have inherited. Van Gaal has shown that he likes to adapt players into a variety of positions - famously converting Bastian Schweinsteiger from a winger to a central midfielder. Both favour an attacking, expansive approach. Van Gaal said that he believes sides need a minimum of 3 creative players, whilst Pochettino has really unleashed Adam Lallana this season. They both, crucially, have the ability to work with a squad predominantly suited to playing 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, but are likely to have favour more expansive line-ups than those named under Villas-Boas.
The Dutchman also comes with a fearsome reputation. He famously dropped his trousers and displayed his testicles to the Bayern Munich team to show he ‘had the balls’ to drop any of them. His man-management skills are divisive and experiences range from those who love him to those who despise him. He may provide the firecracker up the arse that many of this squad need, but how well would Emmanuel Adebayor respond to him? Van Gaal is very well respected in the game and will demand an autonomy no manager has been granted under Levy. Van Gaal is unlikely to relax his stance and so his success will partially depend on whether Levy can stop interfering to such an extent. Pochettino, on the other hand, is said to be a far mellower customer, comfortable working with less control and within a structure featuring a director of football, a structure which Levy seems determined to have work.
There is an insistence that this squad is not one that needs a major overhaul but rather one that needs some tweaks, direction and leadership. Van Gaal would likely prove the bigger draw to new arrivals than Pochettino. He has links to Ajax, Barcelona and the Dutch national team, all of which could prove fruitful sources of loans or transfers. One player I would expect to see signed if Van Gaal were appointed is Daley Blind from Ajax. His father, Danny Blind, is Van Gaal’s current assistant and he plays at left-back or as a deeper lying-midfielder. Pochettino would no doubt be linked by the press to just about all of Southampton’s current squad. Luke Shaw appears destined for bigger things and with those incoming funds the Saints will be well equipped to resist other offers. Adam Lallana will undoubtedly be linked with Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal this summer but will likely prove an expensive acquisition. With the Spurs squad likely to be needing at least one centre-back in the summer, a realistic target may be Dejan Lovren.
In conclusion, either would be a good option, but Van Gaal should be the clear priority. His added experience and ability to motivate squads in a tactically focused way is precisely what this Spurs team needs. Pochettino would be a decent option and is likely to cause less friction with Levy, but ultimately is too similar to Villas-Boas to feel like the right option to would push the club forward.
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