Not so much at their inability to retain their prized asset, nor for the transfer fee commanded. No, the problem lay with his replacements and the current man in charge of them.
The Levy-Baldini-AVB axis failed in the summer to build a team capable of challenging for the Champions League. It led to an almighty fall out in December as the managerial pendulum at White Hart Lane swung from the meticulous and conservative Andre Villas-Boas to the attacking and borderline mad Tim Sherwood. When it comes to football philosophy, the duo are practically binary opposites.
Gone are the days of Bale, Luca Modric and Rafael van der Vaart delighting the masses, with Ledley King providing solidity at the back. Sherwood’s answer to the aforementioned attacking trio has been to push a small army of attacking players onto the pitch, in the hope that they can outscore the opposition. A commendable approach, perhaps, again evident in Tottenham’s 3-1 success over Fulham.
Lining up with a midfield four of Christian Eriksen, Nacer Chadli, Paulinho and Aaron Lennon, it was hard to envisage where the defensive cover would come from. By the end of the third minute, though, it was clear: there would be none.
Tottenham were often carved open by relegation-threatened Fulham in the opening 45 minutes as their midfield largely ignored any request to trackback.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the outstanding Hugo Lloris, Tottenham may have left without any points as the French number one made a string of fine saves and exuded composure as those in front of him floundered.
The glaring omission of Sandro was particularly peculiar, with Sherwood launching into an astonishing mini-tirade to explain his selection.
"I like Sandro's qualities, but in my eyes it wasn't right to put him in the squad - other people are ahead of him.
"I think Nacer Chadli's done well in there and I think Paulinho's done well in there.
"He's not injured, and he's fit to play, but he's not selected because he's not up to it at the moment ahead of other people."
These final few matches are an audition for a future job – as his days look increasingly numbered at White Hart Lane – but who is going to appoint a manager who is intent on enraging their star players?
That’s not to say that Sandro is the perfect midfielder enforcer, he’s been culpable at points this season – though quickly forgiven for his engaging off-field personality, but the Brazilian is clearly more adept in the centre of midfield than Chadli.
Eriksen ensured Sherwood’s selection had little negative consequence as a couple of fine deliveries pushed Tottenham towards victory, as a hopeless season for the white half of North London edged towards its conclusion.
AVB – for all his shortcomings in player management – had a plan, highlighted by how his new Zenit charges have stormed to the top of the Russian league. Sherwood is bereft of a reasoned formula, aside from hurling on as many attacking players as possible.
That’s not to say the underwhelming season is Sherwood’s fault. No one would turn down the chance to manage a Premier League team, not to mention one of Tottenham’s standing, and he has had some positive moments. But something is clearly awry.
A side that falls apart against the stronger sides points to a severe mental lapse, one that requires an experienced manager to fix. Levy will probably spring a surprise, but current favourite Louis Van Gaal – while not renowned for sticking around – has managed clubs far bigger than Spurs and would surely be an ideal fit.
Levy’s ability to command a fee of £85.3 million for Gareth Bale was impressive, but rather negated by his club’s bizarre recruitment policy in the summer which saw seven players arrive. Of that group, only Eriksen – one of the cheapest at £11 million – has delivered.
Paulinho has shown flashes but the reality is that Tottenham were better off with Bale than his seven surrogates. The new manager has to be able to harness the group’s talents.
It’s time for Levy to make a decent appointment. Dismissing Harry Redknapp for flirting with the England job – and subsequent loss of form – was perhaps justified, but the arrival of Villas-Boas and promotion of Sherwood have been largely unsatisfactory.
Levy will keep him in a job until the end of the season, but as soon as the full-time whistle goes in the end-of-season clash with Aston Villa, he would be wise to usher Sherwood into his office, call a halt to a turbulent reign and start again.
- Sports & Recreation
- Gareth Bale
- Tim Sherwood
- Nacer Chadli