Tuesday, June 28

Levy Faces Test of Spurs’ True Ambition After Doomed Dance With Nuno | Tottenham Hotspur

Goodbye then, Nuno. Let’s face it, it was almost completely doomed from the start, to the extent that there is no point in analyzing the gains, losses and the legacy of the Nuno era Spurs.

What memories will be left of Tottenham’s 35th permanent managerial appointment in North London? A way to stand. An expression of understanding bewilderment. The meaning, above all, of a head coach who seemed at all times embedded in an ancient sadness, a courteous guardian of the grail in someone else’s castle, whose last words, dispatched from the hand of Daniel Levy, will be “He chose .. . wrong “.

But what did Spurs expect from a coach who stalled at Wolverhampton, lost 17 league games last season, whose football is all about control and caution and who they really didn’t want in the first place?

Instead, as the club turns its gaze to things to come and Antonio Conte’s electrifying prospect, there are only two points worth taking out of Nuno Espírito Santo’s interlude. They are both familiar territory. They will both talk about whatever Conte can hope to accomplish in this job.

First, what is a Tottenham coach good for? This is a club too often defined by the appearance of progress, by the light, noise, and drama that exist in its own space, unrelated to any obvious substance.

Take, for example, the last seven months. Spurs fired José Mourinho less than a week before a cup final, tried unsuccessfully to start a super league, successfully demotivated Harry Kane, hired a stylish football director, named the last man on the long list, they fired the last one on the list. long list and enacted a dramatic search for the highest-profile unemployed coach in world soccer.

Nuno Espírito Santo after his last game as Tottenham manager, the defeat against Manchester United.
Nuno Espírito Santo after his last game as Tottenham manager, the defeat against Manchester United. Photograph: Tom Jenkins / The Guardian

In that time, Spurs went from seventh place in the Premier League to eighth. What has this cost? What has been the price of that slight push down the league table? Presumably up to £ 50 million in pay, wasted wages and the diminishing value of your main gambling asset. It is, at the very least, a very dramatic way of not doing much.

But this has been the role of the Spurs coach, which implies, in its simple form, a kind of El Tel businessman quality, injecting some kind of life, vibrations, energy, into this carefully measured environment.

Nuno was never likely to win much. But he never got close to this model, he’s a naturally conservative trainer with his eyes on the sideline of a friendly hillside farmer concerned about the tribulations of his favorite sick heifer at the hands of the local vet.

This is the second point. Is Levy prepared to achieve something beyond this? Play that game for real? Because Conte is something completely different. Not just a serious pedigree improvement, but a deeper culture change.

This is a quote that may amount to a claim to Levy’s deception, a rinse of that ruthless and strictly corporate executive culture. Here’s a manager who doesn’t want anything long-term either. But it will win you if you mean it.

Spoil this one, fail once again to make the leap forward, and it will be completely on Levy. Conte knows how to do this.

Antonio Conte enjoys winning the Premier League with Chelsea in 2017.
Antonio Conte enjoys winning the Premier League with Chelsea in 2017. Photograph: Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

There have been some strangely negative noises in recent days, a suggestion that English football may have reason to distrust such a ruthless coach. It should be taken with a pinch of salt. You may lack the PR skills of a Solskjær. But Conte is a restless, angry, and precision-engineered strategist.

This is a coach who got off to a slow start in his first season at Chelsea, went home for a sleepless vacation over the fall break, came back with a plan, and worked his way up to the league title playing with Victor Moses as a winger. and David Luiz as a winger. Three.

It wasn’t just about control. Chelsea scored 85 goals. Conte got another season for the Eden Hazard title. He has five league titles at three clubs. Everything is urgency, arrangements, quick planning. He may have the right things for Kane, who needs someone bigger than him, hard training, and a clarification of what kind of player he wants to be.

Do you want success? The man who can provide it is already at the door, scowling through the fan light, rattling the locks. But it requires seriousness in return, a total commitment, an absence of flannel.

Banners addressed to Tottenham president Daniel Levy and the club's hierarchy ahead of a home game this season.
Banners addressed to Tottenham president Daniel Levy and the club’s hierarchy ahead of a home game this season. Photograph: Adrian Dennis / AFP / Getty Images

This is the subtext of every move in Tottenham. This is a club run by a president who walks a strange tightrope, balancing the demands of the crowd, the opera of fandom, with both a professional and purposeful eye on profit and loss.

Levy sees the financial absurdities of his profession, leans toward probity and caution, but also seems to have had the opportunity to invest in something else. How much does this club really want success? And what would it look like? Is it simply existing close to the elite, preserving your income, doing the executive dance? Or the cold, hard hunger for trophies, for the kind of moments fans crave?

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Thank you for your comments.

The biggest mistake Spurs made was not backing Mauricio Pochettino when times were good. They posted record earnings the year they reached the Champions League final. But that squad was allowed to grow old, Kane sank to the ground. The asset was sweating to death when it could have been fed, turned into a team to maintain that level.

If Conte comes along, he will be the fifth occupant of that manager’s office in two and a half years since he moved into the multipurpose mega-lot. His presence is also a kind of ending, a call to what really is the broader ambition here. Conte doesn’t care what your excuses are. He has employers waiting elsewhere if you are going to send him into battle with a loaf of bread in hand.

It will be, to say the least, fascinating to watch. Then it’s your turn, Mr. Levy.


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