Tottenham Hotspur manager shortlist: Frank de Boer

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

With Tim Sherwood sacked there seem to be two major candidates for the hot seat at Tottenham Hotspur: Frank de Boer and Mauricio Pochettino. Here's a look at how the Dutch manager has made his name.

Tim Sherwood is no longer the manager of Tottenham Hotspur football club and, for the third time in the last two years, Tottenham are heading into a transfer period without a manager at the helm. The situation, however, looks like it will be quickly remedied. Daniel Levy has consistently been in communication with one man in particular and he, along with Maurico Pochettino, are believed to be the most likely candidates for the Spurs job. Here's a look at Frank de Boer.

Frank de Boer, Ajax manager

Career Record: Since taking charge of Ajax in December of 2010, de Boer has managed the club to 103 wins, 35 draws, and 31 losses (a win percentage of 60.9%). He also presided over four consecutive Champions League qualifications and four consecutive Champions League exits after the group stage.

Accomplishments: Four consecutive Dutch League titles, something no manager has ever done. In addition, he won five titles as a player making him the Ajax manager/player with the most titles. While Ajax are the traditional power in the Netherlands, before de Boer's arrival the club hadn't won the league since 2003-2004, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic still played for the club. His record in cup competitions is a bit less impressive. He won only one knockout competition, the 2014 Johann Cruijff-schaal, which he had as finished runner-up in each of the previous three seasons. He also finished as runner-up twice in the KNVB cup. That makes de Boer's record in Cup finals a pretty miserable one and five.

Before he was a football manager: I shouldn't really have to explain this to you, but on the off-chance that you don't know, Frank de Boer is a Ajax legend on the pitch. He started his career as a left back before moving to center back. He appeared in 328 matches for Ajax in an 11 year career there before moving on to Barcelona for five seasons. He then wound down his career with stints at Galatasaray, Rangers, Al-Rayyan, and Al-Shamal. He won five Eredivise titles as a player, 2 KNVB Cups, 3 Johann Cruifjj-schaals, a Champions League title, a UEFA cup, a UEFA Super Cup, and an Intercontinental Cup. He also won one La Liga title with Barcelona.

De Boer made 112 appearances for the Netherlands at the international level, making him their second most capped player behind Edwin van der Sar. He played for the Dutch team in two World Cups and three European Championships. However, his tenure with the Dutch team is probably most remembered for his two penalty kick misses in the semi-final of Euro 2000. The misses cost his team the match against Italy, who then lost to France in the final.

Tactical analysis: Managing Ajax, a club with a naturally ingrained style of play, doesn't leave a manager with a lot of wiggle room in terms of tactics, but de Boer has done his best. On paper, FdB's Ajax teams play a 4-3-3 formation with a high press and a high defensive line. They aim to regain possession quickly and high up the pitch so they can transition into a the offensive phase with numbers. On the attack and build-up phase of the game Ajax play a possession game with a lot of interchange among the players. These movements are imperative to de Boer’s philosophy as they provide depth by pulling opponents out of position and creating space, allowing it to be occupied by advancing movements. In essence Frank’s philosophy is based on creating space and exploiting the space created.

During his tenure at Ajax, de Boer's teams depended on excellent passing from their center backs. Players, like current Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen, were charge with playing vertical passes to initiate the attacks. De Boer's teams were happy to pass the ball around laterally, but they were consistently on the look-out for the one vertical pass to really carve open the defense. This sort of incisiveness would certainly be welcome at Tottenham Hotspur. The key to de Boer's tactics has been the versatility of his players and the ability for them to all interchange on the fly. At Spurs this would mean that a midfield of Sandro, Paulinho, and Christian Eriksen would each be able to fulfill the others' roles for a brief period. This would be especially effective with the more attacking players, where Erik Lamela, Eriksen, Andros Townsend, and a striker could move about and interchange at will.

While Ajax aren't exactly known for defending, de Boer constructed some very solid pressing teams. His Ajax teams were generally bigger and stronger then their competitors and they used their size advantage. Without the ball, de Boer's 4-3-3 quickly turns into a 4-1-4-1. The holding midfielder, in many cases Daley Blind, often drops into the space between the center back and the fullback on the side that the ball is on, in order to cover any runs from more advanced attacking midfielders.

This guy sucks; why is he on the list?: Every candidate is going to have negatives, and de Boer certainly has a few of his. First, he suffers a bit from Andre Villas-Boas syndrome, in that he's been a big fish in small pond with Ajax in the Eredivisie. Unlike AVB, de Boer has managed sustained success over a four year period and has turned around an Ajax club that hadn't been that good for a few years. We really don't know how de Boer would do at a club that isn't the biggest or doesn't have the most money to spend. Second, de Boer hasn't had much success in Europe. Sure, Ajax got handed some rough Champions League draws and beat some big clubs, but Ajax failed to make any sort of splash in the Europa League when they got dumped down there. Third, and finally, de Boer hasn't exactly demonstrated a lot of tactical flexibility and has looked overmatched against teams with superior talent. The latter is important because Tottenham need a manager that can get results against the Manchester City's and Chelsea's of the league. De Boer hasn't really shown he can do that.

Would he come to Tottenham?: Well, it seems a little iffy. First de Boer said that he would be honored to talk to a club like Tottenham Hotspur, but then Spurs had to get all pissy in the press and de Boer came back and said he expected to be leading Ajax's training in June. Honestly, there's not much left for FdB to accomplish at Ajax and he clearly seems to be intrigued by the possibility of coming to a club like Tottenham, but whether he's actually willing to leave Ajax is another matter entirely.

Final thoughts: Depending upon who you believe, de Boer might have talked himself out of the Tottenham job by opening up to the press. Daniel Levy is intensely private about the way that the club operates and who it talks to, so it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Levy was turned off from the Dutch manager by his willingness to talk openly and honestly with the press. In most people's eyes, de Boer and Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino are the top two choices, unless Roberto Martinez is actually available, and both are fairly equal in most people's eyes. MoPo has the advantage of experience in England, something which may or may not be all that important, whereas FdB has the advantage of managerial success. I badly want de Boer, but I was in favor of hiring Andre Villas-Boas or David Moyes the last time Spurs needed a manager, so maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about.

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