Tottenham Hotspur have looked to the Eredivisie for a manager before. Last time, it landed them Martin Jol and this time, the league may provide them Frank de Boer.
The Ajax manager has been tapped as an early favorite for the Spurs job along with Fabio Capello and it's easy to see why. It's also to see why he would be a frightening option.
There's a little Andre Villas-Boas in de Boer.
Frank de Boer, Manager of Ajax
Career Record: 82 W - 26 D - 27 L for a 60.74 win percentage.
Accomplishments: de Boer has won the Eredivisie three times, which isn't bad for a guy who has only been a manager for three seasons. His work in 2012 and 2013 earned him manager of the year awards and he was also an assistant for the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup, where the Dutch made it to the final. His resume isn't very long, but it is about as long as it can get for someone who has only been managing for three years.
Before he was manager: A 20-year playing career saw de Boer go from Ajax to Barcelona to Galatasaray before finishing his career with stints at Rangers and two clubs in the Qatari League. In addition to the 519 matches he played at the club level, de Boer also had 112 caps for the Netherlands, the most for a Dutch field player. That international career included two World Cups and three Euros. He played all across the back line, beginning as a left back and making a name for himself as a centerback, where his role was as close to a sweeper as we have seen at the top level in the last 20 years. All of that for an undersized player who wasn't exceptionally fast either. Unsurprisingly, every compliment of de Boer the player included some reference to how smart he was.
Tactical analysis: Managing for Ajax doesn't leave de Boer with a lot of wiggle room on formation. Whatever he plays, it has to be some variation of 4-3-3 per club policy/directive/religion, but de Boer has show pretty good flexibility within the prescribed 4-3-3. He has played ones that look closer to a 4-1-4-1, 4-1-2-3 and a 4-3-1-2. His preference is to play with a true defensive midfielder and a pretty attacking front five, which would seem to fit in well at Spurs. Of course, playing that way in the Eredivisie is very different from doing so in the Premier League, but he has shown flexibility in who he puts into which spots -- for example switching between Christian Poulsen and Daley Blind as holders -- which could be a hint that he is willing to adjust to a more competitive league.
What else can he bring to the table? Because de Boer played in five different countries, it's reasonable to assume he has a decent understanding of different cultures. Considering that Spurs have had problems bringing foreign players into the club, having a manager with experience around Europe that can probably better relate to players like Erik Lamela is a nice bonus. That he also managed Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen at Ajax is another plus. Moreover, he is a young manager with huge upside who could lead the club for decades, which appealed to Spurs in the hiring of Villas-Boas.
What's the catch? Just like de Boer has a lot of potential, so did Villas-Boas, but with that potential comes risk. de Boer has only been a manager since 2010 so he's certainly short on experience and the little management he has done came in the Eredivisie, hardly the most competitive league in Europe. He also did it at a club that has a a very distinct culture and style so he didn't have to do as much work assembling, building and molding the team as he would have to at Spurs.
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