Tottenham Hotspur fired Tim Sherwood yesterday, and the club is currently searching for its third manager in two years. In this series, the writers of Cartilage Free Captain take in-depth looks at various managers who might be candidates for the Spurs managerial position. In this edition, I take a look at Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal.
Aloysius Paulus Maria van Gaal: current manager of the Netherlands national team, former manager of Bayern Munich, AZ, Barcelona, Ajax
Career record: 479-151-150 (61%)
Accomplishments: Eredivisie titles - 1994-96 (Ajax), 2009 (AZ); UEFA Champions League - 1994 (Ajax); UEFA Super Cup & Intercontinental Cup - 1995 (Ajax); La Liga titles - 1998 & 1999 (Barcelona); UEFA Super Cup - 1997 (Barcelona); Copa del Rey - 1998 (Barcelona); Bundesliga title - 2010 (Bayern); World Football Manager of the Year - 1995 (Ajax).
Before he was a football manager: Van Gaal played professionally as a midfielder in the Netherlands and Belgium for Royal Antwerp, Telstar, Sparta Rotterdam. He began his coaching career as an assistant at AZ and Ajax before rising to manage Ajax in 1991.
Tactical analysis: Van Gaal loves attacking football and over his career has shown to have tactical flexibility, depending on the composition of his squad. He learned at the feet of Leo Beenhakker at Ajax and is steeped in the rich "Total Football" tradition of the classic Dutch teams from the 1970s. If his recent Netherlands teams are any indication, van Gaal emphasizes movement, vision, and passing -- constantly circulating and recycling possession. He's tactically astute, knowledgable about the style of football he wants, and has demonstrated a consistent efficacy in establishing his style of football. He's known as a coach who will work with what he has, and emphasizes team cohesion and collective responsibility. His teams are actually teams. Lately, van Gaal has favored a 4-3-3 formation with players given freedom to express themselves, a formation that Spurs seems keenly suited for given their current roster. Lastly, he wins things -- his list of accomplishments is huge, and his management ability is reflected in the titles and trophies in his name. Who wouldn't like to have a former World Football Manager of the Year at Spurs?
That guy sucks, why is he on the list?: Van Gaal doesn't suck by any stretch of the imagination, but he does have a few small warning signs. As referenced above, van Gaal's teams have a tendency to start slow until his players adapt to the way he wants them to play. He's also never managed in England, and it's unclear if the free-flowing style of football he's known for would actually work in the Premier League. He's also notoriously prickly with the media, to the extent that he can make Andre Villas-Boas and Jose Mourinho look like cuddly teddy bears. A van Gaal stint would likely turn Spurs into media pariahs, but hey, we should be used to that, right? Apparently, he's also not above waving his junk around at his players to make a point, which is both a little scary and deeply hilarious.
Would he come to Tottenham?: Three months ago, Van Gaal was considered the front-runner to take over at Spurs after the World Cup. He's leaving the Netherlands and had publicly said that he wanted to take a shot at managing in England, something he's never done before. But that was before Manchester United fired David Moyes. Van Gaal's no dummy, and he is obviously more interested in taking over at Old Trafford than he would be in coming to North London. It's likely that, like so many players and managers before him, he used a supposed interest in coming to Spurs as a stalking horse to get more attention from other, bigger clubs. That said, if United do something amazing, ridiculous, and/or bizarre like appointing Ryan Giggs or poaching Jürgen Klopp from Dortmund, Levy might be able to turn his gaze back towards Tottenham. I wouldn't be too optimistic, though.
Final Thoughts: If you want a manager with an incredible amount of experience, who has impeccable managerial credentials, and has actually won things, you really can't do much better than Louis van Gaal. Hiring him would be an absolute coup d'état for a club like Tottenham Hotspur and if he's available he should automatically be at the top of Daniel Levy's list. Unfortunately, with United making doe-eyes at him in the wake of their shambolic season, it doesn't appear as though van Gaal would come to Spurs, and we'd be better off looking at more realistic managerial targets.