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Tottenham must get the relationship between management and coaching right

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With the next head coach soon to be appointed, Tottenham has to improve the hierarchy of the squad going forward.

Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur Signs New Contract Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Just a week or so removed from the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, the rumor mill has already started spinning for Tottenham Hotspur. From managerial names ranging from Graham Potter to Robert Martinez to Antonio Conte and now most recently to Mauricio Pochettino, the stage is set for one of the more intriguing summers in recent memory.

Fortunately for the Lilywhites, all indications are that the new manager will be announced in the coming days. But regardless of who the manager will be, Spurs have a bevy of decisions that will need to be made.

One thing that has become a bit clearer within Tottenham over the past couple of years is their failure in recruitment. Let’s take a look at a few of Spurs’ most recent signings and how they have kicked on in their Tottenham careers.

Tanguy Ndombele

Purchased for just over £55 million, Ndombele’s performances on the pitch have ranged from 4s to 8s, showcasing world-class ability in patches while having far too many lackluster performances in between. He is still adjusting to the pace and physicality of the league and went from being the number one transfer preference of one manager (Pochettino) to having to play his way into the team under another (José Mourinho). The future is still bright, but Spurs have a lot riding on the French international over the next few seasons.

Giovani Lo Celso

Perhaps the player most frustrating on this list, when Lo Celso was brought over in August of 2019, he was coming off a season with 13 goal contributions (nine goals, four assists) for Real Betis. He was seen as the eventual creative successor to Christian Eriksen, playing in more of a central attacking role. However, Lo Celso has had far too many injuries and has mainly played in more of a deep-lying playmaker role. Unfortunately, Lo Celso has been far too many times a passenger for Spurs. He must stay healthy and improve his offensive output next season.

Steven Bergwijn

Signed in the January 2020 transfer window, Bergwijn was brought in and immediately showcased his potential, perhaps giving himself unfair expectations in the process. In his first full season with Spurs, Bergwijn was often in the starting lineup at the start of this year, perhaps in large part due to his work rate. A lack of goal threat led to his departure from Mourinho’s team selections, though he was often deployed as a defensive winger, which is not his strength. There is undoubtedly a player in Bergwijn. He needs confidence and he needs to stay fit to make the most out of his potential going forward.

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg

Prior to the arrival of Højbjerg, Spurs were desperate to bring in a quality holding midfielder that could shape up the spine of the team while giving the rest of the midfield the ability to push up the pitch. Højbjerg was one of Tottenham’s more productive players in 2020-21, but he was completely knackered towards the end of the season and had a difficult time transitioning to more of a possession-based approach under interim head coach Ryan Mason. With Oliver Skipp likely returning from loan to the squad next season, the combination of the two could showcase a combination of work rate and defensive attributes that could mean positive things upfield for both Ndombele and Lo Celso.

Matt Doherty

If you recall in the ‘All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur’ Amazon documentary, Mourinho likened Doherty as one of the better players at Wolves. That interest ultimately led to Spurs going in for Doherty last summer. At Wolves, Doherty was deployed as an attacking wingback in their 3-4-3 system. However, he was asked to be more of a traditional right back under Mourinho and it was truly a mess. Under a manager like Potter or Conte, who give their fullbacks the license to go forward, perhaps Doherty could be better suited.

Sergio Reguilón

Fresh off of helping Sevilla shock almost everyone and win the Europa League in 2019-20, many Spurs fans marveled at the prospect of having Reguilón down the left flank for Spurs. Similar to Ndombele, Reguilón has had his moments. But, he has shown to be a bit clumsy and has fallen guilty of being too committed up the pitch. Given Spurs’ question marks at centerback, it is unfair to judge Reguilón just yet.

Joe Rodon

Brought over at the end of the English domestic transfer window from Swansea City, the timing of Rodon’s transfer kept him unavailable to participate in the Europa League fixtures. This led to a lack of consistent playing time, but in the chances the Welshman was given, he opened eyes. It is unfair to compare Rodon to Milan Škriniar, who was the centerback Spurs had been going for at the time, but Rodon is decent in his own right and has shown the potential to be a contributor in the back line next season.

Overview

In looking at the above list, while there are a lot of reasons for it, Spurs transfers have ultimately faltered. Not only have Tottenham brought in players that have played below expectations, but there has been indications of rifts over the transfer decisions between the front office and the coaching staffs in recent seasons.

Looking back a few seasons ago at the start of Pochettino’s tenure, there was a huge transition to infuse younger players into the squad and to find talent where others were not looking. A large part of that was due to the relationship of Pochettino and Paul Mitchell as well as the ability of the latter to find talent cheaply.

With Mitchell in charge of recruitment, Spurs brought in talents such as Son Heung-min, Dele Alli and Toby Alderweireld and developed them all into some of the better players at their position in the league and even in the world. Since Mitchell left for RB Leipzig in February of 2018, Tottenham’s recruitment has seemingly gone off the boil.

When Spurs were in the midst of going a whole year without making a signing, Pochettino made it clear that he was not involved in transfers. Perhaps in retrospect, that outcry could have been one of the first signs of disagreement between Pochettino and upper management.

In recent seasons, there have been rumors that the players Spurs have brought in have not always been the first choices of the coaching staffs in place. While Carlos Vinícius was known to be on Mourinho’s list, there was the Gareth Bale deal which signaled to be more of a front-office decision rather than a coaching preference.

Should Tottenham get back on track this summer, it would mean either that the next head coach is more involved in the club’s decision-making or a Director of Football is brought in to focus entirely in that part of the club.

Spurs have been linked to Luis Campos and Ralf Rangnick, both of whom would likely act as an overseer of recruitment for the club. Campos is reported to be interested in a move to the Premier League and he is coming off a season where he helped Lille take down French superpower PSG. For Rangnick, the German was one of the main reasons for the development of the RB franchise (Leipzig and Salzburg) and his philosophies have been influential to world-class managers such as Jürgen Klopp and Julian Nagelsmann. More recently, Spurs have also been recently linked with Fabio Paratici, who recently resigned as director of football at Juventus.

In his matchday program ahead of the final home game of the season against Aston Villa, chairman Daniel Levy’s admission of guilt was that the club had lost sight of their identity. Regardless of who the manager will be and which players are moved out and brought in this summer, the club has to become more aligned, stemming from upper management down to the players wearing the badge on the pitch. Should the disarray continue, it could further mean short- and long-term problems for the club.