Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tottenham Needs a Change--Jürgen Klinsmann Perhaps?

Watching Tottenham's 3-1 loss yesterday to Newcastle at St. James' Park, it could not have been any clearer that Spurs need to shake things up in a major way. They've gotten off to a rough start this season (18th place after 10 games) and the players aren't really responding on the field; they look either disinterested or simply flat-out bad. Reports have surfaced that star striker Dimitar Berbatov didn't want to come on as a 2nd half substitute yesterday and had to be asked (or told) several times by manager Martin Jol to enter the match, which wouldn't be the first time that Berbatov and Jol have had a dust-up either. Some of the personnel decisions made by Jol and club executives have left many fans scratching their heads as well, not just this season but even in recent years when Tottenham had the most success they've ever had as a club.

One thing Tottenham has been consistently good at the past few seasons is scoring. Goals have come aplenty for the North London side, and when big money was splashed on Darren Bent this summer, questions were raised. Spurs conceded more goals (54) than any other team in the top 14 in the Premier League last season despite finishing 5th, and to break the "Big Four"'s stranglehold on the Champions League positions, Spurs needed to find a way to play better defensively. Many (myself included) picked them to finish 4th this season after they went out and signed Gareth Bale and Younes Kaboul this summer in an attempt to shore up the defense, but both of those players are attack-minded. Michael Dawson, as evidenced in the Newcastle game, is an average Premiership center back (above average on his good days), and captain Ledley King, while a good, good player, is always injured. Instead of spending money on Darren Bent, club executives should've realized their team's defensive deficiencies and gone out to get a quality center back or two, as well as help on the outsides.

18th place is unacceptable for a club like Tottenham; it just is and there's no way around it. This is a team with high expectations and European aspirations and the bottom of the table simply doesn't cut it. While Martin Jol is a relatively well-liked, well-respected manager in the domestic scene, it's time to cut ties and club owner Daniel Levy needs to make the move soon. We're already a quarter of the way into the season and Tottenham can't afford to drop any more points. It's become obvious that Jol has lost his players and they're not responding to him, so it's either make the move now or condemn yourself to a top-10 (at best) finish.

Jurgen Klinsmann, is, for me, the ideal candidate to replace Jol at Tottenham. The former German national coach and former star striker played at Tottenham during his club career (1994-1995 and 1997-1998), and more importantly, knows all too well the expectations and scrutiny surrounding a club like Tottenham, having led the German national team to 3rd in the World Cup as well as playing for some high-profile clubs (Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, AS Monaco, and Tottenham) in his day. The question is, is North London tempting enough to take him away from his cushy lifestyle in Southern California with his family? To be honest, I would say no, but Klinsmann has to be itching to get back in the game after a while away. What's more, Klinsmann speaks very good English (obviously; he lives in the US and has an American wife), which is important at Tottenham because they bring in young English talent left and right, and likes his teams to play the attacking style of soccer that Tottenham employs now. His German team was respected at home for the spirit and flair with which they played, and those are things Tottenham is lacking right now under Martin Jol.

Tottenham, without a doubt, need to invest in some defenders come the January transfer window. It's an attractive job in what is arguably the most attractive domestic league in the world and with a few significant changes here and there, Tottenham have the talent to compete with the "Big Four". When you break down their roster, Spurs are dangerous up top and solid in the midfield, shoring up the back four is what is holding them back from competing for a Champions League position, at least from a players' standpoint. Bringing a manager like Klinsmann in would be essential to keeping Berbatov at the club, which is an absolute must considering how shockingly poor Darren Bent has been, and would also be helpful in attracting new players as well.

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