Long term doesn’t mean what it used to. When AVB signed up for three years at Spurs most people barely even noticed the length of the contract, the focus is so set on the upcoming season. Since the season has started however there has already been plenty of derision of the man when he talks about his “project”, even when the length of this project is a paltry three years. The culture of football has changed so much recently that instant success is not only a requirement, there is an active disregard and abuse of studied long term approaches. The same attitude is shown towards the work Brendan Rodgers is doing at Liverpool. When watching them this season I’ve been struck at how often commentators mention how in the past Stevie G would “have thundered past a couple of players”, or “rifled in a long shot” instead of playing the short passing game they believed is unreasonably demanded of him under Rodgers. After a short love affair with Spain/Barcelona the backlash against coaches with systems or long term plans is well underway in England, fueled (if you’ll pardon the pun) in no small part by the instant success seen at oil-rich clubs like City and Chelsea.
At the same time as many aspects of the media decry the lack of vision in the England set up, or how few managers are given a fair crack of the whip they actively reinforce the short term nature of the game. Coaches like Rodgers and AVB have a very different view of football to the English tabloid press, and so when their team is under pressure, it is rammed home on the back pages far more severely than at other clubs. Wenger also constantly gets slammed, even though he has perhaps overseen the biggest transformation of a club in the premier league era, whilst maintaing a champions league position. Arsenal’s stadium, whilst hilariously quiet on matchdays, brings in an incredible amount of revenue for the club, one reason they can remain competitive even whilst other clubs plough hundreds of millions into new players. Wenger also has a strict playing system in place, one that their young players are moulded into meaning they can come into the team at short notice. Arsenal have sold Henry, Adebayor, RVP, Song, Fabregas, Nasri, Toure….and still stay ahead of 16-17 clubs in the premiership each season.
This is something that hasn’t existed at Spurs for a long time, certainly under Harry Redknapp there was no long term plan further than getting together 11 good players and motivating them. This isn’t enough anymore. To compete with teams like Chelsea and the Manchesters, Spurs either need to find a billionaire willing to waste a lot of money, or build the club up properly. The same applies to Liverpool, and both boards have made the right decision this summer in appointing the managers they have. The two clubs are at a fairly similar juncture, the hope would be that they would both back their decisions, give the managers at least three years to oversee a project that allows them to compete at a higher level not just as a flash in the pan season with a few unexpected results, but consistently and sustainably.
Tottenham knew this season was likely going to be a case of running to stand still. Modric was going, King was reaching the end of the line. But there are huge signs of promise. The new training ground is being moved into, the new stadium is on the horizon. If you look at our team there is a base of excellent players with several years of their peak left to come. I, for one, would love to see where a three year AVB project could take us.