Sunday, October 5, 2008

Juande Ramos Stares Into the Abyss. Is His Job on the Line at Spurs?

Things at Tottenham Hotspur have gone from bad to worse. Not content with their worst start in 53 years, the team conspired to lose against Hull City at White Hart Lane and begin the season with just two pts from their opening seven games, the clubs worst start since 1912...

Hull scored after nine minutes through a Geovanni special and despite their best performance this season Spurs could not find a way back. Spurs dominated for long periods and put Hull under severe pressure hitting the post twice and missing several gilt edged chances.

But the Premiership new boys were well worth the three points as they tried to take the game to Spurs and now find themselves in 3rd place with 14pts from seven games.

The implications of the result on Spurs means that the Spaniard is now in real danger of being sacked before Christmas. Privately Ramos has been assured of his position but Spurs face Stoke and Bolton next before they take on Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City at the Eastlands.

And if Spurs fail to pick up less than 6pts from the next two games it would be difficult to see Ramos turning things around for the North London derby against Arsenal and then welcoming Liverpool to White Hart Lane a week later.

The Spurs board seem to be jaded and are looking for new owners for the club, Joe Louis £3 billion fortune was reduced by up to £500M in the latest share crashes and the Briton is eager to increase his capital by offloading Tottenham. Spurs are one of the jewels in Louis' empire and current ENIC director Daniel Levy is said to be dis-enchanted with life at White Hart Lane after trying numerous pairings as manager and director of football.

But the answer lies within the question. Why bother with a Director of Football? Damien Comolli undermined Martin Jol to the point where Jol was sacked by the board and after publicly chasing Ramos while Jol was in charge, the Spaniard will be only too aware that the board are not to be trusted.

Only this week Daniel Levy issued a statement saying Spurs were happy with Ramos and were giving him time to turn it around. In the same statement they also said they were not chasing Man City manager Mark Hughes.

The general feeling about Hughes is that he is living on borrowed time as the City board have so much money they will want to signify their aims for the club by signing a high profile manager. Spurs could do worse.

But for the moment there is a battle going on at Spurs. Ramos, like his predecessor Jol, has been highly critical of Damien Comolli and of the players he has brought to the club. Both managers have publicly stated that Comolli has not brought in their recommendations but players who fit a profile that the board are looking for. In other words Spurs have become a selling club and have only signed young players who they feel they can sell on at an inflated price.

This is one of the problems Ramos faces at the moment. Comolli allowed not only their best two players but the only real leaders Spurs had to leave in the summer. Both Keane and Berbatov had been integral in Spurs finishing 5th two seasons on a row. But they were allowed to leave for a combined fee of £51M without ever being replaced.

And this is where the battle lines have been drawn. Ramos wanted Diego Milito and Luis Fabiano. Comolli signed an unfit cup tied Pavelychenko. Ramos had also told Comolli to sell Darren Bent as he wasn't wanted and to hold onto Keane whatever the price.

After the Hull game Ramos came out fighting as he spoke about his frustration with his strikers "The position of the striker is the most weak, it was the decision of the club (to sell Keane, Berbatov and Defoe and to sign Pavelychenko), all of the people are responsible...for the good, and the bad"

And the general feeling within White Hart Lane is that Comolli didn't want to sell Bent at a reduced fee (Sunderland bid £8M) because it would have drawn attention to the £18M Comolli had payed one year previously. Comolli has also been questioned on some of his other signings. Kevin Prince Boateng, Gilberto, David Bentley, Younnes Kaboul have all been signed for huge money. Arsenal, Comolli's old club made £7.5M when Spurs signed Bentley for £15M.

Now there's a race to the bottom. Comolli needs Ramos to fail to keep his job and Ramos needs to turn things around with a poor squad to save his.

Currently Spurs are rudderless. There are no leaders on the pitch. Ledley King is Spurs best defender on his day, Ramos is aware of this. But King underwent knee surgery in August and has yet to recover. He can't train fully, he isn't fully fit and Ramos plays him in certain games.

As a result Spurs have not been able to forge a decent defensive partnership as the defensive pairings change for every match. Alan Hutton a player Spurs signed without Ramos' knowledge is out injured. Vedran Corluka was signed as cover for King at an inflated £8.5M and is playing right full.

But Spurs real problems are in midfield. Jenas, Zokora, O'Hara, Modric, Bentley, Lennon are all light weight players. You wouldn't turn to any of them when the chips are down and the entire midfield are easily out fought. Ramos has tried to rectify this by playing five across midfield but the same problem Jol faced is still apparent. There is no natural left sided player. The balance of the midfield is completely wrong.

Up front Ramos has only Pavelychenko and Bent to choose from as his main starters. Frazier Campbell must be wondering what he did to Ferguson to have ended up in this mess. Ramos didn't want the Russian centre forward and he wanted to get rid of Bent so now he finds himself with the enviable task of going to these two players to help turn the season around.

How Tottenham let this mess happen is any ones guess. Ramos must be scratching his head wondering how he agreed to leave a formidable Sevilla team where he had brought them so much success to end up in White Hart Lane on a windy October evening.

He is a good manager, there's no doubting that. But if he is to survive and outlast Comolli he will have to produce his greatest feat as a manager.

For Spurs sake I hope he does. If he can take over the transfer reigns and bring some kind of stability to the club the future under him could be great.

But he faces his greatest battle. Not only has he to overcome Spurs opponents, he has to motivate a team that just are not good enough, and he has to beat his greatest enemy...

His own board and Director of Football.