Another season without a trophy, all hopes of a Champions League spot vanishing over the horizon and those of a prurient disposition looking to see how much worse it can get for Jose Mourinho.
If there is a silver lining to the temporary suspension of the Premier League, it is the chance for Tottenham Hotspur to take stock and seek to halt a shocking decline.
It won’t encourage the team’s supporters to hear that Daniel Levy wants them to be grateful that their club is at least financially secure.
Daniel Levy’s pride in Tottenham’s finances is not shared by Spurs’ trophy-less supporters
The North London club’s silverware drought rumbles on despite financial stability
The 58-year-old Spurs chairman related this during a little reported appearance before the Tottenham Supporters’ Trust last week, when he faced some robust questioning on Mauricio Pochettino’s departure, Mourinho’s arrival and the fact that the club have collected just one piece of silverware, the 2008 League Cup, in his near-20 years of stewardship of the club for the investment company ENIC Group.
The response was remarkable, even by the standards in prudence set by Levy, whose first class honours degree in economics and land economy has equipped him for a cautious and pragmatic approach to business.
Pressed on why, despite the club’s commercial success, Tottenham fans were still hearing the club could not compete on the field, Levy replied to ask if ‘compete’ meant ‘spend lots of money.’
Team team on the field has continued to frustrate, getting close but yet so far from titles
He stated that he did ‘not believe there was a direct correlation between winning and spending money’, said he would not risk the club’s existence ‘for future generations’ in pursuit of policies designed ‘to win’ and declared the Spurs board ‘has had to take a long-term view to protect the club’. No one can accuse Levy of failing to run a tight commercial ship.
Tottenham’s pre-tax £139million profit in 2017-18 was the highest in the Premier League, eclipsing the £125m Liverpool reaped by reaching the Champions League final. It was the highest profit before tax ever registered by a Premier League club.
A detailed study by football finance analyst and writer Swiss Ramble has charted how Spurs have become experts in the field of profit, delivering three of the 10 best financial returns the Premier League has known, with £265m profits on player sales in the past five years and a finely-honed commercial operation helping.
That enviable new £1bn stadium, soon to be a year old, and one of the world’s best training grounds are further evidence that Levy is doing a lot right.
Tottenham haven’t won a trophy since lifting the Carling Cup (League Cup) 12 years ago
Jose Mourinho is expected to see his frustrations deepen with Levy’s reputation in the market
Neither does he sit in an ivory tower, descending on transfer deadline day to drive a bargain.
When Danny Rose became a negative presence this winter, persistently drawing attention to what he and some others felt were Mourinho’s archaic training methods, it is thought to have been Levy who spoke to him to say it was best that he leave. Levy also relented on allowing a loan deal with Newcastle.
But as the club approach the end of a second decade under ENIC’s ownership, questions have to be asked about Levy’s capacity to deliver the success that matters most to supporters.
Pochettino’s era obscured Levy’s generally calamitous series of managerial appointments, of which Mourinho is the latest in a series of failures.
After a long period being told something was being built, Spurs fans are yet to see the fruits
Glenn Hoddle was sacked six games into a season, Jacques Santini walked out after 13 games. Martin Jol was treated abysmally because Levy wanted Juande Ramos — another disaster. Harry Redknapp was an emergency measure. Andre Villas Boas and Tim Sherwood both imploded.
Pochettino’s success delivered Spurs a platform but they have been left behind because of Levy’s flawed conviction that not buying a player for 12 months in 2018 and 2019 was a smart, progressive measure. After the unexpected title challenge of 2016, Pochettino wanted Sadio Mane, then at Southampton, and Georginio Wijnaldum from Newcastle.
We all know where they went.
The great clubs build from a position of strength but Levy maintained the stance that Pochettino’s squad was sufficient.
There will be questions over whether Levy is the man to now deliver the success required
Key players from Pochettino’s time — Kyle Walker, Mousa Dembele, Kieran Trippier, Christian Eriksen, Rose and Victor Wanyama — have all gone. Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld are nowhere near the level they once were.
Jan Vertonghen is leaving in the summer. Hugo Lloris is 33 and in decline. The diverging paths Liverpool and Spurs have taken since last summer’s Champions League final has been shocking to behold and a substantial responsibility resides with Levy.
Tottenham are a club with a ‘unique character’ and a ‘dressing-room DNA’ which ‘makes superstars,’ he told the Supporters’ Trust.
Maintaining the ‘philosophy’ that has seen Harry Winks come through the ranks to captain the side at Wolves recently was ‘really important’, Levy insisted.
Spurs reached the Champions League final last season but have crumbled this season
Yet the recruitment of Mourinho, with a philosophy diametrically different to Pochettino, makes a mockery of that claim.
No one could have anticipated Mourinho struggling quite so much as he has, although his self-defeating public utterances about the weaknesses of his own squad were entirely predictable.
Pochettino has been desperately missed. Players have struggled to adjust to the disciplines of the Mourinho system, in which one full back stays back and a midfielder screens the defence.
Dier’s ability to adapt explains why he is back in favour.
Spurs’ new stadium has been a huge step forward for the club, but it’s cabinet needs silverware
The Harry Kane factor could yet succeed where Pochettino failed, in getting Tottenham to display ambition in the transfer market.
It is thought the 26-year-old striker may want to see a shake-up at the club and a re-ordering of priorities, rather than three or four years of the same, if he is to commit his long-term future there.
It is hard to see a rosy future with Mourinho around the place. A decision that the entire episode with him has been a mistake would be better made sooner rather than later. He looks more like yesterday’s man with each passing week.
The club are likely to move quickly to offer Willian, out of contract at Chelsea this summer, a two-year deal. They would have been reluctant to buy a 31-year-old player in the past.
Mourinho has struggled more than expected, and trophies look a long way for here
‘The heartbeat (of a club) is clearly the football and what happens on the pitch,’ Levy said in a recent rare interview — for the Cambridge University Varsity newspaper. ‘That’s the one aspect that’s not possible to control.
‘You can have some influence on it in terms of your recruitment policy and coaches, among other things, but you can’t control it.’
Supporters feel otherwise.
That League Cup win in 2008 maintained a Spurs record, matched only by Manchester United, of winning a trophy in every decade since World War II.
That record has long gone. The prospect of putting things right any time soon seems remote.