Tottenham were demolished 6-1 by Newcastle United on Sunday, a defeat that makes the chances of Champions League qualification look slim.
There is room for this week to get even worse, with matches against Manchester United and Liverpool looming and the club debating whether to part ways with interim manager Cristian Stellini.
Once the season is over, there are long-term issues to address, such as the appointment of a permanent or head coach and the future of Harry Kane.
Chief football correspondent Jason Burt looks into the problems Spurs need to solve to get back to where Daniel Levy believes the club belongs.
What to do with Cristian Stellini?
That may sound ruthless, but the sensible approach would be to sack Stellini before Tottenham face Manchester United on Thursday and put Ryan Mason in charge until the end of the season if they can’t secure the manager they really want right now.
Tottenham badly need to change the toxic mood and atmosphere around the club who are, once again, riot and could see them fail to qualify for Europe as well.
The mistake they made was to retain Stellini once Antonio Conte left, presumably either because they didn’t want to pay him back too or because results had been good when he took over when Conte was ill.
Stellini’s previous managerial experience was as coach of Alessandria, after working with Genoa’s Under 21 side.
He’s apparently popular at Spurs but it just didn’t work out. Stellini would never really change things, in part because he would expect to team up with Conte again at his Italian colleague’s next club.
Mason is highly regarded and has been tipped as manager for the future – Championship and League One clubs have already tried to bring him on – but he’s only 31 and his latest spell as caretaker hasn’t been a success.
But for the last six games he could just lift the mood, especially if Spurs are smart and bring in an experienced older manager to work with him. Last time they turned to Chris Powell, but maybe someone with a little more nous as number one, like Chris Hughton, could work? Even half a dozen games with Harry Redknapp alongside Mason might do the trick.
Stick or twist on the formation
Classic 3-4-3, default Antonio Conte. He’s used it with great success, not least at Chelsea, wherever he’s been and won’t budge. It hasn’t worked out for Spurs this season in part because they have failed to adhere to the principles he believes underpin them: pressing up and defending deep. For example, AC Milan were shocked by the way little Spurs pressed them during the last 16 of the Champions League. Spurs stuck with Conte before suddenly switching to a back four to disastrous effect against Newcastle United.
So what now? Rodrigo Bentancur’s injury has hit their midfield badly, while Yves Bissouma has been absent to reduce the chances of turning things around. It means Spurs simply don’t have the manpower to play 4-3-3 effectively. Against Newcastle, three defensive midfielders remained and Ivan Perisic remained at orthodox left-back. It was never going to work.
Perhaps using Ben Davies and upcoming Emerson Royal could help but Spurs are still short on midfield.
They may have no choice but to stick with the 3-4-3 for now because the team balance – too many defenders and forwards – is all wrong. It has to be for Conte: did £40m really have to be spent on right-back / wing-back Pedro Porro? -and recruiting him as well as historical failures to buy and sell players and not make enough changes.
Choose the right manager
Julian Nagelsmann’s decision to withdraw from the competition to become the new Chelsea manager presents Tottenham with an interesting opportunity. Nagelsmann clearly felt he didn’t want to be part of an interview process, so if Spurs want to sign him and feel like he’s the right fit for the job, the strategy is clear: offer the 35-year-old German now. They were interested before.
The impressive work done by Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig should encourage Spurs more than what happened at Bayern Munich, where he was accused of failing to make it to the field of work. However, as Thomas Tuchel is quickly discovering that Bayern’s problems – and they are a heavily political club – run deeper than the manager.
Spurs’ approach must be to hire a project manager. Indeed, back to 2014 when they signed Mauricio Pochettino – who has now been open to return but has not been contacted – from Southampton and now looks ready for Chelsea. Since his departure they have tried to shorten the system with a succession of managers – Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte – designed to bring instant success, but they have failed.
Now they need a reset and they need time. Nagelsmann can live up to it, but so can a coach like Arne Slot, who has worked wonders on a shoestring at Feyenoord and plays exciting, attacking football. Roberto De Zerbi of Brighton would be ideal but he risks being nowhere to be found. Likewise Luis Enrique.
Whoever comes in will be the 13th permanent coach Levy has hired in 22 years and never been consistent in the types of coaches he has chosen. This too must change. Spurs need to figure out what they want to be and then who can make it happen for them. They also need to understand that their fans are more patient than their advice.
To sell or to hold: what to do with Harry Kane?
Even with just one year left on his contract, Spurs are expected to fight tooth and nail to keep Harry Kane. They will have a battle on their hands, perhaps even more than two years ago tried to force him out to join Manchester City. This time the most likely suitors will be Manchester United, which Kane has been interested in for some time. He gets on well with their English contingent and will consider himself the striker who can make the difference and lead them back to greater success.
While Spurs fans would have no hard feelings for the striker, who turns 30 in July, the move would be hugely damaging to the club. He is the only one who provides the glue for the moment in a fractured situation; the only disillusioned fan to pin one’s hopes on when all hope seems lost.
With a replacement finally ready to be signed for goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, Spurs will obviously offer Kane the captaincy. Not that it will be enough to appease him.
Selling Kane now doesn’t make sense for Spurs who must instead hope they can turn things around and convince him to sign a new contract or risk losing him for free next year.
It’s a quandary, but Spurs need to be ready to take a hit, even if chairman Daniel Levy didn’t help last week with his comments about one day building a statue of the player. Instead he has to turn his other remark to Cambridge Union when he admitted Spurs are “not where they need to be”. He is once again testing Kane’s patience and that of beleaguered fans.
The Fabio Paratici story sums up the malaise at Spurs. The Italian has now done the right thing by stepping down after his 30-month worldwide ban from football was upheld, but not before doing even more damage. Daniel Levy prompted the football chief executive to deliver a reassuring message (strangely filmed using an iPhone) following Antonio Conte’s sacking – only for, less than 24 hours later, Fifa extended his ban. Spurs were caught off guard and seemed to be out of control.
The club have always known Paratici would be suspended, ever since their Juventus days when they hired him anyway and have now paid the price in terms of the damage done to their own reputation and to the way the football side of the club operates. What a monumental error in judgment it was and not least as it also ultimately led to the departure of director of technical performance Steve Hitchen, whose role has been reduced as he has been sidelined.
Paratici’s career at Spurs has never worked out – from the chaotic hiring of coaches to the plethora of questionable signings and Levy now has to try to fix this mess and move on.
Paratici also left with the Spurs in the same state in which he found them if not worse: hunt for the coach and Harry Kane’s future in doubt.
Levy has hired Scott Munn in another new role: that of chief football officer. But exactly what the mandate will be for the Australian who was the chief executive of City Football Group China and will take over on 1 July remains to be seen.
He will be in charge of all football departments and will effectively be Levy’s number two and will have to decide whether to replace Paratici, which is thought likely. But do Levy and Munn appoint this person first and then a coach, as they normally would, or vice versa?
Even the Spurs already tried this structure when Trevor Birch was hired as director of football operations. He quit after three months. It looks like Munn will have more power but, with Levy, that’s always a moot point. As always with Spurs, it comes back to Levy and what he wants.