London – Tottenham Hotspur are looking to appoint a sixth permanent manager since 2004 after sacking Portuguese head coach Andre Villas-Boas on Monday.
Spurs have been beaten 5-0 by Liverpool and 6-0 by Manchester City in the last month, leaving them seventh in the Premier League table and compromising hopes of a top-four finish.
Here are some of the most pressing issues awaiting attention in the in-tray of Villas-Boas's successor.
1 Sharpen the attack
Spurs ceded last season's 26-goal top scorer Gareth Bale to Real Madrid during the close season, but their loss of potency in attack has nonetheless been alarming. Despite lavishing around £70 million on attacking players Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli, Spurs have scored only 15 goals in 16 league games. Soldado, a £26 million acquisition from Valencia, has only scored four times in the league, with Jermain Defoe reduced to a bit-part role despite being the top goal-scorer in the Europa League. The malaise was in cruel evidence in the 5-0 defeat by Liverpool on Sunday, when Villas-Boas's side did not manage to muster a single shot on target.
2 Settle on a midfield configuration
By adding Lamela, Eriksen, Chadli, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue to a squad that already contained Sandro, Mousa Dembele, Aaron Lennon, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andros Townsend, Spurs gave themselves one of the best midfield line-ups in Europe, but Villas-Boas was unable to combine them effectively. Eriksen and record signing Lamela have played only fitfully, while Villas-Boas used seven different configurations of attacking midfielders in his last 10 league games. Spurs academy coach Richard Allen told the BBC: There were a number of new players coming to the club that would always take time to gel and settle down, but it just hasn't quite clicked on a consistent enough basis.”
3 Restore Lloris's performance level
Villas-Boas was criticised after Hugo Lloris was allowed to play on despite suffering concussion in a 0-0 draw at Everton last month and the France goalkeeper has been out of sorts ever since. He was culpable for two of the goals in City's 6-0 win at the Etihad Stadium after giving the ball away with loose kicks and gifted Sunderland a goal in Spurs' 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light with a weak punch. He also conceded a penalty in the 2-2 draw at home to Manchester United after sliding out and felling Danny Welbeck.
4 Instil some steel within the squad
While Spurs demonstrated impressive defensive solidity in the season's opening weeks, conceding only two goals in their first six league fixtures, they have since shown a worrying tendency to collapse when circumstances conspire against them. They conceded three goals in 13 second-half minutes in a shock 3-0 home defeat by West Ham United in October and went 5-0 down at City after only 55 minutes. The 63rd-minute dismissal of Paulinho against Liverpool, meanwhile, was the catalyst for a calamitous 14-minute spell in which they shipped three late goals.
5 Build some bridges and raise morale
Renowned for his meticulousness, Villas-Boas reportedly alienated several important players during his disappointing nine-month tenure at Chelsea and he also proved a divisive presence at White Hart Lane. Emmanuel Adebayor and Benoit Assou-Ekotto were both frozen out of the squad, the latter joining Queens Park Rangers on loan, and they openly defied Villas-Boas after the Liverpool game by posting a picture of themselves grinning on Twitter. Villas-Boas was unpopular with some Spurs fans, having criticised their “negativity” following a narrow win over Hull City in October, and he also had a spiky relationship with elements of the British press. Darren Alexander, joint-chairman of the Spurs supporters' trust, told Britain's Press Association: “I don't know what (chairman) Daniel Levy is thinking – bringing in a caretaker or not – but you would hope it is someone who can bring some degree of unity to the Spurs fans so we can all unite together.” – Sapa-AFP