As the news came through that Graham Potter was leaving Chelsea, there were a few eyes rolled at Tottenham Hotspur. That is because they are now competing for the same managers and, even allowing for league positions and stadiums, Stamford Bridge still has a lot more pull.
If that seems like an unfortunate confluence of events – maybe even typical Spurs – it shouldn’t be seen as a coincidence.
There is a reason three super clubs in Tottenham, Chelsea and Bayern Munich changed coaches around the same time, to go with the most ever managerial changes in the Premier League, and there is more to it than just their current form. It is also down to next season, and the future.
The increasing view among many at that end of the football industry is that if you don’t have your summer planning done by early April, then you are badly behind. It can decide an entire campaign. It might even be more erratic this season, because so many clubs have an element of uncertainty. Liverpool are figuring out their football structure around Jurgen Klopp and still talking to sporting directors. The German even joked about his future being “the elephant in the room” when asked about so many sackings on Monday. Manchester United may have completely different owners and a completely different budget, which could well ensure they have wider decisions than just whether to go for Napoli’s Victor Osimhen or Harry Kane.
The England captain’s future is just one more issue weighing down on Spurs, meanwhile, and why the squad need more clarity. It does feel vaguely preposterous that two of the world’s wealthiest clubs are going for Champions League qualification and a semi-final, respectively, but both have stand-ins in charge. Not even caretakers like Guus Hiddink.
The feeling in football is that there are even more spinning plates than usual, and that is connected to the fact the Premier League is more financially powerful than ever before. There is set to be even more disproportionate expenditure this summer. It will only be an escalation from the last two windows, a flavour of which was given by the Football Association agency report released on Friday.
There are many movements in that world, too, especially as the big American groups seek to capitalise on the sport they now see as potentially the biggest in the USA in the next few decades and so many companies merge. Hollywood player Creative Artists Agency has become hugely influential through combining with football agents Base and Stellar. Jay Z’s Roc Nation is rapidly expanding and have a considerable roster, given how relatively new they are to the sport. It was an independent English agency in Unique Sports Group who did the most transactions of any agency in January, according to the FA report.
Many involved describe it as “a uniquely exciting summer”. The manager market is set to be just as busy.
The wrong move at the wrong time could leave a club squeezed out, as could faith in the wrong coach.
It is why it feels especially precarious for Spurs. In the last week, it had felt like they almost had a choice between Julian Nagelsmann and Mauricio Pochettino. That changed on Sunday, and they’re now facing up to the possibility of one going to Real Madrid and the other going to Chelsea. The undecided future of Carlo Ancelotti is just one more variable, and it is described as 50-50 as to whether the Italian stays at the Bernabeu.
Hence, even though their main shortlist looks strikingly similar to Chelsea’s, Spurs naturally have to look a little longer. Interest in Feyenoord’s Arne Slot has already been tested through back channels, although any move for Burnley’s Vincent Kompany is described as overstated. Rodgers may represent a logical choice, existing tension with Levy notwithstanding.
All of this period is seen as such a key cut-off point in terms of planning. We are now so close to the end of the season that any preparation naturally has to start being longer-term.
Therein lies some of the reasons for Manchester City’s dominance, too. The deeper uncertainty over the Premier League charges of alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play notwithstanding, there is otherwise clarity right through the champions. That comes from the immense resources of their Abu Dhabi owners, who have fostered a structure around Pep Guardiola that allows them to plan everything 18 months in advance. That explains how they could get a player who has made an impact like Julian Alvarez without anyone really taking notice at the time.
The team challenging them for the title, Arsenal, are meanwhile fittingly one of the few that have clarity about what they want to. It was how they could so seamlessly go from the disappointment of missing out on Mykhailo Mudryk to Leandro Trossard, who has worked out much better.
That’s another thing such clarity brings. Even if you miss out on major targets and expected targets, there’s the agility to swiftly go in another direction.
The summer looks like it’s only going one direction. That is into a lot of market traffic. It makes it all the more important to have a path planned.