First the rout and then the fallout at Tottenham Hotspur.
A day after the humiliating 6-1 loss at Newcastle United, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy announced on Monday the departure of interim coach Cristian Stellini and the appointment of another temporary fix in Ryan Mason.
“Sunday’s performance against Newcastle was wholly unacceptable,” Levy said in a statement. “It was devastating to see. We can look at many reasons why it happened and whilst myself, the board, the coaches and players must all take collective responsibility, ultimately the responsibility is mine.”
Tottenham fans wanted decisive action in the immediate aftermath of the Newcastle game, a result that inflicted a major blow to the club’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League.
Some may feel the decision to install Stellini in the first place, as the replacement for former manager Antonio Conte, did enough damage even before the loss at St James’ Park.
Conte’s long-time assistant had no prior experience of high-level management, and his record of one win in four since taking charge last month has left Tottenham needing top-four rivals Manchester United or Newcastle to suffer end-of-season collapses.
It could get worse for the London side, with Aston Villa, Liverpool and Brighton all threatening to overtake it in fifth place and seal qualification for the Europa League.
It’s asking a lot of Mason, who was also part of Conte’s backroom team, to turn the season around from here. Despite holding the interim role following Jose Mourinho’s departure in 2021, he is also without any pedigree in a position of this level.
Regardless of how Mason performs in the final weeks of the campaign, the concern for Tottenham fans will be where the club goes beyond that as Levy seeks a fifth permanent manager in four years.
Since the hugely popular Mauricio Pochettino left Spurs in 2019, Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and Conte have had short-lived reigns.
Levy’s task has not been helped by the resignation of his managing director of football, Fabio Paratici, after he lost his appeal against a 30-month ban for his part in a false accounting scandal involving former club Juventus.
Paratici would have been a key figure in the search for the next manager.
With Pochettino, who is still loved by Spurs fans, reportedly the frontrunner to take over at London rival Chelsea, the pressure will be on Levy to get his next hire right.
Former Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann and Burnley manager Vincent Kompany have both been linked.
Whoever the next manager is, they may look back on an opportunity missed this season, with Tottenham in fourth place when Conte left by mutual consent.
In a season when perennial top-four teams Liverpool and Chelsea have been off the pace, Tottenham was presented with a chance to qualify for the Champions League for the second year running.
And even in light of Conte’s exit, the top four was still within reach.
Conte hinted at deeper-lying issues in a post-game rant that preceded his exit in which he took aim at the ownership after 15 years without a trophy.
“Tottenham’s story is this,” he said. “Twenty years there is the (same) owner and they never won something.”
Stellini’s appointment looks like being a costly mistake with the club six points below fourth-place United, having played two games more.
The Newcastle loss, which saw Tottenham concede five times in the opening 21 minutes, prompted Levy into action.
“Cristian stepped in at a difficult point in our season and I want to thank him for the professional manner in which he and his coaching staff have conducted themselves during such a challenging time,” the chairman said.
Stellini’s coaching staff also left the club on Monday.
Levy hopes Mason’s affinity with Tottenham as a former youth player and academy coach can spark an upturn in form.
“Ryan knows the club and the players well,” he said. “I met with the player committee today. The squad is determined to pull together to ensure the strongest possible finish to the season.”
While fans welcomed the move to replace Stellini, anger remains about the nature of the defeat against Newcastle and they are calling for their ticket money back.
“It’s right that the chairman has accepted responsibility and taken action after the awful events of yesterday,” the supporters’ trust tweeted. “Fans still deserve a refund and we’ll continue to press for that.”