It's been all go for Frank Arnesen since arriving at the club in the summer with the hectic August transfer window, a change of Head Coach and now the January window just around the corner. Nevertheless, he took time out of his busy schedule to speak exclusively to www.spurs.co.uk at Spurs Lodge.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks and we have to start with the biggest news, the change of Head Coach with Jacques Santini’s departure and Martin Jol taking over. What are your final thoughts on that?
Frank Arnesen: We started a new season we knew it would take time — new players, new faces, etc, etc. When you have a change very quickly it’s a new story within a new story. You have to deal with it and we will. We have to be a little patient. I’m watching the players, Martin and the staff and they are working hard to get back into form. We need points but I’m positive in the way we played against Arsenal and Villa. To be fair to Martin, he’s only had three games, a good win against Burnley to take us into the quarter-final of the Carling Cup, the defeat against Arsenal that will be talked about for years and Villa, where we didn’t deserve to lose. There were many positives. I’m confident the players are good enough to resolve the problems.
What has Martin said to you about taking over as Head Coach?
FA: When I asked him he said it was a dream and he is ready for the job. He’s thinking about the game day and night, that’s what Head Coaches do. He has a lot of confidence, is also confident in the squad and he now needs the time because he’s come into this situation. He will get the support he needs.
The January transfer window is looming and we’ve been linked with a number of players already, including Mark Van Bommel from PSV, who has told the press he’s keen to join us.
FA: It is always flattering that a player like Van Bommel says he wants to come here, it reaffirms that we have a good club when players say this. However, there are many clubs out there after good players.
Can we expect a repeat of what happened in the summer?
FA: I don’t think so. We had many, many players leaving the club so we needed players to come in. Clubs are always buying and selling players. Some want to leave, some have to leave and it’s the same when players come in - they have to adapt and some will do that well, some won’t. What we have to do is keep the percentage of failure to a minimum. We have started a new squad and after six months, you look to make it better. It is a question of what we can do. Are players available at the level we need and in the positions we are looking at? It’s an on-going process and that’s not bad for the club either, to have new players coming in. The summer was unusual and the transfer window in the summer will always be busier than the winter. In the summer you are looking at the whole season, in the winter you are adapting perhaps because of injuries.
One of our summer signings, Calum Davenport, is back at the club after a loan spell at West Ham. How is he shaping up?
FA: He’s settled in well. Of course, Martin threw him on late at Aston Villa when we needed to score, so he’s made his debut. Looking at the whole picture, Mbulelo Mabizela left, Dean Richards has been out, Goran Bunjevcevic is out for a while, Anthony Gardner has been struggling, so we only have three stoppers at the moment and it was the right time to bring Calum back. We also need to give him time to settle into our family and get used to how we want to play. He’s only 21, never played at the highest level, an England U21 international and it’s a big challenge for him.
Phil Ifil has signed his professional contract — you must have been pleased with what you’ve seen of him.
FA: I saw him in the summer and felt he was one of the big talents at the club. He can go far. Of course he is young, he needs to progress in some parts of his game and, at 18, this is normal. He has also shown that age has nothing to do with quality. He played two games for us at the start of the season and came in again against Burnley when he was just 17 years old. He now has a contract, he’s delighted but now the hard work starts. He is a great prospect and I’m delighted he’s at our club.
You brought a number of younger players in during the summer — the likes of Ziegler, Silva Sousa, Mills, Dilevski, Defendi — how do you think they are getting on?
FA: Mills was only 16 years old and he’s been tremendous. Reto Ziegler was initially coming in January so naturally I was delighted that we could bring him in earlier, he’s only 18 and he’s already played for the first team. Him and Ifil have already played at the highest level at 18. I know all about Eddie Silva Sousa’s background, he didn’t play much for the last 18 months because of circumstances with his passport, he has to progress and from what I’ve seen he’s finally getting into it. He’s scoring goals for the reserves and that’s the only way he can get into the first team. Rodrigo Defendi is very young and has come from another culture, like Eddie, but he’s come straight from Brazil. He’s settled very well, he likes it here and you can see that with how he’s playing. The Australian Spase Dilevski is in the process to improve and has just come back from South America with Australia U21s. He has to progress in the reserves and then he can knock on the door. It’s gone well and we need more of these players like Ifil, Ziegler. We are focused on that.
The reserves are top of the league and have won eight of nine games. From going to most of their games, what do you think of that group?
FA: I try not to have other obligations when they play because it’s important for me to be there. I very rarely miss a game and it’s important for the players to see that I’m there, that Martin’s there and the coaches are there. If they are doing well and not in the first team squad then other clubs might come in for them and they can go for a loan spell at a level higher than the reserves. If they do well it’s good for their confidence, experience and they are then even closer to the first team. That’s how they build their career, just look at someone like Stephen Kelly. We have three out at the moment plus Kasey and it’s on going.
Finally, we’re on a run of six defeats, a difficult time but there is still an air of confidence about the place.
FA: You can lose and you can lose badly. Martin has prepared for three games, winning at Burnley, Arsenal where we were fantastic offensively but defensively poor and then Villa where we should have got a draw. We’ve lost six games but I have the same feeling and that is we have a better squad than the position we’re in at the moment. We have to prove it and I’m confident this squad will go and do it.