AVB shares Spurs’ vision - but will he get results?
Andre Villas-Boas must prove that he has learnt the lessons of his ill-fated spell at Chelsea by hitting the ground running as well as planning for the future.
On the face of it, it is a baffling decision: Tottenham have sacked the only manager who has led them to a top-four finish in the Premier League – twice – and have replaced him with the man who failed so badly with Chelsea last season.
Villas-Boas was sacked just eight months into his infamous ‘three-year project’ at Stamford Bridge, having overseen a miserable run of just three wins from the first 12 league matches of 2012.
To make matters worse, his exit precipitated a rapid change in fortunes as the Blues went on to win both the FA Cup and the Champions League.
In the process they destroyed Spurs’ campaign, first by beating them 5-1 in the FA Cup semi-final and then by beating Bayern Munich and replacing Tottenham in next season’s elite continental competition.
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Chelsea certainly did not look like the best club side in Europe when Villas-Boas was at the helm.
Indeed, given Didier Drogba’s impact in the final third of the season, it is still unclear what possessed their former boss to keep picking the misfiring Fernando Torres over the giant Ivorian during his time at the helm.
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Perhaps it was pressure from the owner, Roman Abramovich to select his �50million striker – but Roberto di Matteo did not seem to get that message when he took charge so successfully.
It seems more likely that the motivation was Villas-Boas’s own desire to get on with his mission of starting a new era at Chelsea and lowering the age of the squad.
Either way, it looked like a mistake – and still does – as did the 34-year-old’s insistence on his suicidal high defensive line, which exposed the flat-footed John Terry and David Luiz so badly.
The senior players were far from impressed with a set of tactics which were clearly unsuited to a talented, powerful group of senior players and personalities.
They rebelled, and responded to going 1-0 down against Manchester City in December by abandoning their boss’s vision and reverting to the formula which had been so successful in previous years – to great effect as they came back to win 2-1.
After the game the marginalised manager said his players had been “brave to adapt” but the writing was on the wall – Chelsea were winning in spite of him, not because of him, and the same is true of the trophies they went on to win.
The result was that Villas-Boas, ‘the new Mourinho’ who had been one of the most coveted managers on the continent, who cost Abramovich �13.3million last summer, was left with a badly bruised reputation.
However, Daniel Levy has seen the Portuguese’s sacking as an opportunity rather than a deterrent – a chance to pounce on the king of all free transfers.
Now ‘AVB’ has the perfect opening to prove that the problem was Chelsea, not him – to prove that it was a bad fit and that, despite their immediate success after his departure, Abramovich made a mistake by sacking him.
Levy certainly seems to think so, and has offered Villas-Boas a chance to usher in a new era at White Hart Lane, with a three-year project at Tottenham instead.
“Andre shares our long-term ambitions and ethos of developing players and nurturing young talent, and he will be able to do so now at a new world-class training centre,” said the chairman.
“We are constantly looking to move the club forward. It is important that we now look to develop the potential within the squads at all levels, whilst strengthening the first team in the summer in key positions with players who will become part of the future success of the club.”
That statement underlines Levy’s issues with Harry Redknapp, reinforcing the chairman’s intention to refocus on developing home-grown, young players rather than signing the experienced seniors that his former manager preferred.
Villas-Boas’s title of ‘head coach’ also suggests a new management structure, possibly involving a director of football, or a committee who will identify transfer targets.
Levy continued: “He [Villas-Boas] has an outstanding reputation for his technical knowledge of the game and for creating well-organised teams capable of playing football in an attractive and attacking style.”
The reaction from the Spurs fans has been exceedingly positive, and Redknapp’s reign is being quickly forgotten amidst the excitement of a fresh start under a new man.
However, there was nothing wrong with Villas-Boas’s future plans for Chelsea – the problem was the present, and his inability to pick up results on a weekly basis.
A similar start to his time at Tottenham will quickly lead to comparisons with Juande Ramos rather than Jose Mourinho – and fans and critics may then begin to question whether Villas-Boas is out of his depth in the Premier League.
He is sure to be given time at Spurs – certainly more than he got at Chelsea. But, having become accustomed to the fight for the top four, the Lilywhites faithful will rightly expect to be in contention next season as well.
New beginnings, new directions and new philosophies are all very well, but Villas-Boas will do well to remember that he was sacked by Chelsea because of his results and the league table – and that he is replacing a man who finished fourth, fifth and fourth in his three full seasons in charge of Spurs.
Redknapp generally got the results but seems to have been sacked for his short-term thinking. Conversely, Villas-Boas was sacked for his inability to win games while he was planning for the future.
Tottenham’s new boss now needs to prove that he can do both. If he can, then the future promises to be bright indeed.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs