Five reasons why it went wrong for AVB at Tottenham
We look at the five reasons why Andre Villas-Boas got the chop from Tottenham Hotspur.
Andre Villas-Boas promised that he had changed after leaving Chelsea and that might very well be the case in some aspects of his management but there are parallels in how the mood around Tottenham has slowly nose-dived.
At Chelsea, Villas-Boas’ greatest problem was that he did not react well to scrutiny or pressure and did not seem to know how to manage adversity.
The great skill of the very best managers is in knowing how to quickly change the narrative and avoid being stuck in a downward spiral of negativity. Villas-Boas could not reverse this at Chelsea and, in his handling both of the Hugo Lloris situation and other recent criticism at Spurs, he does not seem to have learnt.
Losing Gareth Bale
Whatever the price and however the money was subsequently spent, it is rare to find an example of any selling club who have sold their best player and yet still improved.
That challenge is ever greater when you consider the impact Bale had last year. It was not just his 26 goals but Bale’s wider ability to score at the most important moments of matches and the aura of having a player in your team who was quite clearly one of the best in the world.
For Tottenham, he had become close to irreplaceable. Being forced into selling Bale could be seen as reason to give Villas-Boas more leeway now but it could also be argued that he was fortunate to have such a player last year. It certainly camouflaged deeper weaknesses throughout the squad and perhaps also his management.
Summer transfer window
It was never going to be as easy as it might sound to spend more than £100 million and it would be premature to form definite conclusion on any of the new additions but the early signs are hardly encouraging.
The jury is very much still out on Etienne Capoue for £9 million, Vlad Chiriches for £8.5 million, Christian Eriksen at £11.5 milliion and even Paulinho at £17 million but a verdict is being quickly formed on Erik Lamela at £30 million, Roberto Soldado at £26 million and Nacer Chadli at £7 million.
Lamela is Tottenham’s club record signing but is currently struggling to get in the squad much less the team for big games. Soldado, Eriksen and Chadli have been playing regularly but are doing little to justify their price-tags.
The biggest single problem is with the strikers. It was also an issue last season but rather covered up by the exceptional form of Bale.
Tottenham now look exposed, particularly in the system that Villas-Boas favours with only one main striker. Jermain Defoe has shown an admirable willingness to adapt but, rather like Michael Owen, has always looked more comfortable throughout his career when playing with a second striker.
It would have seemed obvious, then, to recruit a striker who was adept at playing alone up front.
That means not only being a good finisher – which Soldado and Defoe undoubtedly are – but also being able to play with their back to goal and being able to drop deep and link up effectively with the midfield. Soldado, though, looks similar style and stature to Defoe. Emmanuel Adebayor has the physical and technical attributes to help but getting the best from him has proved beyond Villas-Boas thus far.
The most convincing mitigation for Villas-Boas is simply that he is now working in an environment at Spurs of raised and perhaps unrealistic expectations.
The bottom line is that Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are clubs with significantly higher revenues. Tottenham’s wage-bill is actually closer to Everton, Aston Villa, Fulham, Newcastle and Sunderland than even Liverpool who themselves are well behind the ‘big four’ of the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal.
On most measures relative to their finances, Spurs should really finish sixth. They were fifth last year under Villas-Boas and are currently seventh now but level on points with sixth-placed Newcastle. Villas-Boas has never shied from the aim of being a Champions League club but the reality is that it has happened only once in Spurs’ history. The current failure, then, is only relative to a club whose ambitions actually exceed their resources.