Alan Hansen: Only run of unbeaten games will give AVB shelter from storm
ANDRE VILLAS-BOAS may have earned brief respite from the pressure at Tottenham following the draw with Manchester United, but there is no escaping the sense that it will be crunch time if Spurs lose at Fulham on Wednesday.
People will say that it is too early to be talking about his position at White Hart Lane and, in a perfect world, they would be right. But this is big-time football and there is no such thing as early.
Managers live and die by their results and the only way Villas-Boas can banish the pressure he is under is by leading his team on a run of six to eight games without defeat that gets Spurs back in the top four.
There is clearly a sense of unease around Tottenham at the moment, which is only natural when your last league game has ended in a 6-0 defeat at Manchester City.
Having suffered such a humiliation at the Etihad Stadium, Spurs simply had to respond against United and they produced a much better performance.
They moved the ball forward with more pace and purpose and could have gone 2-0 ahead if Roberto Soldado had done better with a first-half chance just before United equalised through Wayne Rooney.
In contrast to recent games, where you would see Spurs make 10-12 passes before seeing the ball end up back where it started, they showed much more variations against David Moyes's team.
However, they also allowed United to get back into the game on two occasions and the statistics now show that Tottenham have conceded eight goals in their last two league outings.
So the improvement counted for little at the end of the game, which is why Spurs go to Craven Cottage with Villas-Boas still in the eye of the storm.
The big problem for the Tottenham manager is that he spent more than £100m on new signings in the summer and none of the players he brought to the club has yet justified the investment.
It is perhaps too early to judge any of them, but Villas-Boas does not have the time to be patient and wait for them to flourish. He needs performances right now. Soldado arrived from Valencia for £26m this summer having earned a reputation as a top goalscorer in La Liga, but he has only scored once from open play in a Spurs shirt in the Premier League.
Anyone who saw Soldado playing in Spain would know, however, that he is a forward who makes darting little runs onto the ball and feeds off chances in the penalty area.
Villas-Boas likes to operate with a right-footed winger on the left and a left-footed winger on the right, though, and that leads to them cutting inside.
As a result, Soldado does not receive the service that he needs to score goals, so that is a problem that only Villas-Boas can solve. He is keeping faith with the players he brought in, though, and leaving the likes of Andros Townsend and Jermain Defoe out of the starting line-up to accommodate them.
In fairness to Villas-Boas, he has to be single-minded when he selects his team, but he is caught in a Catch-22 situation. He either sticks with the new players and hope that they come good quickly or he succumbs to pressure from the supporters and makes changes, which would then suggest he has not spent well.
Also, if he puts the new players into the team in dribs and drabs, it will take longer for them to adjust and gel into a unit.
What we do not know is how much control Villas-Boas had when it came to transfers during the summer. Only time will tell whether he had the final say or if Franco Baldini, the technical director, was the man bringing the players in.
For that relationship to work, the manager is the only one who can make the final decision. Anything else is stupidity and it can never work because the manager is the one who will stand or fall by the performances of those players on the pitch.
However, one thing that is clear about Tottenham this season is that they, and Villas-Boas, are learning that you simply cannot replace a player like Gareth Bale.
He was a guy who would win games out of nothing for Spurs last season, with a succession of goals which simply flew into the back of the net. Opponents knew the damage he could cause and they were petrified of him. But Bale has gone and everybody at Tottenham has to step up and deliver without him. (© Daily Telegraph, London)