Thursday 22 February 2018

Jack Pitt-Brooke: Tottenham fans must hope Andre Villas-Boas has learnt his Chelsea lesson and doesn't try too much too soon

Andre Villas-Boas. Photo: Getty Images
Andre Villas-Boas. Photo: Getty Images

DANIEL Levy put his faith in ability yesterday. By choosing Andre Villas-Boas to replace Harry Redknapp, Levy has decided that there might be more important things in football than Premier League experience; and that a manager might not merely be as good as his last job.

Many chairmen would have been put off by Villas-Boas's record in England: one Premier League job, eight months, 27 league games, and one clear failure. In a football culture which treats Premier League experience as a currency of unique value, Villas-Boas might have been written off as a man unable to meet this challenge.

But Villas-Boas was given the Chelsea job last summer for a reason. At Porto he had won the domestic Double, going unbeaten in the league, and lifting the Europa League, too. For a 33-year-old, in his first season at the club, in a competitive league, it was a remarkable achievement and one which warranted his promotion.

The question, then, for Villas-Boas and for Levy, is what went wrong at Chelsea and why it will be different in this opposite corner of London? Villas-Boas was given a hard task at Stamford Bridge, certainly, but he went about it in such a way as to guarantee its failure.

Transforming a team is difficult. When it is as entrenched, and as successful, as the one built by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, it is even harder. It could never have been a comfortable job, or an easy job, replacing the historic Chelsea names of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry with a new generation, while maintaining results.

But for it to work, Villas-Boas needed at least some good-will from the players. It needed to be a gentle transition, not a ruthless one. Maybe he was too keen to impose himself and show that he was in charge. But his non-selection of Lampard, Ashley Cole and Drogba left the core of the team upset. He was too quick to pick fights with critics such as Gary Neville and Alan Hansen. His exclusion of Nicolas Anelka and Alex from first-team training left a sour taste.

So when results turned against Villas-Boas, he did not have the personal credit needed to survive. To succeed at Tottenham he will need the players on his side, rather than the opposite. But he is clearly intelligent, and this point should not be beyond him. Anyone can make a mistake. Talent is permanent.

In the in-tray: Five things for AVB:

1. Win the players over

Andre Villas-Boas did not convince the Chelsea players that he was on their side, and it cost him. He does not have to tear up the Spurs team, so if he is open there is no reason why any players should be alienated by him.

2. Convey his methods

Unlike Chelsea, this is not an old squad with a fixed style of play. They should be young and sharp enough to learn his 4-3-3, his high line and rotating holding player, if Villas-Boas can teach them.

3. Find a centre-forward

Tottenham currently have only one striker, Jermain Defoe, and he is not an obvious Villas-Boas pick. If they cannot sign Emmanuel Adebayor he will quickly need to find someone to lead the line next year.

4. Resolve Modric's future

If Luka Modric is desperate to be sold then the sooner the better. Spurs will not want to wait all summer before losing him – they will need to get the replacement just right. How about Joao Moutinho, so good for Villas-Boas at Porto?

5. Get on with Daniel Levy

Vilas-Boas is not a famous "people person" but Harry Redknapp can testify to the importance of a relationship with the chairman.

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