Friday 23 March 2018

Villas-Boas has point to prove at Spurs after failure at the Bridge

New Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas
New Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas

Jason Burt

Just under 15 months ago, Andre Villas-Boas was standing in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin as a man in demand. Porto had just completed a remarkable season by winning the Europa League, adding to a domestic clean sweep of league and cups, and goals galore.

Villas-Boas, then aged just 33 years and 213 days, was on top of the world.

Bayern Munich wanted him, Inter Milan wanted him, so did Juventus. All were prepared to pay Porto the whopping £15m required to release Villas-Boas from his contract.

And so, fatefully, were Chelsea, who had attempted to hire him as Carlo Ancelotti's replacement as early as February 2011, after the club's FA Cup defeat by Everton, and came back at the end of the season.

Having taken Porto into the Champions League, Villas-Boas' instincts told him to give it one more year at a club where he enjoyed huge support and help.

But how could he say no to Chelsea, a club he knew well from his time there working as head of opposition scouting under Jose Mourinho?

Not when Roman Abramovich wooed him, promised him that, come what may, he would support him and urged him to change the Chelsea team to make it younger, more attractive to watch, to weed out some of the egos and not to indulge the old guard.


We all know what happened next. He crashed and burned, although the extent of the 'crisis' around Chelsea under Villas-Boas has been magnified since his sacking in March this year.

They were fifth in the Premier League when he went (eventually finishing sixth), they were still in the Champions League -- albeit appearing doomed to going out at the hands of Napoli -- and the FA Cup.

Gloriously -- although not with glorious football -- they went on to win the latter two competitions, a magnificent achievement for Chelsea and the then interim head coach, now confirmed as manager, Roberto di Matteo.

But that is the Di Matteo who was sacked as West Bromwich Albion manager the season before because the club were fearful that they would be relegated; the Di Matteo who faced jibes that he spent more time at the West Brom training ground with his cappuccino machine than with the players.

Judgments in football can be incredibly brutal and unforgiving; they can be snap, especially in the Premier League. Had he received the right backing from owner and players, and had he not made the same mistakes, Villas-Boas may well have succeeded at Chelsea.

Maybe the revolutionary changes wanted by Abramovich needed to be made more slowly.

His relationship with some senior players, such as Frank Lampard, was undoubtedly strained. Did he lose the dressing-room? Certainly elements of it. But that was inevitable with the brief he was given.


The grave error he made was to follow it too closely, to be too brittle at times, not to react well to pressure such as before that first leg of the Champions League tie away to Napoli when he was virtually left pleading in a press conference for a vote of confidence.

His departure released a lot of that pressure and the team reacted to achieve great success.

Villas-Boas moves on. He has a point to prove to English football. He felt angry at what happened at Chelsea and embarrassed but needs to channel that anger, which he will do.

He will not try to run before he can walk at Spurs, where he has been given a great opportunity but also a big challenge.

It will be evolution not revolution -- older players will be moved on but only eventually. Villas-Boas wants to play 4-3-3 but next season expect a 4-2-3-1 system because of the personnel he has to work with for now.

He has learnt. He is also incredibly hard-working, knowledgeable, a good coach and will work on his man-management skills.

Villas-Boas knows he has to hit the ground running. If he fails at Spurs, then the critics are right and he will have to go back to square one to rebuild his career outside England.

It will be a fascinating season and, of course, time will soon tell. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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