A young manager with huge potential – but can AVB deliver for Tottenham paymaster Levy?

One Hotspur member Will Taylor examines the problems facing Andre Villas-Boas - and offers a simple solution to keeping his detractors onside.

 

Described by Chelsea two years ago as ‘the outstanding candidate for the job’ and ‘one of the most talented young managers in football today,’ Andre Villas-Boas knows too well the harsh reality that football can generate in such a short space of time.

Nine months later, the Portuguese was out of a job.

To many, it was no surprise, given the reputation Roman Abramovich has gained during his 10-year tenure at Stamford Bridge, a period which has seen ten different managers preside over the team.

So was AVB just another name or had Chelsea made a huge mistake?

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy thought the latter, as less then three months after emptying his office in SW6, Villas-Boas was given another crack of the whip in the Premier League, signing a three-year contract with the north London outfit.

AVB was brought in to replace Harry Redknapp, who himself had led Tottenham to a top-four finish in 2012. In hindsight, but for Chelsea’s European glory blocking Tottenham’s path towards another top-flight European campaign, Redknapp would arguably still have found himself in the hot seat at White Hart Lane.

Following a 5th place finish in 2012/13, and thus failure to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition, many Spurs fans saw this as a step backwards following Redknapp’s misfortunes the previous season.

They would immediately face an uphill battle to hold on to their star man Gareth Bale, who would eventually be sold to Real Madrid for a world-record fee of £85 million.

Levy held out for the right deal, a deal that would provide a healthy transfer kitty for Villas-Boas to build his own squad around the sale of the Welsh wizard.

He did just that, spending the money made on Bale and more. A total of seven new faces arrived at Spurs, three of whom were responsible for club-record transfer fees.

A solid start to the league campaign soon had people hailing Spurs as potential title contenders, however, consecutive home defeats to West Ham United and Newcastle United respectively, followed by a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City, left the same people questioning not only their league credentials but also their Champions League ambitions.

AVB never once accepted his team as title contenders. When appointed, Levy was quoted to have said on the club’s official website: “Andre shares our long-term ambitions (…),” yet 18 months later he is seemingly a man fighting for his job.

Of course, statistics don’t lie. Only relegation-threatened Sunderland and Crystal Palace have scored less goals than Spurs this season. On the other hand, of the 69 games he has taken charge of, Villas-Boas finds himself with a win percentage of 56.52%, the second best of all-time Tottenham managers. Villas-Boas is a man employed for his long-term ambitions similar to those of his chairman so it t is hard to imagine we are talking about a man experiencing mounting pressure.

Despite him having a higher win ratio than his predecessor, some may say the players available to AVB now compared to those available to Redknapp are far superior. “‘Arry,” as he is affectionately known, had an ageing Brad Friedel in goal, a one-dimensional Peter Crouch up front. However there was something about his Tottenham side that made them the one of the great entertainers of the Premier League.

The creativity of Luka Modric, the flair of Bale and the sometimes-sheer genius of Rafael van der Vaart were all too hot to handle for England and Europe’s top teams at times.

Tottenham are a long way from the great entertainers they were not so long ago having added strength in depth but it is wrong to assume strength in depth is an automatic improvement to a team.

Villas-Boas continues to alter formations and team selections in an attempt to compose his best XI in a system to suit all. The players they have added are very, very good, however it would be hard to label them as proven stars.

Gareth Bale won games for them on his own last year and it seems they no longer have that player available to them. Having said that, those elite types are hard to come by, as was proven by the price Real Madrid paid for him.

The modern game is a crazy one. On the whole, short-term is the new long-term when it comes to football managers. The future promises to be bright for Spurs, with the development of a new stadium underway following a summer of spending on exciting young talent.

It is one thing sharing long-term ambitions, but the execution of such ambitions is proving to be very challenging for AVB. A top-four finish should be a minimum requirement for a club that spends in excess of £100 million in a single transfer window, however, an average of just over 1 goal per game is not going to get you Champions League football.

If AVB is to remain part of the Levy legacy, he must find the right formula and fast. He needs happy players, happy fans and a happy chairman. For me, the answer to all three is simple. Wins. No matter how they are achieved.

 
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