andre 2013

andre villas-boas was finally ousted by daniel levy from the role of head coach after two big defeats.
here, peter o'hanrahanrahan looks at the aspects of his time with spurs which might have contributed to his downfall



The last few of weeks has shown that Spurs are once more destabilised by a managerial removal, which means that the last few people in the boss' office have had about 18 months to do what Daniel Levy wants.

But do they know what he wants ? Is there a co-ordinated approach to get Spurs where they need to be.

So, what happened with Andre Villas-Boas ?

Bale Sale
With the sale of Gareth Bale while he was still a bankable asset, it was obvious that our style would change.
The way that Bale's role in the club developed, he was not only a match winner, but had a role that took him (and opposition defenders) all over the width of the pitch in his wake. Spurs had no other player who could fill this role. Lennon was as quick, Sigurdsson capable of scoring goals and Dembele good on the ball, but none had the combination all rolled into one.
So, selling your best player, even if he wanted to go, left a big hole in the team. So the Head coach had to set about building a new post-Bale side that would be able to keep Tottenham in and around the top four.
Whereas last season, Bale baled Spurs out, this season it was a question of not getting into a position where we would need to be saved from a losing position.
Not only that, but we then had to assimilate seven new players into the team.
Mix and Match
Trying to fit in all the new players into his system might have not helped AVB keep his post. One or two players is sometimes difficult to integrate, but seven meant that the team was not stable, so problematical in forging a pattern that they all understood from playing it.
Especially when injuries hit in particular positions. The defence was particularly hard hit when he played Liverpool, with Etienne Capoue playing alongside Dawson, who sometimes struggles against top quality strikers. With both central defenders worried about sitting off their man or getting too tight, it was a problem against a man in such a rich vein of form as Suarez.
With Lamela not getting a run in the side, it was difficult for the young Argentinian to fit into the club, the country and the team. Chadli was also in and out of the side before he was injured and Eriksen only really played three matches before he got crocked. Capoue too had a couple of outings before Arsenal nobbled him. So, we have probably not seen the best of a number of the new players because of their time out of the side.
Soldado likes to play in the box. When he is being asked to be the out ball for the team, this drags him away from areas where he should be operating. Yes, it is a different game in England to that in Spain, but when all of his goals come from inside the box, you don't want him running wide to chase down long balls.
The emergence of Andros Townsend as a first team player this season made things even more complicated. It became another player to fit into the eleven places available in what was becoming an ever burgeoning squad. The opportunity to fit everyone in to get games was becoming difficult - even with the Europa League matches. The obvious course of action would have been to play the youngsters in the EL, but that wasn’t an option with seven new signings and Townsend to get match time and get accustomed to playing in the same team as each other.

New style
The start of this season saw Spurs struggle to score many goals. But the results were coming and the points were totting up. There wasn't a Bale there to race away on the break to score, but the clean sheets – a rarity for Spurs – were showing that there was a defensive solidity that gave them the basis for winning away from home.
It is not the Tottenham Way, but it seemed to be pushing us into the top four, ahead of Manchester United, City and Chelsea. It may be anathema to Spurs fans to win 1-0, but the away wins were coming with late goals to maintain the good form away from the Lane that we saw last season.
It wasn't as though our game had changed a lot this season.  Towards the end of the last campaign, we were winning games by the single goal and this season we have been among the top chance-makers, but among the lowest chance-takers.  Not all of the blame for the lack of goals can be laid at AVB's door, although his persistence with one man up front (see below) didn't help his cause.
It all came undone at Manchester City, but they had already beaten Norwich by seven, went onto hit Arsenal for six and had beaten United by four at home. While it was a poor performance and could have been more, we were still in the game until it went to 2-0. Being a goal behind in 14 seconds didn't help, but it could have been 1-1 when Lamela's shot was kicked off the line.
The same against Liverpool. They suddenly hit their peak form in one game against us away from home, where they had previously not been great. We could have been five down by half-time, but it was still 2-0 when Paulinho got sent off and then the team just crumbled.
Big losses and ones that Levy seemed unable to cope with, but perhaps we were still not that far away. Yes, we were two mistakes away from beating Liverpool at Anfield last season and for that to turn around into a 0-5 home defeat doesn't look good. But players were still integrating.
It shows how times have changed, as I remember Keith Burkinshaw taking a team to Anfield and losing 0-7 and being beaten 0-5 at home at Christmas one season, but the board stuck with him over a period of years rather than months, paying off with the second most successful period in the club's history.

One man up front
It was the system that was so successful which was the downfall of our home form. Losing two home games by big scores to nil focused attention on the lone striker Soldado being played in attack. The lack of support for him raised issues about the ability to keep the ball in the opposition's half and the pressure this then put on the back four. Teams came and pressed us higher up the field and this caused problems in our own last third.
The need to play two up front at home might have been a determined sticking point in AVB's great scheme of things, but the fans were seeing that the home losses were killing us. Away from home, it worked like a dream, with the home sides having to force the play with a shield of two defensive midfielders protecting the back four, but at WHL, it was a different matter. Teams could push men onto our defensive two and the attacking three were then pulled into defensive duties, making Soldado isolated way up front. The long ball out was not an out ball, whereas, the previous season or two, you could just give the ball to Bale and let him do the rest.
Adebayor was perhaps more suited to the lone role than Defoe, but the falling out with AVB did not really allow this to be an option for the Head Coach to consider.

Lack of a Plan B
The one issue that appeared clear was that there was nothing to fall back on if the one man up front failed. It sometimes precipitated another man being thrown on up front, but then the area that the man taken off had come from suffered.
More often, he replaced the lone striker with another. Providing fresh legs, but not giving any support for the one man up top. It worked to a certain extent, with Paulinho getting in and around the penalty area, getting a decent return in terms of goals scored. His ability to get up and down the pitch was what Tottenham bought him for and he was one of the successes of the buying in the summer, but the failure to bring in Villas-Boas’ preferred options may have hampered how he intended to play in the current season.
You can see how Hulk or Villa might have been more suited to playing a more isolated role in the team, but without Moutinho to run with the ball and pass from midfield, the game plan might have been doomed to failure. AVB might have thought that the second choice imports were not suitable for playing his game and he needed another plan to fit them into.

4-3-3 favourite system
Odd that the formation Spurs were supposed to be moving towards was AVB’s favoured 4-3-3, which would give attacking options and a formation which could quickly change from a defensive one to an attacking set-up.
Sometimes the team looked like a 4-3-3 last season, with Bale pushing forward into a roving striker. Perhaps if Hulk and Villa had arrived, AVB might have set up like he wanted, although there might be reasons why he still would have gone one up.
The 4-3-3 system allows more flexibility in changing and providing more problems for the other team. It tends more towards Total Football and would have seen players interchanging positions. A lot of those whom he had brought in the season before (Vertonghen, Dembele and Sigurdsson) would have been comfortable playing in a formation such as this.
However, for whatever reason, it was not to be and Spurs struggled on in a system that AVB was left to play and making the best of it. He could have played two up front at home, which would have been less cautious than in away games, but that might have been seen as a retrograde step, especially without Bale to pull the rabbits out of hats.

Relationship with the squad
After going into a squad such as Chelsea’s, AVB was never going to find it easy to do what Roman Abramovich wanted him to do. Getting rid of the old guard, when they were such a strong cabul in the dressing room, was always going to be a tough task. Maybe he went about it the wrong way, but Abramovich wanted them out and left it to the Head Coach as to how he was to do it. When it all went wrong, he then sided with Terry, Lampard, Drogba, etc and it was AVB who was on his way.
At Tottenham, his ideas were more readily accepted by the squad. They seemed to like him and were all reading from his script. While the heavy defeats have brought some comments that the team had stopped playing for him, I don’t think that was the case. If they wanted him out, losing at Sunderland and Fulham would have done that … and both of those games were won.
For all his use of tactic books and dossiers, the players warmed to him, his tactics and his ways. Even when he said that they should be ashamed after the Manchester City defeat, there were not many who spoke out against him.
Even after he had gone, there was barely a bad word said against AVB.

Learned some lessons from his time at Chelsea
Villas-Boas obviously digested what happened to him at Stamford Bridge, learning from his mistakes lade there. Coming into a mainly young dressing room, with minds willing to be receptive to his ideas, there were not the same objections nor the same stigma that he took with him going into Chelsea of having been Mourniho’s video analyst.
Coming in as the number one and not a side-kick of the Chosen One, Andre set out to stamp his own mark on the club. He didn’t do it in a forceful way, preferring to carry out a quiet revolution, but he had his ideas which he would stick by.
Maybe he still has to go a bit further in his dealings with players, but his stubbornness might also be one aspect of his character he needs to pay some attention to if some of the reasons for his departure bandied about in the Press are true.
Injuries and players outcast
With some injuries to vital players at times when AVB could have done without them, it was unfortunate that they all occurred at the wrong time. This didn’t help his cause and the players that he exiled were also an embarrassment to him.
Adebayor’s plight might have been exacerbated by his brother's death and the need for him to return home to Togo to mourn for him, but his late return and subsequent banishment to train with the reserves was also looking like a punishment for last season’s failures on the pitch.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s tweeting seemed designed to win favour with the fans, but his comments were often pointed at AVB and thus he was sent off to QPR for the season to link up with the former manager who loved him, Harry Redknapp.

Win ratio best of all Spurs managers
There is much to be said for statistics.  They don't tell you everything, but when you look at the stats, AVB comes out on top of all the permanent managers Tottenham have had for winning games.  That had changed and the size of the defeats was probably what done for Andre more than anything else (as far as we see from outside).  If he had not lost to Liverpool 0-5 but 0-2, would he still be at White Hart Lane ?  Most probably.  Liverpool are on a roll and we were missing players defensively and if Paulinho had not been sent off, it might have been different.
But we are not even talking about points tallies here, we are talking about winning games.  And winning games is what gets you where you want.  Draw and you drop two points a game compared to a win, so if we were looking at a scientific approach to how AVB had done, you would have to say "very well".  Especially away from home, where Spurs had been weak in recent times. 
For all the style complaints, results are what managers are judged on and the short term view of two big defeats to teams above us in the table obviously counted for more than the overall record Villas-Boas had in his time in charge.
Will the next manager be granted more time, as long as we don't get hammered and play entertaining football ?

Did he know best XI ?
There is only one person who knows the answer to that ... and it is unlikely that he will let anyone know that in the near future.
Last season, he probably did, with a limited squad in certain positions, but this season, with the spending spree following Bale's departure, his squad was burgeoning with players in each place in the team, it was difficult to get them all playing to find out who gelled the best and who might need time to work out their place in the system.  And with injured players coming back to fitness, it was even more difficult to see everyone in action.
The Europa League was supposed to be a competition that Spurs would blood some youngsters in, but the need to give the first team squad members playing time meant that the newer players were put into the side to allow the manager to see how they might fit into his formation.  And that perhaps only caused more confusion, as some of the first team regulars had to play, as this was a trophy that AVB saw as winnable.
Transition is all about new players being included in the team, but just how is a trick that might have been manageable with fewer options available, but with an embarrassment of riches, it might have been one of the things that cost him his job.

Five Year Plan
When taking on a new manager, is there much point in them having a long term vision for the club ?  We all know that they probably won't last more than two years, but stability in the management of the club can bring rewards, as is seen elsewhere. 
However, what plans a manager has in the longer term, there are always things that might derail his ideas.  Injury, change of owner, sale of players or just plain bad luck, all can knock the planned route to success off course.
In AVB's case, the major contribution to the failure of his plan was the sale of Gareth Bale.  Not only did it see the major player in his plans leave the club, but then he was saddled with a large squad and the realisation that he had to do something with them all.  You can't have a £30 million player and not play him, however much he might not have been your choice to bring him to the club.
Maybe there can never be a longer term plan, with Levy seeing a good deal (let's face it, £86 million for Bale was wasn't it, if he didn't want to stay) and taking it when it comes along, managers will never be able to plan beyond the next transfer window.  We are already seeing stories of Real Madrid's interest in Paulinho.  Only when the board say that we are not a selling club and mean it, then the man in charge of the team will be in a position to formulate a strategy that might be going somewhere.

Lost in translation ?
While AVB's English was good, thanks to his Scottish grandmother, I wonder if his unique phraseology was mischievously mis-intepreted by the media to put him in a bad light.
There was still an aura about AVB from his Chelsea experience that the media capitalised on.
People on TalkSport claimed they disliked him for trying to "re-invent" football and the fact that he was a serious thinker about the game seemed to set a lot of people against him.  But his spell at Tottenham was well received by the players and the fans had few complaints after the first season.
His particular reference to "the unit" seemed designed to promote a togetherness of the squad and his acceptance of blame might have been taken cynically by the media, who tend to distrust foreign coaches, unless they are particularly newsworthy (like Mourinho), as they prefer the journo's friend approach of Harry Redknapp and Neil Warnock.  Look what the press did to Christian Gross, who tried to make a point about wanting to come to Spurs with his tube ticket, but he was instantly ridiculed and made to be a figure of fun, thus ending any hope he might have had in being a success with the club.

So, Andre Villas-Boas has gone and now Tim Sherwood is the new Head Coach, ironically on an 18 month contract.
How long will he last in charge ?  Only time will tell

Naunton Wayne

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