The vibe around White Hart Lane has changed considerably following Spurs’ 6-0 defeat to Manchester City last weekend – the shift is palpable but will it spell the end for Andre Villas-Boas?
Tottenham haven’t started as they’d have hoped this season – following the arrival of seven new signings at the cost of over £100 million this summer, Villas-Boas’ Spurs sit 9th in the Premier League eight points off the league leaders Arsenal with a goal difference of a bottom-half team.
The situation is not good – the sale of Gareth Bale was not the bitter pill Spurs fans had expected to swallow because it seemed the club and it’s directors, Daniel Levy and Franco Baldini had a plan. The plan seemed to make sense and paint a picture of a brighter future: we lose Bale but we spend the money on a better squad with more quality and depth throughout – it was a fine idea but so far its failed in practice, perhaps due to to implementation.
Sooner or later, if things don’t improve, the finger of blame is going to point inevitably in one man’s direction – it won’t be a Baldini and certainly not at Levy, it will be pointed right in the face of Villas-Boas.
Of, course, one 6-0 thrashing is not the end of the world – it’s still only three points lost and if Spurs had have lost 1-0, there would not be the fuss and commotion there is now. But, in a way, that defeat has brought to a head the issues that have been simmering under the surface to boiling point which, as we may find in retrospect, is a blessing in disguise.
Villas-Boas has spoken at length on numerous occasions of his disregard and dislike of the 4-4-2 system – he has in some games been playing something along the lines of 2-7-1 but the word around the water cooler is that the players feel they are being micro-managed into paralysis – his tendency to give them specific and detailed instructions is perhaps limiting their freedom in a mode that is the complete antithesis of Harry Redknapp’s management philosophy of ‘do your thing, lads’.
I’ve been up to the training complex at Enfield recently and, by all accounts, Spurs seem to be training with a 4-4-2 system, which is strange for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason being that Villas-Boas can’t stand that system – its almost as if he’s been instructed or ordered to play that way or at least prepare to.
Against City, at halftime, the boss brought on Emmanuel Adebayor for Lewis Holtby and the striker played alongside Roberto Soldado in a system not all that dissimilar to a 4-4-2 but, before long, the boss reverted back to his system, taking Soldado off in the 61st minute and replacing him with midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson – again its almost as if he had been told to play two strikers in a 4-4-2.
The main factor that is working against the Portuguese coach is the amount of money spent this summer - £103 million is a huge amount of money, even if it was mostly generated by the sale of Gareth Bale – and whilst I don’t agree with those who assert that the signings aren’t of a high enough quality, I agree with those who assert that the manager is not getting the best out of them.
Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado, the now injured Christian Eriksen, especially, are top players with the potential to become world beaters and Paulinho started very well, as did Chiriches and Nacer Chadli. Etienne Capoue has only just returned from injury so we’ll see more of his capability in the next few weeks and months but, my point is, these signings are top players with potential to become great and I think this is where the manager may find his job in jeopardy.
He said in his post-match interviews and in his press conference that his ‘plan’ had gone out the window after 15 seconds against City but that sounds alarm bells off for me – his ‘plan’ was suddenly rendered irrelevant because Spurs went a goal down? That doesn’t ring true and it doesn’t make sense – supposing Spurs had gone 1-0 down after 15 minutes instead, would that have thrown his ‘plan’ out the window for the rest of the game?
Plenty of teams lose a goal in the early stages of the game and, yes, it make the game harder because they are forced to come out which can often leave space for the opposition to exploit but being 1-0 down for 33 minutes in the first half is not the catastrophe it ended up as – they had the time and the opportunity to level it, if they’d have adapted sooner and better.
I think, overall, the financial implications of potentially not making top four again will be the deciding factor in his career at White Hart Lane – a win against Manchester United next week will buy him more time and a good run of a few games will paper over the cracks until the squad have built more of a rapport in the New Year but, at present, he is skating on dangerously thin ice.
They’ll face the champions this weekend, then trips to Fulham and Sunderland where you would expect them to pick up at least four points before tough a Europa League clash with Anzhi Makhachkala and a visit from Liverpool.
He has no room for error in these games – by the time Spurs play Southampton, West Brom and Stoke at the end of December, his fate could already be sealed either way and it’ll almost certainly be decided before their New Year’s Day game at Old Trafford. Andre Villas-Boas will walk a tightrope at Tottenham in the next few weeks but will he walk the plank?