Did Spurs move forward or backward under AVB?

Tottenham sacked manager Andre Villas-Boas following his side’s 5-0 defeat to Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

After a year and a half in charge of the North Londoners, Portuguese boss Villas-Boas has been dismissed by the club’s hierarchy following yet another poor display against Liverpool on Sunday.

Villas-Boas took over from Harry Redknapp in July 2012 at which point Redknapp had taken Spurs to fourth place in the Premier League in the 2011/12 season but, crucially, were not granted a Champions League qualification place due to 6th placed Chelsea’s winning of the competition.

It was an unusual set of circumstances that season that saw Spurs miss out on their objective just one point behind archrivals Arsenal in 3rd but the following season, Villas-Boas’ debut in charge at Tottenham, they missed out once again on a Champions League place on the last day of the season, once again one point behind Arsenal but this time in 5th place.

The sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid this summer for a world record fee was handled with ambition and optimism by the manager and sporting director Franco Baldini who brought in no less than seven new additions to the squad funded by the sale of their star player. There was certainly reason for optimism that overall Spurs would and could be much stronger and in a stronger position to fight for a Champions League spot this term but now after 16 games played, Spurs sit 7th place on 27 points with a goal difference of minus six.

Of course things could be much worse but I suspect the general thinking around White Hart Lane is that, given the resources this summer, the situation could and probably should be much much better.

Spurs have won just three games at home, drawn two and lost two in front of the home crowd as well as winning three, drawing four and losing one on the road. The first big signal that Villas-Boas’ job was in jeopardy came following their 6-0 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad last month but with a draw against champions Manchester United followed by two wins over Fulham and Sunderland, the situation seemed to have cooled until defeat in front of the home fans this weekend brought the situation to boiling point.

Have Tottenham improved under Villas-Boas? The boss certainly seemed to get the best out of Gareth Bale last season but even with the soon-to-be most expensive player in history, Spurs failed to meet their objectives for the season. Whether or not Villas-Boas brought in the players he really wanted or not, as the case may be, it was his responsibility to get the best out of the players he had in his squad and get them motivated and playing together as a team, which there is not doubt, he failed to achieve.

Tottenham have looked at times this term like eleven strangers on the pitch and new striker signing Roberto Soldado has not received the service to present a threat on goal often enough.

Spurs have taken huge amounts of possession in games but failed to affect the score line with it and, as we saw this weekend as we did at the Etihad last month, there has to be more organization and defensive stability than that. To let in five goals at home and six goals away with without reply to any team is simply not good enough – City and Liverpool put in superb performances but it was largely due to Spurs’ failure to show up.

Ultimately, I’d have to say there has been little progression forward to speak of since the departure of Harry Redknapp – there had seemed to be last season more of a maturity and ambition last season but some of the football Tottenham played under Redknapp was scintillating to watch and the same cannot really be said of Villas-Boas Tottenham this term especially – Spurs have been predictable, ineffective, disjointed and dysfunctional as a unit which was not the case under Redknapp.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say there has been a regression particularly – I do believe it has to be acknowledged that Tottenham are a club and a team in transition and have been since the arrival of Harry Redknapp back in 2008 but if you consider that Redknapp took Spurs from the relegation zone to the Champions League quarterfinals in two seasons, taking them from 4th place to 5th place to 7th place so far as Villas-Boas has done is, in relative terms, a step backwards for a club with Tottenham’s potential and quality.

image: © justinlim

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