Were poor tactics the downfall of AVB at Tottenham Hotspur?


Tottenham fan Sean Cook asks where it all went wrong?

On July 3rd 2012, it was announced that Luis Andre de Pina Cabral e Villas-Boas or as you may know him, Andre Villas-Boas had been named Tottenham Hotspur head-coach after successful talks with the club’s directors and chairman.

As the news reached Tottenham fans, they found themselves both supporting and questioning the club’s decision after Villas-Boas’ short and unsuccessful stint at London rivals Chelsea.

Villas-Boas was presented to the media at the Spurs lodge before being officially released to the Spurs fans at their new training facility. The 77 acre training ground was prematurely released as part of a grand unveiling of a ‘New Tottenham’ and showed off both the new manager and the magnificent facility.

Although a new manager and in a new environment, AVB enjoyed a very successful pre-season as well as Tottenham’s most successful transfer window for quite some time. On July 4th 2012 Tottenham confirmed the signing of Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson who became the first signing of the Villas-Boas reign. The signing looked to have made an instant impact on his debut when Gylfi scored in the first game of the AVB reign against Stevenage which finished 2-0.

Spurs seemed to go from strength to strength under AVB finishing with their highest points tally ever last season and forging the most expensive player on the planet. But 17 months on, AVB is no longer the manager of Spurs. Where did it go wrong?

Tactically. AVB got it wrong tactically. No matter the occasion, Villas-Boas seemed to find comfort in the tactical approach to the game of football. You could argue that sometimes, the Portuguese manager did get it correct, using Tottenham's triumph at Old Trafford last season as one notable example.

However, without the services of Gareth Bale to 'bail' Spurs out of tight situations this season, AVB has attempted to strengthen in other areas, for example the signing of Etienne Capoue and Vlad Chiriches as an attempt to strengthen defensively.

However without finding that like for like replacement, Spurs found themselves incapable to attack and pose a real threat to their opponents this season. Is that through poor players? Well no. The signings Tottenham made are all strong, with the exception of maybe Paulinho and Chadli (that's being incredibly harsh), they are all proving to be encouraging acquisitions to the club.

It's just the management of these signings that are limiting the progress Tottenham were making this season. The 5-0 thumping from Liverpool on Sunday, proved crucial in highlighting the weakness in the tactics of the former Spurs boss.

AVB selected Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Capoue, Naughton, Sandro, Paulinho, Dembélé, Lennon, Chadli and Soldado to face off against Brendan Rodgers' side. At first glance (ignoring positions), there are 4, yes 4, players that could be considered of centre defensive midfield material in the form of Capoue, Sandro, Paulinho and Dembélé.

Of course Capoue featured alongside Michael Dawson at the back but he still attempted to push forward during the game. This is not acceptable in a home fixture against a side like Liverpool (one of which are threatening in attack), playing four identical players is not positive when reading the team sheet. AVB set his teams out purely not to lose. Not to go at teams and attack, but just not to lose. This catered a defensive team selection.

The Capital One Cup heartbreak for Tim Sherwood and Spurs this week showed signs of improvement. The appearance of Adebayor and his positive performance throughout spoke volumes with the former Arsenal striker constantly 'injured' under AVB.

Two strikers up top made the attacking nature of the team flow with more venom as Adebayor frequently dropped into the middle to support the build-up play. If not for the late surge of West Ham, the performance would have shown that tactically, the approach of Sherwood made for betting reading for Spurs fans.

So was that the problem? Did AVB get his tactics muddled up? Did Mourinho's shadow try too hard to complement the approaches of his former mentor?

Whether Villas-Boas was to blame, It's a new era for Tottenham Hotspur and it continues at Southampton this week.

image: © Vladimir Maiorov

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