How could I succeed at Chelsea when my star midfielder was this wide?
Andre Villas Boas: Will The Chelsea Flop Bounce Back At Tottenham Or Perish Like Gross, Santini And Ramos?
When West Bromwich Albion's Northern Irish defender Gareth McAuley bundled home team-mate Liam Ridgewell's 82nd minute shot at the Hawthorns in early March, to hand his side a precious victory over a struggling Chelsea side seemingly at war with itself, the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas reached boiling point.
Less than twenty-four hours later the Portuguese manager was sacked, his great Stamford Bridge rebuilding project over before the foundations had even been laid. The facts and figures of his short-lived reign made for grim reading; just forty games in charge, which, with the £13.3 million compensation package Roman Abramovich was required to part with in order to prise his man from the clutches of Porto, translates to a cost of £332,500 per game, all for a win percentage of just 47.5%. The total cost to Chelsea of hiring and firing Villas-Boas has been widely placed at £50 million. Everyone makes mistakes, but for Abramovich this was one very costly mistake indeed.
The perception is that Villas-Boas failed at Chelsea because he could not win the support of the senior players, some of whom were older than him. Yet as his replacement was Roberto Di Matteo, a man with just a few season's managerial experience, the bulk of which was spent outside the top flight, and who steered the same group of players to European club football's ultimate prize despite his own tender years, Villas-Boas's reputation was understandably knocked by both his own tumultuous tenure at Stamford Bridge, and the unexpected triumphs of his successor. He had left Porto as one of football's hottest names and brightest young managerial talents, but his reputation is now tarnished for many with the ignominy of failure and the painful sting of being outdone.
The total cost to Chelsea of hiring and firing Villas-Boas has been widely placed at £50 million
Some thought that Villas-Boas had been fast-tracked to Chelsea because of the resemblance he bore professionally to Jose Mourinho, the self-styled 'special one', and that simply by virtue of being cut from the same cloth Villas-Boas was destined for glory. But such an assumption does a disservice to Villas-Boas's incredible managerial record not just with Porto but also with Academica, where the same criteria that were used to judge his spell in the Premier League paint the picture of a very capable and intelligent manager.
His record in Portugal tells the tale of a man who stepped in to save a club bottom of the table, before steering them to an eleventh-placed finish, for which he was rewarded with one of the country's top jobs. At Porto, Villas-Boas completed an incredible treble, which included an unbeaten season in the Primeira Liga, only the second time this had ever been achieved, and Europa League glory, which made him the youngest manager ever to win a European competition.
Villas-Boas then is clearly a very talented man, and one who Tottenham Hotspur can feel proud of recruiting. Perhaps the problem that ultimately led to Villas-Boas's demise at Chelsea was the inescapable ghost of Jose Mourinho. The constant comparisons, the similar histories, the endless expectation, all factors that weighed heavy on his shoulders as tried to steady the sinking ship. It's easy to look back and say Villas-Boas shouldn't have gone to Chelsea in the first place, after all how could he succeed? It was, for all parties concerned, a poor choice. But now Villas-Boas has a new club, and a new start. At Tottenham Hotspur he appears to have the potential to build a legacy from scratch, rather then the demolition and rebuilding job he faced previously. His recent comments to the press, though perhaps premature, seem to point towards a manager restoring his self-belief, and with a confidence in the project he has undertaken.
At Porto, Villas-Boas completed an incredible treble, which included an unbeaten season in the Primeira Liga
Whether or not Villas-Boas will be a success at Tottenham Hotspur remains to be seen, but if he is to avoid failure he has to learn not only from his own mistakes at Chelsea, but from the errors of some of Tottenham's most infamous managerial flops. A second disastrous Premier League spell would put a massive dent in his stock, and with a burning desire to prove he is so much more than a 'flash in the pan' manager, Villas-Boas will be determined to make his spell at White Hart Lane a success. With this in mind we look back to three of Spurs most recent managerial disasters, and identify the lessons Villas-Boas must learn from their respective short-comings.
Christian Gross (1997-98)
The comical press conference that announced his arrival on British shores in which Gross infamously stumbled in, brandishing a London Underground ticket and declared “I want this to become my ticket to the dreams” set Gross apart as a figure of fun from the start. Matters only worsened when trusted aide Fritz Schmid was denied a work permit to join Gross's coaching team at White Hart Lane, with Gross at the time refusing to rule out that he would walk out of his new club over the incident. A 6-1 mauling at home against Chelsea in his first few weeks in charge set the tone as Spurs flirted with the relegation zone for much of Gross's nine month tenure. Villas-Boas has already showed himself to be a far more savvy operator with the press, though Tottenham's home fixture with Chelsea this season falls on October 20th, their eighth league game of the season, early enough that a bad result would raise some eyebrows if Spurs haven't got off to a good start.
Jacques Santini (2004)
Lasting just thirteen games in charge, Santini's spell at Tottenham came to an abrupt end and remains to this day the shortest reign of any manager in the club's 130 year history. Officially Santini resigned due to personal problems, but it is commonly accepted that a bitter power struggle with the board and sporting director Frank Arnesen forced him out of the club. Despite having worked under arguably the most ruthless chairman in world football, Villas-Boas always maintained a sense of decorum when discussing Chelsea's owner, and often spoke of his trust in their working relationship. Daniel Levy may be a very different customer, but the early signs are encouraging. Villas-Boas has already spoken about Levy with great enthusiasm, and the two seem united in their view that star midfielder Luka Modric can be sold, but only for the right price.
Juande Ramos (2007-08)
Despite winning the Carling Cup, Ramos joined a Spurs side sitting in the relegation zone, and a year later he left them in the same place. Though Ramos wasn't helped by the sales of Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane, his failure to learn even a basic smattering of English didn't endear him to the Tottenham faithful, and a record of no wins from Tottenham's opening eight games in the 2008-09 season sealed Ramos's fate. Villas-Boas's almost flawless command of English should prevent any communication problems, though, just like Ramos did, he faces a battle to hang on to some of his key players this summer. Villas-Boas has been linked with moves for a wealth of players in recent weeks however, and Levy seems to have afforded him free reign over who is brought in, a move that could be key to Villas-Boas constructing exactly the kind of squad he feels he needs to breed success.
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