The appointment of Andre Villas-Boas as Tottenham Hotspur’s new head coach back in July naturally evoked debate. 4 months and 11 Premier League games later, the enigmatic Portuguese maestro is still splitting opinion.
While there’s no doubt that the man is talented, Daniel Levy’s decision to bring him in on the back of several progressive years with the seasoned and experienced Harry Redknapp was surprising.
Regardless of his inexperience and failures at Chelsea, AVB’s fresh ideas and innovative tactics represent a rare commodity in football – and it’s clear that his appointment at Spurs acts as a symbol of “Let’s move forward”.
For AVB, the move to Tottenham Hotspur represented another step in the precocious development of his managerial career. At the age of 35, his success and positions held is unprecedented.
His aptitude for management is still far from being proved in England, though. 3 months into the Premier League campaign and the Spurs’ faithful are finding it hard to work out their new leader.
A disappointing start was followed by a 4 match winning streak – which included a historic victory over a very strong Manchester United team at Old Trafford. Form then dropped again and disappointing performances against Norwich, Wigan and Man City have left many a Spurs fan scratching their head in puzzlement.
Swings and roundabouts perhaps best describes AVB’s start at White Hart Lane. While there’s been promising moments to clutch onto, broadly speaking, performances have been riddled with inconsistency, exposing a worrying lack of depth to Spurs.
The slow start can easily be attributed to the new style AVB introduced to a team which were unfamiliar to a more sophisticated tactical approach. Harry Redknapp very much advocated the more old school approach of “just go out there and play” and an adaption period was always going to be necessary.
As the tactics started to come to fruition for Spurs, it revealed a focus on Mouassa Dembele as a key figure along with a fast-paced counter attacking strategy. This certainly suits a side which boasts a number of high energy players, such as Dembele himself, Bale, Lennon, Defoe and Dempsey.
The pace and energy was a focal point of the 4 match winning streak. When executed properly, it can create a devastating effect and this was seen, none more so than, in the 3-2 victory at Old Trafford.
The lack of depth was exposed for the first time in the 4-2 defeat to Chelsea at White Hart Lane. Dembele’s injury together with Bale’s late omission meant AVB had to switch his two most dangerous players with low energy replacements – namely Tom Huddlestone and later in the game Jake Livermore.
Thus started a theme in subsequent matches against Southampton, Norwich and Wigan – all of which the Belgian international was absent. Disappointingly, a usually dynamic AVB has failed to bring in a plan B and the result has been several uncharacteristically insipid performances from Tottenham.
In fairness, matters haven’t been helped by injuries in defence to Kaboul and Ekotto. Moreover, the first start of the season for Adebayor against Man City, who had an excellent game, shows that AVB is looking for alternative strategies to apply for when Dembele is out.
Nevertheless, Tottenham Hotspur’s inconsistency so far this season suggests AVB is still yet to achieve a solid grasp of the English game - exemplified perfectly by the stark contrast of his tactical triumph over Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford and the wishy-washy showing against Wigan at White Hart Lane.
The good news for Villas-Boas is that he will likely be given a good amount of time to build at the North London club. Daniel Levy, a very shrewd businessman, would have anticipated such an occurrence before hiring AVB and is likely to be ready to display a reasonable level of patience for his young manager.