AVB needs a result now very badly. Note how we don’t now say ‘Tottenham’ need a result. It’s the manager. That’s because the two are not currently synonymous. Following the debacle at Manchester City, the perception is that the board are now asking for reasons not to jettison him. Like Sandra Bullock in Gravity he is flailing around desperately trying to grab hold of something - anything - that can allow him to try and work his way round to the air lock, re-board and resume the steering of the ship.
He did get a result last night of course but it provides only minimal respite. A strong Spurs line up beat Norwegian relegation-fodder Tromso two-nil. Throughout the entire game the hapless centre forward Soldado didn’t manage a single shot on goal. The debate around whether it’s his fault for not getting in the right positions or the team’s fault for not providing him with any ammunition goes on, but really, against this level of opposition, you can’t help thinking it must be a substantial dollop of both.
Of course, you can only beat the team that’s put in front of you and earlier in the season these routine European victories seemed like useful practice games for squad players not starting in the Premier League. Now, in the new climate of uncertainty and paranoia, the negatives come quickly to the fore.
Another is the manager’s decision to take so many first team players with him to the Arctic Circle. Increasingly, the team has tended to look flat on the weekends that follow European trips. This game was all but meaningless in that Spurs had already qualified for the next stage of the competition. AVB clearly figured that if he’d lost last night the heat on him would have intensified so instead of ‘playing the kids’, as his predecessor surely would, he took a bunch of the big earners.
It was a gamble and it means only the bravest of men will back Spurs against Manchester United on Sunday. The resurgent Champions will have had an extra day’s rest following their 5-0 demolishment of Leverkusen in the Champions League and their brimming confidence wont be hurt by their knowledge of the malaise that has gripped Spurs at White Hart Lane.
So where do we look for comfort? Firstly, Lloris, Walker, Kaboul, Sandro, Paulinho, Lennon and Defoe didn’t travel to Tromso so at least they’ll be fresh. Also, let’s not forget that last 45 minutes the team played at White Hart Lane yielded an avalanche of goal attempts only kept out by the record breaking efforts of Newcastle goalkeeper Krul. If Spurs can somehow maintain that kind of potency and get a bit more luck, maybe they could spring a surprise.
Certainly the most important indicator of the manager’s standing will be the demeanor of the players. If they come out full of zip and vim and remain fully focused we’ll know he’s not ready to float off into space yet. But if they suffer a defeat and it is much short of heroic, AVB’s grip may be loosened terminally.
@theodelaney is a writer and film director with @hotspur_argyle, a director of @fantasistaart and a regular contributor to the @spursshow