34-year-old Andre Villas-Boas has been involved in football management since the age of 16, after Sir Bobby Robson moved into the same block of flats as the youngster. Following a debate between the two, the Portuguese tactician began his prominent rise in football, with many expecting him to succeed at Chelsea following his appointment last summer. Nine months after arriving, he found himself out of work. Now expected to be back in management at Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea's loss is certainly the North Londoners gain.
With the reports emerging that Andre Villas-Boas is set to be announced as new Tottenham Hotspur manager in the next 24 hours, many have been speculating as to how the club will be run in the new season. Which players should come in, what formation should be utilised and why was the young tactician the stand-out candidate for the role.
Rumours have been rife as to who Spurs will appoint as Harry Redknapp’s successor. Wigan Athletic’s Roberto Martinez had been mooted, along with Everton manager David Moyes and ex-France head coach Laurent Blanc. Nevertheless, it was Villas-Boas whom many have favoured for the vacant managerial position as White Hart Lane.
The 34-year-old was cruelly let go by Chelsea in March after looking as though the club would fail to navigate their way past the last 16 of the Champions League and the fifth round of the FA Cup. Villas-Boas had initially been drafted in to oversee a major overhaul of the current Blues squad, as per the wishes of owner Roman Abramovich.
The Russian oligarch had clearly been impressed by his exploits during his debut year in charge of FC Porto. The Portistas had just gone the domestic season unbeaten, dropping just six points as they romped to the Liga ZON Sagres title. Furthermore, Villas-Boas landed Porto the Taca de Portugal, the Supertaca Candido de Oliveira and the Europa League.
Villas-Boas had initially been drafted in to oversee a major overhaul of the current Blues squad, as per the wishes of owner Roman Abramovich.
An unprecedented quadruple was more than enough to convince Abramovich to pay the €15m ‘buyout clause’ to secure the Portuguese tactician. The Blues owner charged the young manager with ushering in a new era at Stamford Bridge, with the wealthy 45-year-old hoping to see a similar style of football to that of Barcelona in West London.
With the ‘old guard’, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, expected to be the first to fall under his sword, Villas-Boas faced an uphill battle from day one. His inexperience, ultimately, cost him, with the aforementioned trio the first to speak out on his managerial incapability. Undermined by the senior squad members from the off, it was never going to last for the manager at Stamford Bridge.
Abramovich craved the Champions League and after going 3-1 down to Napoli at the last 16 stage, Chelsea appeared to be on the cusp of an early exit from the competition. Furthermore, the Blues were fifth in the Premier League upon his sacking and three points behind fourth placed Arsenal following the 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at the beginning of March. Villas-Boas’ training and playing methods weren’t at all suited for the club in the first place, with the key Blues players approaching the autumn of their playing careers.
Formation wise, Villas-Boas prefers to utilise a 4-3-3, similar to that of current Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho. Unfortunately, the players he looks to perform in the three weren’t, again, suited to the squad. It was hardly surprising to see the club move for Spurs midfielder Luka Modric, with the Croatia international a perfect fit for the deep-lying playmaker in the midfield trio.
Nevertheless, the Blues failed to snare him away from White Hart Lane, opting instead to sign Raul Meireles from Liverpool. The right players weren’t in place for his style of play to succeed, despite possessing the goalscoring midfielder in Lampard, who was rarely utilised under Villas-Boas, and the holding midfielder in the form of either Oriel Romeu or John Obi Mikel.
However, now expected to take over at Spurs, he won’t face any of the similar problems he encountered as Stamford Bridge. A younger squad, without the superiority of an ‘old guard’ to come up against, his ideas can be implemented within the team. Undoubtedly, he is going to face the wrath of the journalists, who were unhappy about the sacking of Redknapp, and any false start in his new job will see the pressure increase significantly from the media.
Nevertheless, a change at Spurs was needed and chairman Daniel Levy is evidently confident Villas-Boas is the man to do so. Movements have been made to ensure the right players are signed to improve on the fourth place finish last season. Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, of Ajax and Hoffenheim respectively, are rumoured to be the first to arrive and both are going to be pivotal additions to the squad.
However, now expected to take over at Spurs, he won’t face any of the similar problems he encountered as Stamford Bridge.
With the former Chelsea manager liking to play a high-line of defence, Vertonghen is the type of defender to suit his style of play. Quick, comfortable with the ball at his feet and able to instigate attacks from defence, the goal-getting Belgium international will likely slot in alongside Younes Kaboul at the back. The Frenchman is another defender that matches the qualities of the 25-year-old and will likely play a key role in the future under Villas-Boas.
Sigurdsson is the goalscoring midfielder that Spurs have required for some time. Nine goals in 17 appearances during his loan stint with Swansea City last year showcased his ability to net from midfield. Interest, understandably, heightened in the 22-year-old, with Liverpool believed to be ready to take the youngster to Anfield following the appointment of Brendan Rodgers.
However, Spurs now find themselves in pole position for the Icelandic midfielder and he, along with Vertonghen, are expected to be first of many arrivals at White Hart Lane this summer. One man that will need replacing will be Modric, who is set to depart the club following their failure to secure Champions League football last season.
As mentioned, the 26-year-old is the perfect for the role of deep-lying playmaker in Villas-Boas’ 4-3-3 and will need replacing at some point throughout the summer. Joao Moutinho has been mooted with a possible move to North London, and his comments on Sunday will likely heighten speculation linking him with a switch from Portugal to England. Nuri Sahin is another that has been linked with a move to the club, with Modric expected to join Real Madrid.
What is important is Villas-Boas is given the time to really make his mark at White Hart Lane. At Chelsea, he didn’t play to the players strengths, which is why Roberto Di Matteo was successful in landing them the Champions League and FA Cup. However, the Italian won’t last long at Stamford Bridge if he continues to employ the same playing style that landed them two trophies.
Di Matteo relied heavily on the experience of Terry, Lampard and Drogba. The latter has since left for Shanghai Shenhua, whilst England international Lampard has been linked with a move to the MLS. That leaves just Terry, who, credit to him, was one of just a handful of players that can hold his head high following Euro 2012. On the other hand, at 31 years of age, he isn’t getting any younger and as witnessed in the 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at the tail-end of last season, Terry is more prone to poor performances than he was under Mourinho.
What is important is Villas-Boas is given the time to really make his mark at White Hart Lane.
This is where Villas-Boas would have come into play. His fresh approach to management would have began to bear fruit over the next 12 months, with Chelsea now looking to youth having acquired the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois. The sacking by Abramovich came too soon in order for the Blues to progress, whereas under Di Matteo, despite his domestic and European success, the club are likely to stall.
Levy, instead, is likely to give him the time to make his mark in North London. The Spurs chairman is keen for the club to sustain a lengthy period of success, starting with Champions League qualification on a yearly basis. At 34, Villas-Boas is certainly the man to do this, but needs time; time he didn’t receive at Stamford Bridge.
Spurs are likely to undergo yet another transitional period over the next 18-24 months before they can challenge regularly for a top four finish. Many suspect a top six finish is on the cards for the North London side next season, but in some aspects, that could be considered as progress made. Redknapp was never the man to take Spurs to the next level. Villas-Boas could be the man to do, should the fans and board be patient, a trait Chelsea have been lacking since Mourinho left in 2007.
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