‘Are you saying Villas-Boooas? Or Villas-Booooasurns?’ The sounds echoed around White Hart Lane on Saturday, and this time it came 45 minutes earlier compared to the weekend previously against West Bromwich Albion. Tottenham Hotspur, a team that have been thrust into the limelight following the sacking of Harry Redknapp, could only a muster a run of the mill 1-1 draw against ‘lowly’ Norwich City.
Granted, the opening 45 minutes were abysmal, but it was only half-time. Andre Villas-Boas, who has regularly had a spotlight shone upon him for the past 18 months, recognised this and altered his tactics following the interval. The first-half, Spurs lacked any form of creative spark. The departure of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart was painstakingly evident.
No cohesion in the middle of the park saw Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Jan Vertonghen regularly hoof the ball upfield in the hope that Jermain Defoe would somehow take full advantage of the go-go-gadget leg that Villas-Boas had surgically attached to him as part of his new contract. Naturally, it didn’t pay off; Defoe was isolated when up against the dynamic defensive duo of Leon Barnett and former Spur Sebastien Bassong.
With the midfield duo of Sandro and Jake Livermore dropping deep to receive the ball before failing to spread the ball to the marauding wide-men, much of the play was going through Gylfi Sigurdsson, another whose creative influence was stifled after the opening exchanges once the Canaries charged Jonny Howson and the effective Bradley Johnson with limit the Icelandic international.
The first-half Spurs, lacked any form of creative spark.
It certainly wasn’t pretty to watch, that’s a given. Moussa Dembele was the player the fans were crying out for, the Belgian arriving just three days before the encounter at White Hart Lane. Villas-Boas knew to shake things up; he had the midfielder warming up on the touchline before dragging him into the dressing room as he went about dragging the injured Sandro off the park and introducing the 25-year-old to a rapturous reception from the hosts.
His introduction was a boost to the home crowd; the booing from half-time was replaced by encouragement, egging Spurs on to push for the first goal that would settle nerves. The hosts looked to be getting into their stride and it took just 24 minutes for Dembele to net a fifth of his final Fulham league tally.
Norwich still looked dangerous, however, and the decision to remove the dangerous Simeon Jackson for the burly Steve Morison proved to be a tactical masterstroke by another former Spur, Chris Hughton. Vertonghen and William Gallas were struggling with the physical presence of Grant Holt; another target man would bolster their chances of snatching an equaliser.
Indeed they did in the 85th minute when Spurs failed to clear a Robert Snodgrass free-kick before after some pinball wizardry in the 18-yard-box, the ball fell to the former Leeds United man to fire home past the excellent Brad Friedel. Tom Huddlestone’s late sending off, deemed harsh by some, didn’t help matters and, following Mark Halsey’s decision to blow for full-time, the boo-boys were back out in force, ready to make their opinion know before the applause drowned the noise out.
The hosts looked to be getting into their stride and it took just 24 minutes for Dembele to net a fifth of his final Fulham league tally
This is what got my gripe; the booing. Fans appear hopeful that Villas-Boas will fail before he is even given a chance to implement his system. Changes have been made, yes some that many wouldn’t agree with, but what is more important; hounding out a new manager before he is even given the opportunity to make his plans at White Hart Lane work just for some sort of personal gain? Or supporting the team through thick and thin, even when things aren’t going the right way?
If your answer is the former, I suggest you swap allegiances and become a ‘loyal’ fan of one of Spain’s big two. Fans are frustrated; I know that, you know and, believe it or not, Villas-Boas knows that - I know; I have the post-match quotes saved on my Dictaphone. He hasn’t been brought in to somehow undermine the club from the inside out. Chairman Daniel Levy actually has a vision for the long-term future of the club, with the 34-year-old the figurehead of that vision.
Jumping on his and the players back after the opening Premier League encounters as a result of not picking up three wins out of three is, to put it bluntly, embarrassing. Spurs have mustered just 18 points from their last 16 games, two of which were from Villas-Boas’ short stint in charge. You have to remember that the North London side lost to Norwich at home last season, struggled to break-down a stubborn West Brom in an eventual 1-0 win and secured a 2-2 draw against Newcastle, a place where Spurs haven’t picked up all three points since Timothee Atouba’s sole strike back in 2004.
Fans are now crying for Levy to sack him...and then what? Beg Redknapp to come back and restore order? It isn’t like playing Football Manager, where you can simply press quit and not save the game, returning to the day just before the veteran boss was fired. In terms of long-term stability, it makes all the sense to stick with Villas-Boas.
Fans appear hopeful that Villas-Boas will fail before he is even given a chance to implement his system
Spurs aren’t going to maintain any form of consistency if they continue to break back into old habits of chopping and changing managers at the first whiff of trouble. Villas-Boas is working hard to implement his own system and make the changes he sees fit. Whether he wins his first game this month or next, he deserves the time to make it work.
I know fans are an impatient bunch, especially in the modern world of football, but if he isn’t given the chance to succeed at White Hart Lane, who in their right mind would want to succeed him? Give him the patience he needs before making it work. This year was always going to be a transitional one, regardless of the incomings and outgoings. So, let’s hold back on the boos, as difficult as it may be, and give Villas-Boas the patience he requires to succeed at Spurs. You never know; it might just help.
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