Prior to yesterday’s Soldado-fuelled 4-1 victory over Anzhi Makhachkala, Andre Villas Boas said that he wanted to finish the Europa League group stages with a 100 per cent record. Why? Spurs had already qualified as group winners. Could it be that the gaffer simply wanted another impressive bullet point for his CV?
Tottenham’s season has divided into two distinct parts. There was the pre-Manchester City period when the team was seen as a work in progress, doing well to stay with the leading pack while seven new signings bedded in.
Then, after the 6-0 humbling at the Etihad, we entered an entirely different phase. The atmosphere quickly turned from sanguine to sour and all of a sudden it became accepted that the board didn’t much care for the head coach and that he was in real danger of the sack.
All of which could be great news for Tottenham supporters. The only thing that a fan wants is success on the pitch. If that’s delivered, who cares why? Consider Levy. His mission has always been to fatten up the club for selling in order to maximise the return on Joe Lewis’s investment. The result has been real progress - glamour signings, the best training complex in the country, plans for a shiny new stadium and, most importantly, upward mobility on the pitch. It doesn’t matter that the primary driver is money, what matters is the results.
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Now we have a head coach whose motivation has become equally selfish. He knows that one way or another his days are numbered. What’s crucial for him is that he departs with an enhanced resume. If he can hang on until the end of the season and get a trophy and/or a top four finish, he will re-enter the job market with his reputation as one of Europe’s brightest young coaches intact. But if he loses two or three games on the bounce and gets fired mid-season, he will leave with diminished credentials and instead of Madrid or Monaco he might be looking at a stint in Turkey.
His next reputation-boosting opportunity comes on Sunday when Spurs take on one of Europe’s big names, Liverpool. For AVB, a convincing win will register positively in the boardrooms of Europe. These are the terms in which he must now consider his matches.
The Manchester City debacle and its aftermath has imbued the manager with renewed focus and determination. Whether you take his side or the board’s, the consequences are looking good for Spurs.
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