Andre Villas-Boas is a Gamble that Could Pay Off for Tottenham Hotspur
The appointment of Andre Villas-Boas by Daniel Levy may have more financial connotations to it than it does football. The Portuguese was a free agent and thus Levy did not have to spend millions in compensation fees. Secondly, AVB’s failures at Chelsea and his young age meant that he could hardly command hefty wages and his pay-packet is unlikely to be much larger than the one Redknapp would have been taking home, if at all.
Despite all that, Villas Boas’ appointment can be justified from a footballing perspective. He is a very tactically astute manager. This is in stark contrast to Redknapp, whom Rafael Van Der Vaart claims would put the starting eleven up in the dressing room twenty minutes before warm up on match day and say: “You play left or right, work hard, have fun and show the fans your best.” This is obviously a simplistic view of Redknapp’s tactical nous, but it could hardly be any more different to Villas Boas. AVB supposedly spends hours mulling over certain issues in his sides line-ups, researching his opponents and obsesses over every movement on the training field. Come kick off, every player knows his exact role he is expected to play down to the last detail.
The current Spurs squad would be very appealing to Andre Villas-Boas. It is packed with fast, skilful players that fit like a glove into his preferred system of a high pressing 4-3-3. At Porto, his players mastered this system to devastating effect, winning the Portuguese League in unbeaten fashion and lifting the Europa League in his first season in charge. He got the most out of Porto’s most talented individuals such as Hulk, Moutinho and Fernando.
In short, Porto’s tactics were not unlike Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. Starting from attack, every player pressed and closed down the ball to force the opponent into a mistake. The backline pushed high up the pitch to reduce the space the opposition had to manoeuvre, whilst the midfield was a mixture of hustlers and playmakers. When the ball was won back, Porto’s attack would widen, their full backs would burst forward in support and their centre forward would take up the “number 9” position to finish off attacks.
Tottenham can play a very similar system to that of AVB’s successful Porto side. The key however is if Spurs can keep hold of Luka Modric and successfully sign Emmanuel Adebayor. Daniel Levy is a very shrewd businessman, and will not let Modric leave for a penny less than his asking price. If Real Madrid is unwilling to match Levy’s price, Modric will stay for at least another season. The same thing happened last summer with Chelsea when AVB highlighted the midfielder as the missing piece of his jigsaw. As each day passes the likelihood of Modric staying increases, and the Croatian is professional enough to work hard on the pitch and remain focus on Tottenham’s aims should he have to stay at White Hart Lane for another year. In the case of Adebayor, he is a striker that Spurs desperately needs. Jermain Defoe is not good enough to bag 25 goals a season, and the Togolese footballer showed last season that he can be very clinical when he wants to. Villas Boas’ side needs a proven goalscorer, and Adebayor could benefit immensely from the crossing of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.
In central midfield, Spurs seem to have a natural balance. Luka Modric is the chief playmaker and the clubs most important player. He will be crucial in the transition between the defense and attack, whilst alongside him will likely be Scott Parker who will kick-start attacks with his harrying and tackling (after he recovers from injury in four weeks). Sandro is one player who could benefit from AVB’s preferred line up. Giving his defensive and attacking capabilities, he is a versatile player and could fill the role required in any midfield position. In support will be the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore as well as new signing Gylfi Sigurdsson. Defensively, the two full backs of Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker are both very quick and more than capable of aiding attacks, though the defensive sides of their games need to improve.
Spurs’ major issue seems to be a lack of depth. Should one of their wingers pick up an injury, Danny Rose is likely to deputize and he is not good enough to help push Spurs to a top 4 finish. In central defense, the club may feel the loss of Ledley King. Jan Vertonghen seems like a good signing, but his cover comes in the shape of William Gallas who is on his last legs at 35, or youngster Steven Caulker who is yet to make a competitive appearance for the club.
So long as Levy accepts a top 4 finish as satisfactory, Villas-Boas may be given enough time to reap the rewards of his system. The pressure at Tottenham will likely be easier to handle than that of Chelsea. Arsenal will be their rivals for the last Champions League spot, and Spurs have shown over the past few seasons that they can compete with the best. If all goes well this year, Villas Boas could easily find himself back in the Champions League and can really put his managerial abilities to the test. On the other hand, should a repeat of his Chelsea fiasco take place, his reputation as a top-level manager will be in tatters, and Levy’s hard work in developing Tottenham into a top four side will be undone in an instant. It’ll be interesting to see if this gamble pays off.