At first glance and without much inspection, it appears as though Tottenham are back on course. Four points from a possible six, one of which was secured in a 2-2 draw against Manchester United, is a positive turnaround from the weeks leading up to it. But that doesn’t alter the fact that Andre Villas-Boas still has a lot to do.
What the Spurs manager doesn’t need is the interfering of the club’s hierarchy, who are reportedly in favour of a tactical switch that includes two strikers. It convolutes and in turn exacerbates the situation. Villas-Boas may be experiencing some difficulties, but the Tottenham board wouldn’t have appointed him last year if they didn’t believe he was up to the task.
Which is why thoughts, however accurate the reports are, of Villas-Boas’ sacking should be thrown out the window. He did a lot more good than bad last season, making clear steps to climb the Premier League table that would see Tottenham remain there long term.
So what has changed? Talk of title challenges in the wake of losing the team’s best player was premature, unnecessary and wholly unrealistic. It doesn’t matter how good the new recruits are or can be, the bedding-in period lasts longer than a group breakfast and a kick about on the training pitch. Importantly, Villas-Boas wasn’t one to fuel such claims of titles in May.
The expectancy for some kind of progression this season considering what was spent in the summer is natural. But expectancy shouldn’t distort the very logical fact that moving from one style of play – the Gareth Bale-focused football of last season – to something involving more or less a new attack creates a difficult bridge between the two. Villas-Boas may have gotten a few things wrong this season, but there is nothing totally out of hand about the difficulties he’s experiencing in losing his best player and finding other means to winning games.
Villas-Boas apparently has the backing of the board, but that should include a step away from first-team matters and the delegation of full control for the manager, as well as faith that he will improve results.
After all, does Villas-Boas have the tools to successfully deploy a two-man strike force? Tottenham, and many others, haven’t played that way for many years. Not only can it add greater confusion to a team who are trying to find a rhythm, but are Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor really the answers to bringing immediate results? One is reportedly off in January, while the other was banished to the reserves with the implication that he’d never play for the first team again. Not exactly the most ideal players for what the hierarchy want.
Villas-Boas deserved criticism for his perseverance with inverted wingers. They weren’t bringing results and they weren’t helping Tottenham’s £26 million striker investment to find the net. Aaron Lennon was introduced, finally, on the right-wing against Manchester United and Tottenham’s attack instantly looked far more dangerous. Why not persevere with something that genuinely looks to be productive?
It possibly speaks of the manager’s attitude to do things his way, which isn’t always a bad thing. The situation at Tottenham is bigger than whether to play Lennon on his natural right side or not. It does take time for a large volume of new recruits to find a winning formula, not to mention to acclimatise to the surroundings of an unfamiliar country.
It’s still early days for a new-look Tottenham. But if Villas-Boas was good enough to help oversee the club’s progression last season, that trust should continue into this season.