Why he must take his share of the blame at Tottenham
Enduring a defeat at home in soul-sappingly insipid manner that Tottenham Hotspur to Wigan Athletic on Saturday, it can often be difficult to keep a cool head and maintain perspective in the heat of the moment. Fans were rightfully bitterly disappointed in the wake of Spurs’ 1-0 loss and manager Andre Villas-Boas seems to have borne the majority of supporters’ frustration.
Yet although the Portuguese has made his share of mistakes since his arrival in N17, there is something misguided, if not slightly macabre, in the proportion of blame that’s currently being attributed to the ex-Chelsea manager at the moment.
Because for all the troubles that Andre Villas-Boas may currently be facing and having to deal with at White Hart Lane at the moment, there is another man at the club who must carry a far higher segment of blame than any one prepares to be happy to attribute to him.
Indeed, trying to even fairly critique Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, is at times a near on impossible task, such is the unassailable pedestal given to him by some fans. The merest suggestion that he may have made a mistake in the transfer market or aiming a shot at his culture of brinkmanship, is sometimes greeted by a sense of widespread derision.
“Look what he’s done for the club,” is a common retort, which was accompanied by the defiant hashtag #InLevyWeTrust, on the social networking sites. The ENIC head honcho is revered by large sections of fans in a way that fans outside the bubble of White Hart Lane often find difficult to understand.
But let’s get some things straight. This isn’t about what he has done for the club. No one is for five minutes denying that the work he’s fronted in investing in the squad, in moving the club into a state-of-the-art £40million training ground and purchasing over £90million in land around the ground in anticipation of a new ground, isn’t to be lauded. The club are in a far, far better place now, than what they were before he was at a helm.
Nor is it some ridiculously reactive clamour for Levy to dissipate into thin air, as the more disgruntled Redknapp disciples have suggested.
Although none of the above, none of what he has done for the club or what he may do for Tottenham in the future, can take away from what happened during the last transfer window. Daniel Levy has got things badly wrong at Spurs and he’s consequently left Villas-Boas in the mire. It’s not something that is unfixable and it’s not something which could necessarily prove terminal.
But as bizarre as it may seem, what supporters saw on Saturday afternoon, was in some part, as attributable to Levy as it was to Villas-Boas.
When Levy installed Villas-Boas, he knew exactly what he was getting. The way the Portuguese played, the manner in which he wanted to build this team and his own personal vision for the club, was not some sort of secret blueprint. It’s not as if when Levy sat down to watch Spurs set-up 4-2-3-1 in their Premier League opener against Newcastle, he would have been flabbergasted to see the Redknapp chic of 4-4-1-1 disappear.
Such a change of tactical philosophy is no walk in the park. If he wanted a manager to play slightly more in keeping with what they already had at Spurs, plumping for David Moyes would have been the better shout. He knew that in employing Villas-Boas, he was going to have to significantly restructure playing personnel.
And in theory, this shouldn’t have been too hard. The world and his wife knew that the mercurial Luka Modric would finally depart the club for a sizeable chunk of money. Fringe players such as Niko Kranjcar, Steven Pienaar and Sebastien Bassong would raise further funds. The transfer of Rafael van der Vaart to Hamburg hurt some supporters, but the reality was that the departure of the Dutchman back to Germany was going to be inevitable sooner or later, such was the situation within his personal life.
However you would like to sugarcoat the exits at White Hart Lane this summer, they were always coming. But most importantly, there was a fair chunk of money to spend. Nearly £60million was raised all in all, not including the £8million the club received for Roman Pavlyuchenko in January. That’s enough to fund a squad rebuild.
But despite the overwhelming successes of Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen, the failures almost serve to counterbalance them, because the job was left half done. Spurs needed another player to adequately play in the attacking three behind the striker and another mobile frontman who could lead the line on his own. So what did he get? Clint Dempsey, a player who can’t play in either role.
Players such as Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone, who as we can now see, evidently don’t fit in to the manager’s style of play, were allowed to stay. Don’t forget, the duo were both rendered surplus to requirements by the manager and not good enough for the side. Yet they’ve remained. The consequence is that the 35-year-old William Gallas is starting games and the immobile Huddlestone is anchoring the midfield.
Transfer targets such as Willian, Joao Moutinho and even Loic Remy, were players Villas-Boas craved who could fit his style of playing and what’s more, they were attainable, too. Yet Levy’s favourite party trick of transfer brinkmanship with Luka Modric, gave him a one week window in which to capture them. Unsurprisingly, he failed, writing off Spurs’ first three games of the season in the process and giving AVB a myriad of square pegs for a series of round holes.
The common argument seems to be that Villas-Boas should switch his team to 4-4-2, as the players aren’t there to play his system. If that’s the case, why even depart with Redknapp in the first place? The whole squad must be suited to Villas-Boas’ needs, not just the first XI. Even with the injured first teamers that Spurs have coped without, they still don’t look highly adaptable to the manager’s way of playing.
Daniel Levy has done much for Tottenham Hotspur, but on this occasion, he’s got things wrong. Andre Villas-Boas is hardly faultless, but his hands have to some extent, been tied by the very man who employed him in the first place. The team needs support all the way up from the home crowd to the boardroom and if that continues – albeit with a few running repairs in January – there’s no reason why they can’t push on for a Champions League place.
How much of the blame do you attribute to Daniel Levy, if any? Tell me on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and let me know where you stand on Tottenham’s season so far.