Tottenham Hotspur may be leaving it excruciatingly late, but now it feels as if Andre Villas-Boas is finally beginning to craft the squad into that of his own. But as Michael Dawson appears to be the highest profile casualty of the new regime, a certain minority has already been voicing their distaste at the Portuguese’s decision.
But to dabble in the Shakespearian, supporters must take solace in the notion that empty vessels make the loudest sounds. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but those taking to radio phone-ins hacking Villas-Boas down to size aren’t just missing the point, but they’re harming the development of the new regime. Now is the time to stick together, to breed optimism and to look at the bigger picture- not to begin undermining a new manager’s vision for the club.
A small section of disgruntled supporters taking to the airwaves to kick off about a perceived miscarriage of justice is nothing new, but there is something particularly raw about the pocket of critique that Andre Villas-Boas has taken in recent days. Frustration has been bubbling in and around N17 about the clubs static stance in the transfer market but it seems just as momentum is beginning to build, some aren’t particularly happy about it.
The imminent sale of fans favourite Michael Dawson and the shifting of Tom Huddlestone out on loan, seem to have triggered some to cast doubt over Villas-Boas’ direction after the grand total of one Premier League game. Dawson in particular is a revered figure in White Hart Lane. Despite suffering from debilitating injuries in recent times, he’s been a real stalwart at White Hart Lane and has coaxed the club through more modest, mid-table beginnings to Champions League quarter-finalists.
Similarly with Tom Huddlestone, supporters see a man who plays football in the way they love to it played in the white half of North London. It is absolute heresy to compare anyone with Glenn Hoddle, but Huddlestone pings the football around with the sort of pomp that takes the mind skimming back. He’s a player that fans have been egging on to succeed for what feels like a lifetime.
But it doesn’t matter how highly the pair are rated or how fond supporters may be of Dawson in particular, it is Villas-Boas’ viewpoint that supersedes all. Here is a young, ambitious manager who’s been brought in to push the football club on and usher a new period of sustainability. He has to be backed to the hilt. You cannot expect him to bring in a new, more tactically refined set-up – something that was yearned for continuously under Harry Redknapp last term – and see it instantly flourish with the players that are already at the club.
Villas-Boas is implementing a whole new system at Whtie Hart Lane and perhaps the most difficult part to cultivate, is the defensive side of proceedings. The price to pay if he gets it wrong, which we all saw first hand during his time at Chelsea, is very high indeed. Defenders need to push up behind the pressing midfield and be extremely tactically aware as they keep a high line.
Throw in the new emphasis on playing the ball out and building form the back and you have to recognize why he’s made the call to move Dawson on. Fans loved him for his heart of his sleeve, never-say-die style of play. And his fearsome physical presence and aerial ability means he’ll always be a great Premier League player- but not in a system that isn’t catered to his needs. He’s not the most mobile of players and he isn’t particularly blessed with pace either.
People can’t act as if Villas-Boas has performed some cardinal sin. He’s moved on a popular player, but one that in all honestly wouldn’t have performed particularly effectively in the new set-up. It feels like a certain amount of antipathy towards Villas-Boas is a result of shortsighted expectation.
Jan Vertonghen was one of the most highly craved central defenders on the continent last term. But because he is spared a baptism of fire against Newcastle United on Saturday, it’s suddenly presumed that William Gallas is a shoo-in for the season. Vertonghen and the massively improved Younes Kaboul will form Spurs’ foundations this term and Stephen Caulker will be pushing them both hard. If a player as experienced as Gallas is happy to play fourth choice, then Spurs have got a great selection of centre-halves all suited to play the system. Michael Dawson deserves and demands a higher standing at a football club than a role sitting on the bench.
Similarly with Tom Huddlestone, some supporters have almost combusted with fury that he’s been allowed to move on whilst Jermaine Jenas remains a Lilywhite. But we have to read in between the lines. Huddlestone’s first game in 10 months out with injury came against Stevenage during pre-season. He might not like it, but a season away on loan to rebuild Premier League sharpness is the best option all round.
The key word there was a loan move, not a permanent one. It’s rumored to have a January callback clause in there, too. It’s not the end of the world. Jenas is currently behind Sandro, Scott Parker, Jake Livermore and most likely Luka Modric’s replacement as well, in the pecking order for playing time in the two holding places left in AVB’s team. Contrary to popular opinion, Jenas is a Premier League quality player. How you shift a man who’s barely had any time to demonstrate it, is more the problem. The chances are he will leave and if he doesn’t, he’s likely to be playing a peripheral role at White Hart Lane.
It’s difficult to pre-empt the coming weeks under a new manager, with new players and a new system all-needing to gel together. But these situations demand a supportive outlook and a positive spin. Slating Villas-Boas at the moment reeks of impatience and for those who have seen far enough in the future to see the decision to sell Michael Dawson as a shocker; they need to at least give it the necessary time to play out. The chances are, they’ll be quite surprised with the eventual outcome.
No one is preventing supporters from having their god-given right to kick off, but when it’s creating an unnecessary stink around the place, a word of warning might be in order. Tottenham fans aren’t naïve to the somewhat negative aura their new manager beholds with the nations media and you’d have to have more than a hunch that the papers have got the knives out for Villas-Boas. The team and most importantly the manager need all the support they can be given.
If the team are blowing a ten-point lead over fourth mid-season, by all means, let loose. But when the team is one game in to the new season and the squad is yet to even be finalized, perceptive needs to be given; for the minority at least.
How do you feel about the changes Villas-Boas is making to the Tottenham squad? Are people right to hold reservations about the sale of Dawson or should the manager be backed beyond all doubt? Tell me what you think on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and get involved with the debate.