Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has come in for some strong criticism this past week or so for his handling over the club’s goalkeeping position, but it just seems to be the latest in a long line of faux-crises at White Hart Lane as the media continues to batter a man they clearly haven’t taken a liking to over the slightest of issues.
Of course, ‘new manager backs in-form goalkeeper’ is hardly the most thrilling of headlines, but this imaginary and increasingly bitter battle for the number one spot has seen the pressure grow even further on the Portuguese boss out of absolutely nothing. It’s agenda-pushing at its very worst; the media doesn’t like Villas-Boas as he’s the antithesis of his predecessor Harry Redknapp and he shows a certain disdain to towards them in interviews and it’s this quality alone that has apparently sealed his fate, even more so than his failed six-month spell in charge of Chelsea.
After Friedel’s man-of-the-match performance that helped a struggling Tottenham side rescue a point on home turf against Norwich, Villas-Boas backed the 41-year-old goalkeeper with the following statement: “It’s undeniable at the moment that Brad’s position is his and it will continue to be like that.” So far, so normal you may think.
However, this situation took a turn for the worst after France boss Didier Deschamps stoked the fires during France’s World Cup qualifying preparations, intimating that Hugo Lloris was unhappy at being deemed number two at his new club so shortly after signing. This then led to Lloris to state: “Obviously it’s never nice but we’ll see when we return.” It’s hardly the most stinging of rebukes, yet the press have run with it for the past week and tried to drive a wedge in the squad where there is none and create this fictional pressure from within.
Everyone assumes that this will be Friedel’s last year at Tottenham, perhaps even the final one of a long and distinguished career, but to drop him simply because Daniel Levy concluded a deal for Lloris on deadline day when he is in such good form is simply not the right course of action.
The former Lyon goalkeeper arrived for a fee of £8m up front plus add-ons which could see the deal worth as much as £12m in the future and all things considered, Levy looks to have secured something of a bargain for a recognised international goalkeeper with bags of experience. At 25 years of age, he also represents a long-term purchase and a natural successor to Friedel when he does eventually bow out.
While at Chelsea, Villas-Boas was derided for trying to change too much, too quickly and he reportedly marginalised a number of senior players as a result. This time at Tottenham, he’s being slammed for keeping faith in the side’s most experienced player in Fridel who happens to be in exceptional form in what is a hugely influential position – he really can’t win it seems, despite changing tack completely in his second job in England.
The club perhaps didn’t need to invest in a new goalkeeper this summer, with Friedel more than good enough to hold his own for another season, even if it was an area that needed to be addressed in the long-term. The position that Villas-Boas has been put in is entirely of Daniel Levy’s making, but at the same time, you can hardly blame the savvy owner for pouncing on a deal when Lloris became available such is his quality and the relatively cheap price involved.
A replacement for Luka Modric was never brought in and with the rumour doing the rounds that Tottenham missed out on completing a deal for Porto playmaker Joao Moutinho by just minutes, you do begin to wonder whether they would have been best served concentrating their resources elsewhere, other than the deal for Lloris.
Many in the media, such as the Sunday Mirror’s Matt Law have tried to state that Villas-Boas may as well ditch Friedel now for Lloris because the move is inevitable, but that’s not how football works, you can’t simply ditch a player in good form just because you have another one. It would be helpful if they settled on one line of attack, really, otherwise the hypocrisy and the sheer amount of flawed, contradictory logic just becomes too difficult to keep track of.
Quite what Villas-Boas has done to ruffle so many feathers is beyond me and he’s done very little, if anything wrong in his handling of this situation so far. Lloris stated to the press last week: “I’m here to compete and I’m here to prove that I’m the best” while Friedel told reporters: “I don’t sign contracts not to play. However, I would never demean the manager by spitting my dummy out if I wasn’t playing.” Hardly fighting talk, is it?
What we have at Tottenham right now is a media-led agenda against a manager they don’t like and strong competition for places within the squad, which as we all know, is what top four contenders are built upon. You simply don’t disrupt a back four in a period of transition, particularly when the player in question is in the form of their life, to do so would be downright negligent and Villas-Boas should stay true to his convictions over the issue.
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