If the hallmark of a bad workman is one that always blames his tools, then Andre Villas-Boas certainly isn’t running any risk of being labelled an incompetent employee at Tottenham Hotspur this season.
Of course, come the end of the current campaign, it will be the Portuguese who ultimately takes responsibility for whether the Lilywhites do or do not attain qualification for the Uefa Champions League. Over 38 games, the buck – so to speak – will ultimately stop with him.
And with Spurs now looking set to limp down the Premier League’s final straight, thanks in no small part to a series of injuries to key players in recent weeks, it’s looking very much like that buck could come with a serious element of toxicity if things continue to degrade even further at White Hart Lane.
Regardless of how Tottenham’s season evolves over the last stretch of fixtures, the common justification for critique aimed at Villas-Boas or any Premier League boss for that matter, will always be that a full campaign’s length is more than a fair enough yardstick.
For however much disruption has been caused by means of injury, suspension or off-field controversy, the cliché has it that every team tends to finish where they deserve after the course of 38 matches. The league table never lies, so to speak.
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Although should Tottenham have to face up to the painstaking reality of missing out on elite European football for yet another season, while Villas-Boas’ mistakes will undoubtedly be illuminated during the inevitable post-mortem, perhaps he’s entitled to feel more aggrieved than most at the fate that might eventually bestow his team.
Because while that fate might ultimately have been cultivated by the decisions the manager has made, Spurs’ season has also been catalysed and to some extent, even undermined, by a lingering lack of faith shown from the powers that be in N17.
There is often a tendency to cast off any well-formed critique directed at chairman Daniel Levy as musings borne out of frustration, paired with a crucial lack of understanding at the tight financial ship that Spurs’ enigmatic head-honcho has to commandeer.
Few Premier League managers, let alone chairmen, can lay claim to possessing such a cult of appreciation amongst supporters. During everything from deadline day to a new managerial appointment, ‘In Levy we trust’ is a quip that you’ll often see trending on social media from Spurs quarters.
But this season, perhaps for the first time in quite a while within the white side of north London, Levy has no longer felt like the bulletproof deity that he once was. Because if it was the appointment of Villas-Boas that first led supporters to question the Essex-born businessman’s judgement, it’s been within his subsequent lack of backing towards the former-Chelsea man, that fans have really been left scratching their heads.
Contrary to the vocal minority of fans demanding some form of transfer record binge during the January window, most at White Hart Lane weren’t looking for any sort of historic acquisition or bank-breaking raid for a top European player. The majority were far more keen on their chairman simply offering their manager fairness. Needless to say, they were ultimately disappointed.
As Spurs amble on towards the last seven games of the season with only 50% of a 12 goal strike force available, Villas-Boas is having to turn water into wine in squeezing goals out up front as the club continue to look desperately short on firepower. But this isn’t something that’s cropped up overnight; the lack of depth in attack has been brazenly apparent since the summer transfer window shut in September.
Every chairman in this league makes mistakes and the nature of the playing field deems that gambles will always have to be taken. But Levy’s biggest sin hasn’t been in failing to acquire a Willian or a Joao Moutinho – it’s been in his failure to learn from his mistakes and add depth to this Spurs side.
Regardless of their healthy league placing at the turn of the year, Tottenham have looked one or two injuries away from real peril for the entire campaign now. At full-back, Spurs have looked desperately short of quality cover for the flailing Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, with only the uncertain Kyle Naughton left to fill in at both slots. Yet no action has been taken.
Similarly on the flanks, for a side whose devastating counter-attacking style relies so much on pace and penetration, Tottenham have next to nothing in terms of a viable alternative to the lifeblood that is Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon within this side.
Lewis Holtby’s acquisition was an astute one, but the side are in far more need of an Andros Townsend, than another injection of guile and industry. Furthermore, in bringing forward Holtby’s transfer, Spurs seem to have done more harm than good, with the player arriving at a terrible time of the season to adapt to English football in a side that didn’t really need his services until his original date of arrival.
While Levy can’t be expected to solve all of these issues in one transfer window, if the £14million bid for Leandro Damiao in January was truly genuine, then he could have most certainly eased some of Villas-Boas’ woes. Yet instead, it appears yet another, unnecessary risk has been taken and it’s one that could ultimately have some hugely damaging repercussions for this Tottenham side.
Andre Villas-Boas was brought into replace Harry Redknapp on a remit of pushing this side forward and building towards making Tottenham a sustainable Champions League force. Should he do that with such luke-warm backing from his chairman, then no one should underestimate the size of the Portuguese’s achievement.
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