Such has been the intermittent nature of the often fiery debate that’s surrounded the perceived success of Andre Villas-Boas’ first season as Tottenham Hotspur manager, it’s perhaps arguable as to whether any more conjecture is needed towards the Portuguese this season.
His reign at Spurs has of course been the narrative that’s refused to diminish in either prominence or polarization during the 2012/13 campaign and it’s felt difficult to remember a managerial appointment that seems to have stirred such a variety of contrasting opinions from both home supporters and the wider footballing public alike.
For the home support, loyalties were understandably shredded at the beginning. On one side, there was the selection of fans dismayed at the sacking of Harry Redknapp and the two fourth-placed finished he’d attained in three-and-a-half-seasons. Needless to say, the appointment of a man who lasted less than half-a-season at Chelsea did not ease the blow of the culling of such a popular manager.
Yet for as popular as he may have been with some of the north London faithful, his adulation was hardly adhered to universally, with the feeling towards the now-QPR boss turning into something resembling malaise towards the end for some. Certainly, whether you were pro-AVB or anti-AVB, it’s fair to say that objectivity wasn’t particularly apparent on either side.
Throw in a wider Premier League audience that still possessed a curious skepticism over Villas-Boas’ managerial ability, and the spotlight that shined upon the 35-year-old back in July simply could not have been brighter.
[post_link url=”https://www.footballfancast.com/premiership/tottenhams-apparent-transfer-fee-highlights-the-need-for-perspective,https://www.footballfancast.com/european/la-liga/barcelona/messi-eyes-barcelona-comeback,https://www.footballfancast.com/premiership/west-ham/xhaka-happy-to-stay-in-germany-amid-premier-league-link” target=”_blank” type=”tower”]
And given the sheer pressure that Villas-Boas’ has been under from both within and outside of the club, perhaps you could argue that without even looking at results, the fact he’s still at the helm with five games to go is an achievement within itself.
Because come last November, the Portuguese seemed to be in real danger of not even receiving something approaching a fair crack of the whip – by either board or supporters alike.
A summer which saw the club sell two of their best players and fail to replace them with targets anywhere near the top of Villas-Boas’ list, did of course offer a meek backing at best from chairman Daniel Levy and for as disappointing as their opening displays may have been, portions of the N17 crowd’s reaction to the opening home games with West Brom and Norwich did little but create an air of damning negativity.
Come November, following three defeats on the spin against Wigan, Manchester City and Arsenal, regardless of how tough AVB may have had it, things were beginning to look painfully ominous for the former Porto-man. Indeed, in a results-based business, no amount of extenuating circumstances or will-power from supporters can save the proverbial bacon, so to speak.
Five months on, however, and the turbulence of the early winter-months now feels like quite some way away. Villas-Boas’ side sit just the two points behind third placed Arsenal with a game in hand and only five matches still to play till the curtain closes on the campaign entirely. If we’re viewing things through the all-domineering kaleidoscope of results, then Spurs are on course for exactly the target the chairman set his new managerial charge at the start of the season – qualification for the Uefa Champions League.
But in terms of how the club has reshaped, remodeled and arguably even advanced since Villas-Boas’ appointment last summer, analyzing his impact upon Spurs this season canvasses a far greater remit than simply that of managing to coax his side into top four contention come the season’s climax.
And when reading between the lines, regardless of where Spurs’ European destiny may eventually lie, Villas-Boas has done enough to vindicate Levy’s decision to not only initially appoint him, but ensure that he’s there to coax the club on into next season, too.
Some will of course be skeptical of such lavish outpourings of praise upon a man who will at best simply match the achievements of Redknapp last season and do so with perhaps a little less stardust and swagger than the 66-year-old managed.
A fair assessment? Maybe so, but although Tottenham aren’t quite as easy-on-the-eye as they were at their free-flowing best last term, they are however, now a far more stable, consistent and well-rounded beast.
The box-office of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart may have gone, but although Spurs have still relied on the individual magic of Gareth Bale, under Villas-Boas they feel much more in control of their own destiny. Where as Spurs would ‘go out and give it a good go’ last term, they now seem to carry something resembling a steely self-belief – galvanized by a manager willing to make changes to win a game, rather than sit and wait for something to happen.
For all his positive work, mistakes have never been too far away for Villas-Boas and although his substitutions have won Spurs games this season, a lingering tendency to veer on the side of caution has also cost his side and his inability to really get Tottenham firing on all cylinders in front of the home crowd is something he may have to alter next term.
But when looking on a far broader plateau, how can Villas-Boas really receive much else bar praise for this season?
Despite loosing their club captain and two outstanding performers, Spurs have managed to reinvent themselves into a superiorly disciplined and tactically aware beast this season. Under the stewardship of his new manager, Gareth Bale has morphed into one of the best players in the world and with a game against Chelsea still to play, Tottenham have already doubled the amount of points (10) they took off the ‘big four’ teams home and away last season.
If Spurs do finish fifth, the minimum possible disparity between their own wage bill and one of their rivals will be at the very least, £43million. If the aforementioned isn’t enough to convince you that Villas-Boas has had a great season, then maybe that dose of perspective will.