Andre Villas-Boas is in the wars, that much was always going to be clear following his disappointing spell at Chelsea. But while many should be sympathetic for his situation at Tottenham, the Portuguese manager seems to fuel further fires by his distance from reality.
It became clear as soon as the summer transfer window shut that Villas-Boas would struggle to have an immediate and positive impact at White Hart Lane. He was given a high-profile goalkeeper when he really didn’t need one—at least not this season—and his primary targets slipped the net. It’s evident that his greatest need for this Spurs team was a central midfielder in the mould of Luka Modric, someone who could bring balance and a greater sense of direction on the pitch. If he’s failed to hit the ground running then it’s perfectly understandable, and the criticism and jokes should have cooled.
The problem for Villas-Boas is that he is either trying to be too clever in an environment where he’ll be caught out instantly, or that he just doesn’t want to admit defeat. He didn’t want to accept that Arsenal dominated the North London Derby for large parts, with enormous evidence coming via the final score line. It was never the right move to try and suggest otherwise, even if he didn’t believe it himself. There’s protecting your players and praising them even in defeat, and then there’s just sounding daft.
He wants to do it his way at White Hart Lane off the bat, but his time at Chelsea should have given him a nudge that it doesn’t always work that way, especially with a team who have a set way of playing. The most obvious thing to have done against Arsenal was damage limitation, make things difficult for the opposition and restrict their paths to goal, while using the natural pace in the team to find counter attacking opportunities.
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Emmanuel Adebayor’s sending off was in no way the manager’s fault, and everyone would have understood if he had gone defensive. But it’s not in his nature. He doesn’t want to follow the trend, the easy option and the path well trodden. He wants to prove that the notepads and his tactical awareness count for something. Yes, it might do, but not all at once and certainly not without the right personnel.
Giving a hint that he believed Santi Cazorla to be in the wrong for being too quick is beyond ridiculous. Trying to protect Adebayor’s action when he could have accepted that it was an unnecessary challenge was also nonsensical.
He has desire and he’s driven to succeed in his own way. But he needs to take a step back and realise that you can’t always go against the grain for the sake of trying to be different. It all may come together for him in time, sending out an attractive, winning team, but it won’t happen immediately.
Villas-Boas is not the new Jose Mourinho, and while he knows that himself, he seems to be fighting against the need to doing things in a very Mourinho fashion. The Real Madrid manager can command whatever he wants, demand the keys to the Bernabeu, hook his best centre-back for an important Champions League game, receive criticism from the Madrid press, yet still receive plenty of backing.
It’s not always about PR and giving everyone what they want, but it does take up a decent measure of the job. Villas-Boas is bold and knows where he’s going. His time to make rash decisions and speak openly about topics from a questionable angle will come. But right now, the manager is really making it difficult for himself when he doesn’t need to.