Four months after his dismissal from Chelsea, Andre Villas-Boas is back in London and back in the Premiership. He now takes over at Tottenham Hotspur following Harry Redknapp’s sacking three weeks ago.
In addressing the media at Spurs’ training ground, Villas-Boas gave usual, expected, standardised statement from a new coach unveiled at a club, “Tottenham Hotspur is a great club with a strong tradition and fantastic support” etc you get the drift. The Spurs fans who loved Harry Redknapp are unimpressed with this appointment. They only see a management failure and a Chelsea one at that. As a result of this let us take a quick refresher on the AVB, as the fans and media love to call him, footballing CV.
AVB comes from the same mould as Jose Mourinho. He did not play professional football. His steps into coaching came from a twist of fate as a young AVB lived in the same apartment block as Sir Bobby Robson when the latter was in charge at Porto. He was a big Porto fan at the time and therefore took the opportunity to write to Robson, expressing his belief that Domingos Paciencia (Porto player) should be getting more minutes on the pitch. Robson, impressed with the youngster’s theories, asked AVB to statistically analyse the next few Porto games. When Robson saw AVB’s follow-up work, it was enough for the ex-England coach to offer the youngster a role in the youth coaching set-up at Porto and also helped him start his coaching badges. He went on to complete all of his badges including the UEFA Pro licence and ended up in Jose Mourinho’s backroom staff whilst at Chelsea and later Internazionale. His scouting reports (a 2005 report on Chelsea’s opponents Newcastle was leaked) had an incredible level of detail.
Whilst in Mourinho’s entourage in Italy, AVB received a call from the president of Academica – who were winless and bottom of the league – asking if he would be willing to be the new coach. AVB accepted and made an immediate impact as their results picked up. In addition, he introduced a new, attractive, playing style, leading his new side to mid-table safety. They also reached the League Cup semi-finals. Academica’s progress did not go unnoticed and the rookie coach became a man in demand, with both Sporting Lisbon and Porto sounding him out as their new boss.
Unsurprisingly he opted to become Porto’s new coach. It was a risky manoeuvre by the Portuguese giants as AVB had not even experienced a full season as coach. Little matter as they won four trophies in the following 2010/11 season. They were undefeated in the entire league campaign winning the Primeira Liga title by more than 20 points. They also won the Portuguese Cup and, at 33, AVB became the youngest ever manager to win a European competition as Porto won the Europa League.
Then came along Roman Abramovich. The man who inexplicably sacked Carlo Ancelotti, a season after he guided Chelsea to the League and Cup double, decided that AVB was the man to bring glory football to Stamford Bridge. He paid €15m to activate the release clause in his contract and then tied him down to a lucrative, three year contract.
After an initial satisfactory start with Chelsea, the pressure started to mount on the young Portuguese manager after successive London derby defeats to QPR and then Arsenal in October. It all came to a head in February when senior players spoke out against AVB whilst in Abramovich’s presence. Rather than support the man in-charge – a young, successful coach with a seemingly bright future – the impatient billionaire’s mind was made up, AVB had to go. Assistant manager Roberto Di Matteo was appointed as caretaker coach and the rest, as they say, is history.
When Levy decided that he had enough of Redknapp, he knew he needed to plan for the future. The 65 year-old was replaced by a coach almost half his age (34). A novice by comparison of experience but AVB has won more silverware than Redknapp with just one full season as a head coach behind him. AVB will give Spurs European experience and tactical know-how. Plus there is little doubt that he will be motivated to achieve big things at Spurs, given his unfortunate Chelsea experience. How his time in West London has truly affected him is anyone’s guess but if the truth be told, Spurs have signed a promising young coach with great technical skills.
At Spurs he will not encounter strong personalities such as Frank Lampard and John Terry who easily influence the rest of the squad. Players like Gareth Bale and Kyle Walker will be excited to work with the Portuguese coach to learn from his ideas, turning themselves into even better players. Luka Modric may even make a u-turn and decide to stay in N17 if he likes what he hears from AVB. Spurs yesterday signed Gylfi Sigurdsson, who made a major impact at Swansea last season with his spectacular goals. Ajax captain, centre-half, Jan Vertonghen is expected to follow him to White Hart Lane.
Luckily for AVB the fixture list has been relatively kind for August and September. Aside from the opening day trip to Newcastle, Spurs’ next four fixtures are West Brom (H), Norwich (H), Reading (A) and QPR (H). After that, a daunting trip to Old Trafford awaits him which was the scene of his first defeat as Chelsea manager.
There will be those who claim that appointing Andre Villas-Boas is a huge gamble for Spurs but the below statistics speak for themselves. Mancini did not set the world on fire when he first joined Manchester City but the owners persevered with the Italian and in May he guided City to their first league title since 1968. Daniel Levy has taken no more than a calculated risk.
While I take the point about AVB vs Harry and yes, Spurs are clearly looking to the future, I’m not so sure about this appointment. The comparison with the manager of the mercenaries is interesting but then he always had near limitless funds to back him up – AVB won’t be so blessed.
I like that AVB saw that the end was close for the old guard at Chelsea and I respect him for trying to do something about it but I still haven’t seen anything to persuade me that he knows how to deal with the gargantuan egos of Premiership footballers. Sure, the Spurs players aren’t as in-love with themselves as Chelsea’s old guard (who is?!) but there is a huge chasm between dealing with players in the Portugese league and dealing players in the Premier league – IMO this is going to be the issue for AVB. The fact that, rightly or wrongly, he can be labeled as having “failed” in this league once before isn’t going to help him – you can bet your life on the fact that this will be brought up as soon as a few results go against him and that’s when we’ll see what he’s made of. I give him a 50-50 chance of success but, whatever happens, it will be interesting to watch.