If you are a football romantic, Andre Villas-Boas to Tottenham Hotspur could end up being one of the potential feel-good stories of the new season. If you are a football skeptic, then everything is pointing towards disaster and Villas-Boas crumbling more than an England player during a penalty shootout. Will lightning strike twice for the ex-Chelsea manager?
Villas-Boas certainly has a point to prove on his return to the Premier League. His failure at Chelsea leaves many unanswered questions about his overall ability to manage a team at the highest level. He was hugely successful at Porto and his winning formula there is the reason he landed the big job at Stamford Bridge.
Some would argue winning the treble in Portugal is easier than winning the Premier League with Chelsea. Either way, and despite the evident gulf between the two leagues, surely people can respect winning the treble at any level in European football is quite an achievement. Tottenham Hotspur believe in what he did at Porto and are willing to give him a second chance.
The biggest question about Villas-Boas returning to the Premier League will be whether or not he has learned from his serial mistakes at Chelsea. Can he be patient with making changes? Can he manage experienced and younger players in one of the world's toughest leagues? Will he handle himself better with the UK media? Does he have the ability to park his ego?
Ego and arrogance can hurt anyone in life, but in sports, it can destroy an individual or team if it’s not controlled in the right way. Having worked under Jose Mourinho, Villas-Boas clearly did not pick-up the Special One's skills at mastering the art of arrogance.
Mourinho is probably one of the most arrogant people in all of sports, but his arrogance also has a twist of tongue n' cheek. It has a comedic value and uniqueness that makes him very likable at times. Plus, when you can back up your arrogance with winning trophies in every country you've managed, it makes it all the more acceptable, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately for Andre Villas-Boas, his arrogance made him an immediate hate figure with the UK media and with his players. He didn’t endear himself to either. He wasn’t as smart as Mourinho in terms of winning over the media and he never had Mourinho's management talent.
His handling of Nicolas Anelka, Alex and Frank Lampard definitely turned off many senior players, and he lost the majority of the dressing room because of how he treated them. This definitely set the ugly tone within a few short weeks of his arrival. Players never wanted to fight for him and it was evident on the pitch.
His team selection against Napoli away in the Champions League was definitely the final nail in his football coffin. Losing 3-1 and leaving seasoned stars like Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard out of the team furnished players with even more ammunition against him. It also suggested Villas-Boas had no clue or idea what he was doing. There was no turning back.
Had Andre Villas-Boas been winning at a high rate at Chelsea, nobody would have complained about his ego, arrogance, management style or tactics. He probably would have been labeled as a no-nonsense boss who takes a tough stance on players and doesn’t care whom he enrages in the pursuit of winning. Ultimately, he paid the price, even though his players were exceptionally unprofessional at times.
Regardless of Villas-Boas' unsuccessful time at Chelsea, he has been given the opportunity for redemption at Tottenham and he will have to earn it. The sports universe does love a comeback, but he is already disrupting some of the early support from Tottenham fans by cleaning house as quickly as he did at Chelsea.
Sebastian Bassong, Vedran Corluka, Steven Pienaar, Niko Kranjcar, Ryan Nelsen and Louis Saha have all left White Hart Lane this summer. Michael Dawson is also on the chopping block and Tom Huddlestone has gone to Stoke City on loan. These transfers might be justified. These players won't win you the Premier League.
Tottenham have acquired the services Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jan Vertonghen and Emmanuel Adebayor so far during the transfer window. Rumor is Willian from Shakhtar Dontesk and Joao Moutinho from Porto are also imminent arrivals.
If the newly acquired talent at Tottenham are a success, and they keep Rafael van der Vaart and get the best out of Gareth Bale, all of these quick-fire changes will be seen as a great decision by Villas-Boas, and all of these moves are supported by Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.
Levy has chosen to ignore the tidal wave of disasters at Chelsea by taking a huge risk on Villas-Boas. Bringing in a younger manager with a tarnished reputation to follow in the footsteps of a hugely popular man like Harry Redknapp is more risky than investing in today’s stock market.
Redknapp changed the fortunes of Tottenham for the better, but Levy is willing to take his chances with Villas-Boas in order to build Tottenham into a global brand. Levy will definitely have more patience than Roman Abramovich, and perhaps he sees this as a very similar situation to when Chelsea initially drafted the Special One. No title in fifty years. No global presence. Mourinho changed all that by delivering unprecedented success.
It will be a fascinating situation to observe. If he can learn from his rookie errors, he has the talent and belief to make a team successful. Who isn’t already excited about Tottenham v Chelsea this season? Something in the air indicates Andre Villas-Boas will have success down the Lane and that this time around, lightning won’t strike twice.
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