Boos and Winless Start Won't Change the Tottenham Project Under Villas-Boas
It wasn’t so long ago that the Premier League table wouldn’t even be shown on Match of the Day or in newspaper until after four games of a season had been played, so the results after the first three games of a new coach’s reign are little reason to panic.
The voluble boos of a minority at the end of a second consecutive home draw may have drowned out the natural disappointment felt by the silent majority but are now such a regular occurrence at English football they certainly don’t represent any form of serious dissent against new management of a team.
However unhelpful it is, particularly with a national press sharpening their axes and looking for blood, people paying high-ticket prices in a recession are entitled to express themselves, even if the search for instant gratification is misconstrued as something else.
Tottenham Hotspur changed the management structure in the summer with the aim of progression and maximising the potential of the squad and the club. The ambition is high, and those aims remain true, regardless of the first three results and whom the coach is, so both the detractors and defenders of Andre Villas-Boas are wasting their time in comparing him to the past regime. He will be judged on his own merits and decision-making.
As with last week, Spurs had the majority of possession at White Hart Lane but failed to carve out any clear chances before breaking the deadlock in the last third of the game. Villas-Boas surprisingly left out Mousa Dembele to start with the two sitting midfielders, Jake Livermore and Sandro, who struggled to produce the creativity that would be required from deep in a game where the onus would always be on the home side to create.
The only change from the starting XI against West Brom was Gylfi Sigurdsson replacing the departed Rafael van der Vaart. With Van der Vaart now back at Hamburg, there was little linking up of the play through the centre, with no one coming deep in an attempt to control the tempo or spread the play, meaning there was less penetration from the wide areas as there was in the first-half last week.
Dembele’s entrance in the second-half improved the short-passing in and around the box, which also brought Jermain Defoe, who has looked sharp recently, more into the game. Dembele scored the goal, yet as a side Spurs failed to create one chance for Defoe or the substitute Emmanuel Adebayor in the 90 minutes.
In fact, Norwich had the best opportunities of the game, with Brad Friedel making some fine saves. But as with last week, the defending was too deep at set-pieces, there was little commanding of the box and there was a failure from the team to clear their lines and win second balls. Also like last week, those problems directly led to the concession of an equalizer.
The return of Scott Parker should bring some urgency in front of the back four and add leadership on the pitch. Clint Dempsey and Hugo Lloris also look to be leaders, and with their quality in place, the transition may only be one win away from turning into the progression desired.
Team selection, substitutions and the pattern of play have all been questionable in the first two home games so far, but as Villas-Boas said himself today, there is now a fortnight to iron some of those problems out. He can then get on with managing the very good squad he has, with results, performances and his decisions the only factors on which he is judged, rather than the recent ghosts of the past.
Mel Gomes is the author of Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley, where he documents following Tottenham Hotspur home and away on their return to the European Cup, with recollections of North London Derby wins, Diego Maradona at White Hart Lane and an epilogue at the end of the 2012 season.
Mel Gomes is also on Twitter @melstarsg
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