Andre Villas-Boas: Grading His Early Influence at Tottenham
Terry Josephson once said, “Never let inexperience get in the way of ambition”.
Villas-Boas, or AVB as he is commonly referred, burst onto the scene on the heels of an undefeated treble-winning season with Portuguese Club F.C. Porto in 2010-11. He led the club to a remarkable 27-3-0 record in league play, in addition to winning both the Europa League and the Portuguese SuperCup.
His success made him an overnight sensation in the footballing world and landed the then 33-year-old at the top of several elite European clubs’ managerial wish lists.
When Chelsea came calling, it didn’t take AVB long to give into his ambitions of managing at the English level. In June 2011, after only a year at Porto, he penned his resignation.
With little over two years of managerial experience, many critics feared AVB was far too inexperienced for the Chelsea job.
His performance did little to dispute those claims.
After the team failed to prove consistent—many successive victories followed by successive defeats—AVB made matters worse by butting heads with several key members of the club.
It wouldn’t be long before AVB was sent packing, and Chelsea was propelled into a surprising Champions League title run.
Now, AVB takes over the reigns of Tottenham, who are coming off a fourth place finish a year ago.
Fans and media alike scrutinized the move. Many left scratching their heads as to why the team would elect to pick-up their cross-town rival’s reject to succeed Harry Redknapp.
It didn’t help that AVB’s squad only recorded two points in their first three fixtures.
Since then, the club has looked impressive, winning three straight Premier League contests. That includes this past weekend’s monumental victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford—the first time in 23 years that the Spurs have accomplished the feat.
With his club playing with new found ambition, AVB’s doubters have taken a step back. But all it takes is one careless loss to bring them back to the forefront.
Here’s how AVB stacks up thus far in the season.
1. Player Management
One area where AVB was heavily criticized during his tenure at Chelsea was his lack of good relationships with his players. Whether it was disputes with Frank Lampard or calling out Fernando Torres as another failed Abramovich experiment, AVB just never quite looked as if he had a handle on the locker room.
When you upset the equilibrium among the players, any chance of building a successful team can be thrown out the window.
Upon his arrival at White Hart Lane, AVB was determined not to make the same mistakes.
Unfortunately, it wasn't too long before he was faced with just the type of situation that could mold the way his players viewed him.
Even before AVB’s arrival, midfielder Luka Modric—a central piece to the Spurs’ recent success—made it clear he wanted out of Tottenham. With Real Madrid showing strong interest, the 26-year-old gave his best shot at trying to force a move through.
It would have been easy for a new manager, fearful of losing his players' respect, to just simply give in to the distraught player's request. However, AVB stood his ground.
When Modric refused to take part in the club's preseason tour of America, AVB didn't hesitate to hand out a fine to the Croation international.
The message resounded through the locker room loud and clear: This time, he meant business.
It's a style of coaching that has led the Spurs to recent success, all while gaining the backing of his players.
Striker Jermain Defore preached patience in AVB's methods. His play thus far has demonstrated that.
After one goal in his first three league games, Defoe has found the net three times in his last three. His four goals in six games marks a return to form for the 29-year-old after netting only 15 goals in 57 league appearances over the last two seasons.
Right back Kyle Walker hails the success as a product of hard work.
"The gaffer has been top-class tactically," Walker told the Daily Mail. "Training-wise, it's the hardest I can ever remember in my career."
Already, AVB has accomplished in six games what he tried to accomplish at Chelsea in the course of six months.
Losing a player of Luka Modric’s ability would hurt just about any club. However, I’m sure receiving 30 million pounds in return for a distraught midfielder is not a bad return at all.
Besides Modric, the team also parted ways with Rafael Van der Vaart, Niko Kranjcar, Vedran Corluka and several other lesser value players. In total, the team received a total fee of 62.8 million pounds in return for the services of these players.
Now, for the fun part.
Going into this offseason, the Spurs knew they had to bring in a striker. Their depth was lacking in that ever-important position.
As a result, the team quickly brought in Emmanuel Adebayor. But besides that, they didn’t do much else in addressing that need.
However, the addition of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey from Fulham will surely make up for that. The pair played extremely well together last season and that shouldn’t change this year. In fact, if the Spurs were in dire need of a striker, Dempsey could fill in quite adequately—he scored 23 goals last season.
Then there were the concerns over aging starter Brad Friedel, who is currently 41. The team desired youth depth in that position.
The Spurs addressed that by bringing in 25-year-old French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Lloris, the team captain of France’s national squad, provides the Spurs with a top goalkeeping option for years to come. Although Friedel has been solid in between the pipes, I don’t think it will be too long before we see Lloris in his place.
However, the club will still be haunted by their narrow miss of F.C. Porto’s Joao Moutinho during the window.
While the Spurs had hope of picking up talks with the star midfielder during the January transfer window, Moutinho has other ideas. TalkSPORT has since reported he would much rather prefer a move to Barcelona.
All in all, it was a pretty successful first transfer window with the club for AVB.
With money in pocket, look for AVB and the Spurs to make a splash in January.
3. On-Field Performance
As many AVB detractors will be quick to point out, the Spurs lost their first game of the season to a Newcastle United side that is currently sitting at No. 10 in the table.
However, in seven games since—in all competitions—the Spurs are undefeated. That includes a 4-1 record in their last five games.
Something is finally clicking for the Spurs.
Those same detractors will argue that AVB had similar early season success with Chelsea—5-1-1 in league play by this time last year.
However, six of those seven teams that Chelsea faced finished out of the Top 10 of the table last season. The other? Manchester United—a 3-1 Chelsea road loss.
Last weekend, AVB took a hot team into Old Trafford once again. This time around, the former Porto man came out victorious.
Winning big games was something he seemed almost incapable of during his tenure at Chelsea. Although it's still early in his time at Tottenham, he's already showed he can get his team the results in the big games.
The only concern that can be made about the Spurs thus far is the goalkeeping. They have yet to have a clean sheet in league play, already allowing eight goals.
4. Capturing the Full Backing of the Supporters
When the Spurs announced their decision to hire AVB, they were met with instant criticism. Fans, media members and former players all let their feelings known.
Why hand out a three year, four million pound contract to a man so soon after he was an utter embarrassment at a cross-town rival? It didn't make sense to the good majority of the footballing world.
However, the decision was made, and no amount of backlash or criticism was going to change chairman Daniel Levy's mind.
Following an opening day loss, and two subsequent draws, the uproar rose to extraordinary heights. It soon became common practice to expect the boo birds to rain down upon the Spurs' players as they headed into the locker room at halftime.
Since then, AVB has been on quite a roll.
He's began by winning over his players. Recently Gareth Bale has come forth to let his public backing of AVB and his managerial style be known.
He even began to win over some fans in the process.
But if an undefeated streak wasn't enough, he's done what 11 previous managers before him had failed to do—defeat Manchester United at Old Trafford.
While it did a great deal to enhance his reputation among the supporters, he will have to earn similar victories on a more constant basis going forth. If you recall, he had a similar accomplishment when his Chelsea team knocked off a previously undefeated Manchester City team at Stamford Bridge last December.