Tottenham: Why AVB Is Proving Himself to Be One of Football's Best Managers
When Andre Villas-Boas was hired at Chelsea in the summer of 2011, many questioned whether the Blues had found their next "Special One," a leader to usher in another golden age similar to the one they had under Jose Mourinho.
There were good reasons to be optimistic about AVB's potential at Stamford Bridge, especially given how similar his situation was to Mourinho's when he came to Chelsea. After all, both were Portuguese managers, and both were entering their first Premier League appointment off of European championships at Porto.
Add in the fact that Villas-Boas had been an assistant to Mourinho at Chelsea, and one can understand the fervor surrounding the appointment.
A little over eight months later, the feeling at Stamford Bridge was quite a bit different.
As the Blues floundered in the league and stood on the precipice of Champions League elimination, reports of unrest in the club's locker room abounded, as AVB had apparently alienated Chelsea's veteran leaders.
With his system failing to produce results with that set of players and his hands tied by a controlling owner, Villas-Boas was fired in early March.
When successor Roberto Di Matteo came in and immediately led Chelsea to the Champions League and FA Cup titles, AVB's reputation was suddenly in the toilet.
After all, he was the only factor that changed. He was the difference between a side performing so poorly in the league that they wouldn't qualify for the next season's Champions League and that same side actually winning that season's Champions League.
At that point, it was hard to see AVB's reputation as a manager as anything other than a detriment to his club, at least based on his tenure at Stamford Bridge.
Thus, when the season came to a close and Andre Villas-Boas was hired as the new manager of Tottenham, the general feeling surrounding the Spurs' move was understandably one of apprehension.
Yes, Tottenham supporters were excited by the potential the Portuguese manager had shown prior to being appointed at Chelsea, but others looked at his time at Stamford Bridge and wondered whether AVB could cut it in the Premier League and keep a locker room united.
After a few results fell through Spurs' fingers in the final few seconds of matches to start the season, those doubts got louder, as the side looked low on character.
Just a few matches into his career at White Hart Lane, jokes and prop bets began cropping up questioning just how long AVB would last at Tottenham.
Seven months on from that point, Andre is still Spurs' manager, and his position seems secure.
Tottenham sit in third place in the league and are preparing for a tie with FC Basel in the Europa League quarterfinals.
No, the North London club's League Cup and FA Cup runs were cut short, but Tottenham supporters probably would have taken this position before the season started.
So what has Villas-Boas done differently from his time at Chelsea and enabled this turnaround?
For one thing, he has done quite a good job keeping the locker room united.
As opposed to the swift changes he tried to enact at Stamford Bridge, AVB has made every change at White Hart Lane very gradually, from easing Hugo Lloris in for Brad Friedel as the first-choice keeper to moving Gareth Bale to a more central role.
This has kept the players happy and allowed them to rally behind their new manager.
Also, Villas-Boas has been much more flexible with his system. As opposed to his tenure at Chelsea, where he tried to make a group of players fit into his mold, he has allowed for a few tactical shifts whenever injuries or form called for it.
To add on, AVB has picked his priorities and stuck by them. As opposed to stretching his squad too thin by going after every competition, Andre has sent weakened sides out for some matches, allowing the League Cup and FA Cup to fall away easily, while they focus on the more important competitions.
Finally, the Portuguese manager has won the confidence of his owner, allowing him to have lots of input in the club's transfer activity.
How do you feel about AVB?
Perhaps Tottenham's season could be going better on paper, what with the occasional blips and poor matches.
Perhaps Spurs could be getting more from players on their squad not named Bale, what with the Welshman's awesome play over the season and the past few months in particular.
However, given the assets he has been given to work with in his first season on the job, one has to think that AVB is reaching the potential people thought he had before his stint at Chelsea.
At just 35 years old, Andre Villas-Boas has a long future ahead of him as a football manager.
If he continues improving as he has and keeping his methods flexible, AVB's tenure at Tottenham could establish him as one of the top managers in the world of football.
After all, it's hard to think of another manager who could get more from this Spurs squad than Villas-Boas is right now.
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