Paulinho: Did He Let Andre Villas-Boas Down at Tottenham Hotspur?

Robbie Blakeley@@rio_robbieSpecial to Bleacher ReportDecember 17, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Referee Jonathan Moss shows Paulinho of Tottenham Hotspur a red card for a foul on Luis Suarez of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on December 15, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

As the dust settles on the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas at Tottenham, some familiar sound bites are being offered as the reason for his downfall.

The sale of Gareth Bale. The vast sums of money spent on players who have failed to gel into a cohesive unit.

The huge transfer fees for Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela, signed for £26 million and £30 million respectively, have been the major source of ire for Tottenham fans over recent weeks. The one arrival who has generally been spared the rod is Brazilian midfielder Paulinho.

Andre Villas-Boas paid the price for heavy defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool
Andre Villas-Boas paid the price for heavy defeats to Manchester City and LiverpoolPaul Gilham/Getty Images

But his reckless challenge on Liverpool's Luis Suarez on Sunday afternoon, which resulted in a red card, inevitably contributed to a capitulation that means Tottenham conceded 11 goals without reply against Champions League rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.

The attempted tackle from the Tottenham No. 8 was not only dangerous, it looked like it was born of frustration, or extreme fatigue.

Having played the entire calendar year, first at Corinthians, then at the Confederations Cup for the national side before joining the North London outfit, Paulinho is in dire need of a break.

Corinthians have suffered since Paulinho's exit
Corinthians have suffered since Paulinho's exitKaz Photography/Getty Images

He is a vital part of the Brazil engine room and can still be hugely important for Spurs, especially alongside compatriot Sandro. But as his boot connected with Suarez's midriff, it looked as though something had defeated him.

The 25-year-old is in his first season in English football and a period of adaptation must be allowed for. He may perhaps be disappointed with a return of only two league goals to date, but both were vital strikes—goals in a 1-0 win over Cardiff and a 2-1 victory away to Sunderland.

His price tag, at £17 million, was steep, but he was on a high, having been key in Corinthians' title successes in 2012 and Brazil's 2013 Confederations Cup crown.

Without him in the middle of the park, club world champions Corinthians could only manage to finish 10th in the 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro, sorely missing his creativity from midfield. The Paulista club managed a desperately poor 27 goals in 38 matches in this year's league campaign.

He may have let his side and manager down on Sunday, but until the Liverpool game, Paulinho was beginning to acquit himself with more confidence.

Paulinho has scored two goals for Tottenham so far this season
Paulinho has scored two goals for Tottenham so far this seasonJan Kruger/Getty Images

The archetypal box-to-box midfielder, Paulinho has already mustered 47 shots on goal this term. His defensive capabilities have also been high quality, winning 73 percent of tackles.

He clearly had the trust of his Portuguese manager and was an ever-present under Villas-Boas, playing almost every minute of the Premier League season until Sunday's dismissal.

Tottenham's shortcomings this year go beyond a poorly mistimed tackle in a solitary game. Since the departure of Bale, Spurs have looked slow and uninspired, failing to create a threatening amount of dangerous goalscoring opportunities in a game, whilst Soldado continues to cut a lonely figure in cold isolation in attack.

Tottenham's delay in setting the world alight is understandable; take the best player out of any side and it will suffer. But the money ploughed into the club conversely allowed supporters to dare to dream of bigger and better objectives.

In modern football, when the stakes are so high, there is very little room for error. Perhaps only David Moyes at Manchester United will be guaranteed any form of longevity in the face of failure.

Did Paulinho let the team down? Probably, as frustration got the better of him on a dreadful afternoon for the football club.

But in the grander scheme of things, he has been the one bright spot in a miserable false dawn for the White Hart Lane faithful.

Embedding seven new players into a side seamlessly in less than half a season is a nigh-on impossible feat. Paulinho was making the transition look smoother than most, and that came on the back of playing non-stop football for more than 12 months.