Adebayor and AVB: Villas-Boas's Methodical Approach Is Further Discredited

Matt CloughFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2014

Tottenham Hotspur coach Andre Villas-Boas of Portugal, left, talks with forward Emmanuel Adebayor of Togo during an Europa League Group J soccer match between Lazio and Tottenham Hotspur, at Rome's Olympic stadium, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

Emmanuel Adebayor’s consistent absence from the Spurs’ lineup under former boss Andre Villas-Boas was one of the biggest talking points of the Portuguese's ultimately ill-fated tenure.

Following the unceremonious sacking of Jose Mourinho’s former protege, Adebayor has emerged from the shadows to become the unlikely spearhead of a revival of fortunes under interim boss Tim Sherwood and is apparently revelling in his new role as a perennial thorn in AVB’s side.

Adebayor’s form of late has resembled that which once made him one of the most sought-after marksman in Europe, and he’s scored the goals to back it up.

The 12 league appearances since Villas-Boas’s departure have produced eight goals, an admirable return given his only previous run out in the league had been the 6-0 humbling against former employers Manchester City.

His stock has only been bolstered further by his brace in the dramatic Europa League knockout stage turnaround against Dnipro. With every goal and match-winning performance, Villas-Boas’s decision to ignore Adebayor is looking more and more ill-founded.

That he has been proved so unerringly incorrect in his decision to omit Adebayor must sting particularly badly for a coach of Villas-Boas’s ilk.

Ever since his introduction to English football with Chelsea, he has gone out of his way to present a calm, calculating front, the complete antithesis of the passion-and-guts approach of his predecessor in the Spurs' job, Harry Redknapp.

Every decision he made—both in terms of tactics and personnel—was the result of scientific, meticulous planning; there was no place for subjective, personal decisions. Even if he and a player didn’t see eye to eye, if it meant squeezing that extra percent point of efficiency from his system, AVB’s dogma was that he would include him.

At least, that was the perception he gave off. In actuality, Adebayor claimed his exile from the team was brought about when he told Villas-Boas—both one-on-one and in front of the squad—that his tactics would hinder the team.

This prompted the manager to force the Togolese to train with the youth players, a vendetta he pursued until Sherwood took charge and brought the target man in from the cold.

There's nothing wrong with a manager having a strong personality and refusing to hear dissent—just look at the number of players expelled from Old Trafford by Sir Alex Ferguson—but picking your battles when doing so is critical.

It was the same story during Villas-Boas’s spell at Stamford Bridge, where his attempts to break the ageing spine of the team ultimately cost him his job. To add insult to injury, it was then the players he had attempted to phase out—in particular Frank Lampard and John Terry—who formed the fulcrum of the side that went on to win an FA Cup and Champions League double under Roberto Di Matteo.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

If Adebayor’s rise wasn’t damaging enough to AVB’s already-battered reputation, it has brought the failings of one of the Portuguese's major summer buys, Roberto Soldado, into even sharper focus.

Soldado, purchased for a then-club record fee of £28million, was meant to help reduce the deficit of goals left by the departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, and after four goals in his first three competitive games, it appeared he was living up to his billing.

However, 20 league starts for the Spaniard have yielded just two goals from open play and raised serious questions of his suitability to the English game. There are comparisons to be made with his countryman Fernando Morientes, another highly successful marksman on the continent who simply never found his feet in the notoriously tough-going Premier League.

Villas-Boas's career in English football is over, at least for the foreseeable future. The failure of two high-profile, highly budgeted "projects" means that no major clubs will touch him, and any side willing to take the risk on him repeating his success with Porto will be unlikely to meet his wage demands.

For Adebayor, a player accused of lacking the requisite motivation to warrant inclusion in a top club’s starting line-up, it appears the very thing to spur him on was the thought of getting one over on a serial doubter.