When Chelsea announced the appointment of André Villas-Boas as their manager for the 2011-12 season, a lot was expected of him. He was touted as the last and the most important piece of the Chelsea jigsaw, which was now set to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League titles. He arrived at Chelsea as the youngest manager ever to win a European title, and was regarded by many as the natural successor to Jose Mourinho.
He arrived at Chelsea with a three-year plan, a ‘project’ he continually referred to before the media. However, nine months later, he was packing his bags; unceremoniously sacked by Chelsea supremo Roman Abramovich.
Fast forward to 3rd July, 2012. Villas-Boas was back in England, choosing the northern part of London this time for his second foray into Premier League management. Sniggers of derision from West London were very much audible – and they could be forgiven for doing so, with the Champions League sitting snug in their trophy cabinet. Critics will no doubt point fingers at his failed stint at Chelsea and lampoon his touchline calisthenics; but Villas-Boas will be looking at redemption this time, and here are five reasons he might well be successful at Tottenham .
1. He won’t have the “Old Guard” to worry about
It is widely known that one of the main jobs of Villas-Boas at Chelsea was to break up the “old guard” – a clique of senior players, led by (but not confined to) three stars; John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba. He set out on the task with utmost zeal, reportedly telling Drogba that he was no longer good enough to start games, and accusing Lampard of playing for his own aggrandisement and not for the cause of the team. However, these statements only served to alienate him from his team, which resulted in his team turning against him and ultimately in his sacking. Spurs, on the other hand, have a relatively young and talented squad, and if he can instill into them respect for him, the future of Spurs looks bright.
2. The high back-line should be better suited to Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea’s defensive frailties of last season had but one root – the high back-line employed by Villas-Boas. Most of the top division sides in Europe rely on their fullbacks marauding forward down the wings, and that is the approach Villas-Boas tried to bring at Chelsea. However the English ideology of a flat back four was too deep-seated in the Chelsea squad to bring about a change, and with the ageing warhorse John Terry at the heart of the defence, resistance to change was obvious. Tottenham, however, have new recruit Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul at the heart of the defence – players who are more likely to be able to adapt to Villas-Boas’ defensive strategy and having the pace to cover for the full-backs when they maraud forward.
3. The Spurs board will support him more than the Chelsea board has ever done
Villas-Boas was not appointed by Spurs in a hurry – and it looks certain that he won’t be judged in a hurry as well. Chelsea’s reputation in that particular aspect is notorious; they hold the record of hiring and firing no less than five managers in less than two years. The Russian oligarch has done everything that he thought was required to bring glory to Chelsea, but he might have done a little more than actually required in the process. The Chelsea managerial job has been a proverbial minefield in the recent times, with Brendan Rodgers even going as far as to say: “I am trying to build my career and not destroy it. ” The Spurs management looks to have faith with Villas-Boas, and with their chairman Daniel Levy stating that “Andre shares our long-term ambitions and ethos of developing players and nurturing young talent…”, it is fair to assume that he is not looking for immediate success like Abramovich.
4. Chelsea’s squad was not suited to his tactics; Spurs’ squad will fare better
Villas-Boas’ tactics have always been offensive, with the triumvirate of Hulk-Falcao-Varela leading the line at Porto. In Chelsea, he tried the same with Mata, Sturridge and Torres but failed miserably, with Torres’ off form compounding his problems further for Villas-Boas.The Spaniard was never able to replicate the free scoring Porto forward Falcao, whom Villas-Boas had at his disposal when he was at Porto. For the Spurs, however, Adebayor has played a stellar role up front in the previous season, and even if Spurs fail in their endeavours to sign him permanently, they will certainly sign a top-class striker. With a top striker, the mercurial Gareth Bale and the electric Aaron Lennon feeding him, and the marauding full backs Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, this young and hungry Spurs squad may be just what the doctor ordered for Villas-Boas.
5. Villas-Boas has a point to prove
Spurs have a great weapon on their hands at the moment, which few clubs are lucky enough to possess – a manager with a wounded ego. Villas-Boas has gone from being touted as the next Jose Mourinho to being a figure of ridicule in nine crazy months. The fact that he has been courageous enough to take one a job at England so early after his dismissal speaks volumes for his confidence and self-belief. His managerial credentials can never be held in doubt, but it remains to be seen if he can make Chelsea regret his dismissal.