André Villas-Boas, we are led to believe, is edging ever closer to being officially announced as the new Tottenham Hotspur manager/head coach. We all know, of course, that it will be announced by every major news outlet, and the majority of the smaller ones, before it’s officially reported on the Spurs website.
Opinions seem to be split on ‘AVB’. Some supporters are keen for Spurs to look elsewhere; David Moyes for example. He’s consistent, he’s worked wonders on a budget at Everton, and has over 10 years Premier League experience. I’ve said before, he’s the safe choice.
AVB, on the other hand, would represent a huge gamble by the Tottenham board. He’s still relatively inexperienced as a manager, has just a few months of Premier League experience and he’s just 34 years of age; younger than some of our first team squad.
Despite a list of just 3 clubs managed; Académica de Coimbra, FC Porto and our neighbours Chelsea (there was also a short spell, at the age of just 21, as manager of the British Virgin Islands national team, before he joined Jose Mourinho at Porto, and followed him to the Blues and Inter Milan), he’s proven himself to be a title winning coach.
A historic quadruple in his first season as manager of Porto means he has won more major trophies than most of our players combined. His Porto side romped to the Portuguese league and cup double, staying unbeaten in the league campaign. They conceded just 16 league goals and won the title by a massive 21 points. Their impressive unbeaten record was made all the more impressive by only drawing 3 games all season, meaning the won an incredible 27 of their 30 games. A Europa League trophy followed, as well as the early season Portuguese Super Cup.
His brand of fluid, attacking, yet defensively solid, football won him several admirers from abroad and after being personally recommended by former mentor Mourinho, his was appointed the new Chelsea manager on the 22nd June 2011. AVB signed a three year contract and was immediately handed the unenviable task of producing a major overhaul of the club’s ‘old guard’ and bring back title winning football under the watchful eye of owner Roman Abramovich.
His time in West London was ill fated however and despite doing what was asked of him by transitioning the likes of Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard from the team, the influence of those senior players would be his undoing.
Rumours of unrest in the Chelsea camp spread, and the likes of Terry and Lampard are alleged to have gone over AVB’s head and asked for him to be removed from his post for the sake of the club. The rest, as they say, is history.
For those of you not convinced by Villas-Boas, it’s easy to forget that on the 4th March, when he was sacked, Chelsea were just seven points behind Spurs in third position. They went on to finish sixth, not in the fifth place he left them. They were also still alive and competing in the FA Cup and the Champions League, both of which they went on to win (as if you needed reminding).
Trying to put it simply, he plays a 4-3-3-come-4-5-1 system. He likes to play a high defensive line to try and catch opposition forwards offside, but prefers quick defenders incase the trap is broken and there needs to be a fast recovery.
Full backs are encouraged to break forward whenever possible and provide the width, allowing the wingers to move inside and provide assists and goals along with the lone striker.
The three central midfielders all have to be versatile, and look to interchange with each other, therefore needing to be equally adept at fulfilling different roles in the engine room.
Traditionally, AVB likes one more defensively minded midfielder who sits in front of the centre backs, collecting the ball before feeding the more creative midfielders or overlapping full backs.
Ahead of him will be one deep lying playmaker, setting the tempo and spraying passes all around him. And alongside these two is a more attacking midfielder, getting forward looking for long range shooting opportunities or offering himself as another target inside the penalty area.
Another name that seems destined to sign on with Spurs is Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson, who, conveniently, fits in perfectly as the third of the three central midfielders AVB would look to play with. Coincidence?
The array of attacking talent already in the Spurs ranks must be making AVB foam at the mouth with the thought of unleashing those players on the Premier League in his preferred system. Murmurings of unrest in the squad at the suggestion of AVB’s appointment seems to have been put to bed by the news of Gareth Bale’s new contract. Could Bale be keen to work with the Portuguese schemer? Has he already been sold on his view for the club?
AVB, undoubtedly, feels he has unfinished business in England. He wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip at Chelsea, and he’s gone from winning major European trophies and managing in the Champions League to being unemployed and slowing watching his stock drop around the European game.
Daniel Levy, Tottenham’s shrewd chairman, seems to think otherwise however, and is keen to bring him back to London and give him to means to exorcise his demons from his ill fated spell with Chelsea.
The national newspapers, seemingly devastated by losing their favourite son Harry Redknapp from the Premier League, would lead you to believe that AVB is a poor manager and a step down from Harry. But despite how they deem him to have been a failure at Chelsea, his managerial win percentage still stands at an impressive 61.98%. At Porto those figures reached a staggering 88.24% from 51 games. Impressive by anyone’s standards.
He is constantly compared to the self-titled ‘Special One’ Mourinho. Comparing AVB’s record with his fellow countryman, the man who has consistently won trophies in each country he has managed in – his record stands up.
Mourinho’s Porto side of 2002/03 and Villas-Boas’ of 2010/11 both won the Portuguese league and cup double, along with the Europa League, or the UEFA Cup as it was known in ’03. Looking at their respective win percentages from those seasons, Mourinho managed an impressive 77.3%, winning 34 league games, alongside 6 domestic cup games and 8 in Europe.
AVB bettered this however, winning 49 games overall for a superior 84.4%. Villas-Boas’ side also bettered Mourinho’s goal difference; 103 besting 79. We do have to take into account the extra eight games the class of 2011 had to contend with, but that’s a huge gap never the less, with the Porto side under Mourinho needing to have scored three goals-per-game to have matched or bettered that of the 34-year-old’s side.
Mourinho has been criticised for his negative style of play and anyone assuming Villas-Boas would follow his mentor with a similar style is sadly mistaken. The stats back up AVB’s desire to play attacking football, that season his team managed 145 goals, compared to the 118 Mourinho’s side managed.
His tactical astuteness and detailed planning and respect he awards to each opponent would be a refreshing change at Spurs following the tactically naive Harry Redknapp’s four year spell at White Hart Lane.
No longer would we have to endure being tactically outwitted by mediocre teams that rob us of three much needed points. AVB believes in being defensively compact and solid, before setting off from the back through a proven attacking system where each player is as comfortable on the ball, and at setting up an attack, as the next.
He spent time as Jose Mourinho’s opposition scout, meaning he fully understands how to break down his opponent’s tactics to create a winning team, no matter who his side faces. Just because the overpaid, egotistical Chelsea players didn’t buy into his philosophies, it doesn’t mean they aren’t proven and successful. They could be at Spurs.
Success isn’t guaranteed, but given everything written and said about Villas-Boas, he seems destined for the top, and I for one would love to see him achieve that with Spurs.
Charlie can be found on Twitter here.
Charlie also contributes to and edits his own blog An Echo of Glory, which is a must visit for Spurs fans.