by Darren Walsh
Andre 2.0 is coming to Tottenham Hotspur. After an uncomfortable eight months at Stamford Bridge he is making the short trip to White Hart Lane. It is him in charge now, not the owner, or the players. He is getting a second chance to become a success outside of his native Portugal, and it is this job that shall truly define him.
His back story is well known; impressing his neighbour Bobby Robson with his football knowledge, to working as an assistant to Jose Mourinho, to Academica and then to the undefeated season as manager of Porto. He continued his ascent by stepping into the job at Chelsea, with the remit of redeveloping the squad and imposing his tactical vision on the team.
It was at this point that things got tricky. While Roman Abramovich wanted his team to play like Barcelona, he didn’t want his favourites to be shunted out of the starting eleven. Those favourites, including John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, acted with impunity and didn’t want any part of the new tactics, which involved a high defensive line and a shorter passing style.
No one came out well from the wreckage of his eight month reign, including Villas-Boas himself. He was too prickly with the media, even with the slightest amount of criticism levelled at him. He wasn’t used to such dissection of his methods; how could he be after only knowing success throughout his career? The situation snowballed due to his poor skills in communicating with the players, and it was only a matter of time until he was sacked.
Fast forward five months later, and he’s back. Is he wiser, more chastened? There are reports that one of the main requirements from Spurs were that he assured them that he had learned from his first experience in London. For this job to be a success, he simply has to have gained lessons from it.
It helps that the team he is inheriting looks a better fit for his ideology. Unlike Chelsea, Tottenham already have an attacking, expansive style of play. The players have the energy to implement his vision and haven’t been hugely successful before, leaving them open to new ideas. There is also no doubt that he will be in charge, and the players don’t have the same power or are quite as ingrained in the club to be able to go above his head with complaints.
As for the squad itself, there are a few holes, such as up front and in midfield when Luca Modric leaves, but there are no veterans to phase out, and there are a number of young players that are ready for the first team. With a large amount of money to spend as well it will not be anyone’s fault but Villas-Boas’ if he fails.
And he could fail, if he tries to change things too quickly. While Harry Redknapp didn’t quite just tell the players they were brilliant and point them in the direction of the pitch, it will still be a sea change for the team when AVB rocks up with his tactical dossiers. He also needs to show the whole squad that they’re all important and rotate properly to keep everyone match fit, which was a big failing of Redknapp’s reign.
Another disadvantage is that he is taking over a relatively successful team, much like he did last summer; it’s not like he’s rescuing a club that are in the doldrums. If he can’t at least match the league finish of last season, the knives will be out from a media that’s still heartbroken that their buddy got sacked.
And most of all, he needs to deal better with criticism, because unless he leads Spurs to a repeat of his season at Porto, there will be a few barbs thrown his way at some point, whether it’s the media or the home crowd at White Hart Lane.
Spurs’ chairman Daniel Levy is putting a lot of faith in Villas-Boas’s ability to learn from his mistakes, while AVB himself deserves credit for having the belief and confidence in himself to trying once more to become a success in the one country that doubts his talents. Only time will tell whether this bravery has been confused with foolhardiness.