Perhaps it was the relationship between the tabloids and his predecessor Harry Redknapp. Maybe it was the fact he never played soccer at a professional level. Or maybe it was his attitude, but for whatever reason the knives were out for Andre Villas-Boas from the very beginning of his Tottenham Hotspur tenure. Tasked with making the club younger while maintaining competitiveness and selling his best players, some would say the now sacked Tottenham manager did just fine in his job over the past year and a half.
To say Spurs defied the established expectations for them in the 2012-13 season would be an understatement. Stripped of Luka Modrić by Real Madrid and asked to refresh the squad, AVB recorded a record Premier League points haul for Spurs finishing just six points out of second place in the league (as compared to twenty points adrift of second place in Redknapp’s final season), yet we were greeted with consistent articles about how Spurs had “regressed” under AVB. This came after many prognosticators picked Tottenham to finish between 7-9th in the league. The regression theme was painted in the summer of 2012 and the media rarely if ever came off it even when Spurs were winning at Old Trafford and ripping Arsenal apart at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham owner Daniel Levy gave AVB a difficult task and three years to complete it, or so we previously thought. Freshen up the squad, continue to be competitive, play attractive football and sell your best players — that was the mission handed to AVB by Levy.
This season, thanks to the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Tottenham Technical Director Franco Baldini acted as if he was playing a video game over the summer bringing in players from virtually every top European league and expecting a manager to mesh them into a cohesive unit overnight. Add to that the requirement that younger Tottenham Academy products such as Danny Rose and Andros Townsend be molded into the side as well. It was never going to happen quickly if one is realistic and yet the burden of doing this was placed on AVB, and every time adversity struck the media went crazy.
AVB is an operator who is in firm control of his emotions typically, but a few weeks ago he lost his cool at a press conference following the 2-2 draw with Manchester United. It was a reaction that indicated the manager was cracking under the pressures of the job. Yet Spurs haven’t really lost touch with the top four all season, sitting just five points from fourth place, currently precariously held by Manchester City a side whose football away from home in the league has been far worse than Spurs. Above City in 3rd currently are a Chelsea side whose good fortune on multiple occasions this season more than anything accounts for their current league position. It’s not difficult to see that despite being on the reverse end of some humiliating score lines, Spurs were not far off from being a very competitive side at the top end of the Premier League table.
So where does Levy go from here? Does he let the tabloids, so loyal to Harry Redknapp as Roy Hodgson continues to find out after every questionable England result, dictate his next move? Does he go for a tired retread of a manager or does he go to the continent to look for the next young thing, the next AVB? Whatever Levy does he must give AVB’s replacement time, the time that should have been given the manager he just sacked.
Editor’s note: For the latest Spurs news, analysis and opinion, visit the Tottenham Hotspur team page.