It has been a busy 24 hours at Tottenham with the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas as head coach on a 3-year deal, coupled with the signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson from Hoffenheim – and it seems that there is more to come both in and out of the club. The futures of Luka Modric who wishes to play Champions League football and Rafael Van der Vaart look to be uncertain, meaning the Portuguese has his work cut out in order to prepare Spurs for the new season.
Villas-Boas was sacked by Chelsea after an unsuccessful eight month spell which him ridiculed and criticised by the media and fans alike. He will be joined by Jose Mario Rocha and Daniel Sousa who were part of his backroom team at Chelsea. The 34-year-old takes over from Harry Redknapp, who was the club’s most successful manager over the past decade. Despite finishing fourth twice in three years, Redknapp was not universally adored during his time in charge, particularly towards the latter days of his reign, not to mention the England debacle.
When Fabio Capello left his post as England boss on 8 February and Redknapp was immediately installed as the bookies favourite to take over from him, Spurs were third in the league, 10 points clear of a faltering Arsenal but they eventually finished a point behind the Gunners in fourth. Redknapp’s own failings are to blame for not securing Champions League football for the coming season. Not Chelsea beating Bayern Munich and winning the Champions League.
Fluent in the art of managerial bullshit, rather than address issues with team selection and results, he lowered expectations and deflected attention away from himself when things did not work out: “I just couldn’t see how we lost the game” was a particular quote having lost 1-0 to Everton, while regularly bemoaning that it was just “one of those days” when Spurs had dominated games with the lion’s share of possession etc yet failed to win.
A trademark of Redknapp’s was that he consistently achieved the amazing feat of talking about other clubs and their players without ever actually doing so – a walking, talking contradiction, always with a soundbite for journalists whilst hanging out the window of his Range Rover. Soon, many tired from the tedious, yet continually trotted out, the now clichéd “two points from eight games” line and bottom of the league when Redknapp took over. However, the last manager to work even as long as Redknapp’s four years at White Hart Lane was Terry Venables, from 1987 to 1991, 21 years ago.
Daniel Levy is well acquainted with playing a game of hardball. Just last summer he baulked at Chelsea’s well-publicised £40m offer for Luka Modric without even so much as blinking. In the end, Redknapp met his match when he demanded too much (a new 3-year contract) and after season that saw Spurs go from 2.21 points per-game in their opening 19 games (the highest behind Manchester City and Manchester United’s 2.37 points per game) which dropped to 1.42 points per-game in the latter 19 games of the season, Levy sacked the 65-year-old a few weeks ago.
With Villas-Boas in charge, the Spurs players will experience less freedom tactically than they did under Redknapp. How often did we hear the words ‘free-role’ in relation to Gareth Bale and Van der Vaart last season? It was Van der Vaart that spoke of Redknapp’s blatant disregard for tactics: “There are no long and boring speeches about tactics, like I was used to at Real Madrid. There is a board in our dressing room but Harry doesn’t write anything on it.” Villas-Boas will be the antithesis of Redknapp. Structure will be key, as will tactical briefings, something which Daniel Levy alluded to: “He has an outstanding reputation for his technical knowledge of the game and for creating well-organised teams capable of playing football in an attractive and attacking style”
Even though he has been sacked, Redknapp has already chucked in his two cents worth in about the current squad: “I think that they have the players there to be a top-four team every year and to challenge for a championship.” The same Harry Redknapp that continually u-turned on Spurs’ chances last season. Funny, because Spurs currently have just one recognised striker, Jermain Defoe. Defensively, Ledley King, Michael Dawson and William Gallas are all prone to injury; while back-up is needed to Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. And finally, midfield, despite the doubts over Modric’s future, looks to be Spurs’ greatest strength; Bale has signed a new 4-year-deal, to keep him at the club. It is far from a title-challenging squad, certainly if you compare it with the value of Manchester City’s squad and the experience of Manchester United’s squad.
With Gylfi Sigurdsson signed, murmurs of Joao Moutinho, and the long drawn out transfer of Jan Vertonghen from Ajax, Daniel Levy has already been busying himself in preparation for the new season with Villas-Boas. The 34-year-old will have to win over fans, which might be sceptical of his management style after his ill-fated 256 days at Chelsea, but in terms of building for the future, where the embarrassing words and constant talking down of the expectations by Harry Redknapp will be long forgotten, Villas-Boas should be a welcome addition at White Hart Lane.