Andre Villas-Boas pays price for losing Gareth Bale & X-Factor
Sacked Tottenham Hotspur boss Andre Villas-Boas pays the price for losing Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, writes Kieran Beckles
Andre Villas-Boas has ultimately paid the price for a distinct lack of X-Factor in his Tottenham Hotspur side after Gareth Bale’s exit on deadline day.
The 36-year-old coach was sacked on Monday morning after a humiliating 5-0 drubbing by top-four rivals Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
Villas-Boas, who replaced Harry Redknapp in June 2012, leaves Spurs six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, having scored just 15 goals in 16 Premier League outings.
To put that tally in perspective, Luis Suarez has already netted 17 times this season – and the impact of Bale’s departure should act as a reminder of the dangers of selling your talisman should Liverpool receive a big-money offer next summer.
The Portuguese began his second season at White Hart Lane with a positive atmosphere engulfing Spurs, despite the £85.3m sale of Bale to Real Madrid.
Tottenham spent £107m on new recruits – Roberto Soldado, Nacer Chadli, Etienne Capoue, Paulinho, Christian Eriksen, Vlad Chriches and club-record signing Erik Lamela – designed to fire them into the Champions League. Ultimately, they have failed to replace Bale’s 22 goals and X-Factor.
Villas-Boas has been unlucky with his new signings; Soldado is yet to hit top form, Eriksen picked up an untimely injury and Lamela is still coming to terms with life in England.
But the former Chelsea manager has been the architect of his own downfall – at least in terms of team selection.
Tottenham have lacked invention and inspiration with a Bale-sized hole in their side as Villas-Boas packed his midfield with three similar central players – Mousa Dembele, Paulinho and Sandro all started on Sunday.
It resulted in a narrow-looking Spurs outfit that were too lethargic and unimaginative when it came to unleashing Soldado. Don’t forget that this is a striker who scored 24 La Liga goals last season.
Villas-Boas opted against selecting in-form players, too. Throughout November and December, Gylfi Sigurdsson was Tottenham’s most dangerous-looking player, but remained benched. Jermain Defoe, too, had right to feel aggrieved.
Of course, it is worth mentioning that Andros Townsend did bring a dash of X-Factor, but at 22, and nowhere near the level of Bale, the England international remains inconsistent.
Still, it was no surprise that Villas-Boas persisted with Townsend, who was sent out on loan to Queens Park Rangers last season, in an attempt carve open stubborn defences at White Hart Lane.
Villas-Boas stuck with a high defensive line which was a trademark of his doomed Chelsea reign, and like Blues captain John Terry, Michael Dawson never looked at ease. Just take a look at Liverpool’s goals on Sunday.
When the Tottenham back four, which was one of the best in Europe in the early stages of the season, crumbled in dramatic fashion during a 6-0 loss at Manchester City, Villas-Boas was clearly cracking under pressure from the media.
Similar to the end of his spell at Stamford Bridge, prickly Villas-Boas reacted and took on his detractors in a very public forum, serving to increase the focus on Spurs. There was only ever going to be one outcome.
Following the 5-0 home loss to Liverpool, Villas-Boas was asked if this was his team and his players. The Spurs boss refused to confirm whether sporting director Franco Baldini or the Portuguese coach himself was responsible for the summer arrivals.
“I am not sure I can make it public,” a curt Villas-Boas said. “We are happy with the signings.”
But ultimately, it wasn’t the new arrivals but the sale of Bale that was the decisive factor. Spurs owner Joe Lewis and chairman Daniel Levy expected instant success after an outlay of £107m.
Tottenham were winners in 17 of the 14 games which Bale scored in last season as the north London side were cruelly denied a fourth-place finish on the final day of the campaign.
But Villas-Boas lost his tattered Get Out of Jail card when Bale joined Los Blancos, and with it, breathing space to transform Spurs in his image.