Tottenham’s AVB can afford a wry smile 12 months after Chelsea chop
Tottenham's Andre Villas-Boas can afford a wry smile 12 months after being sacked by Chelsea, writes Harry Kemble
Tottenham Hotspur’s Andre Villas-Boas must have afforded himself a wry smile when he looked back at how the last 12 months have panned out.
Monday marked a year since the Portuguese was awoken from his Japanese-style pod at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground to be sacked, amid poor results and rumours of player revolt.
Across the country, football fans stifled laughter on hearing that the next big managerial talent had fallen spectacularly 10 months after leaving Porto – where he had won the Quadruple (Primeira Liga, Portuguese Cup, Europa League and Portuguese Super Cup) to make Europe sit up and take notice.
After 27 games, Roman Abramovich dismissed his so-called “project” with the best part of two-and-a-half years left on young coach’s contract.
Many questioned whether managers who had not played the game at the highest level could coach successfully. Was Jose Mourinho a one-off?
Yet, 12 months on and Villas-Boas has proven all his detractors wrong.
Spurs have gone 12 games unbeaten in the league, including a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at White Hart Lane which secured their best head-to-head in years against the league leaders, having beaten them 3-2 earlier in the season.
Tottenham have also usurped Arsenal as the best team in north London and lie above Champions League holders Chelsea in third position in the English top flight.
That is not all. The diminutive Villas-Boas, whose attention to detail was mocked at Stamford Bridge towards the end of his tenure, is now being heralded for bringing Gareth Bale’s play into a new stratosphere.
Last week, the Welsh wonder-kid praised his manager for his tactical acumen, even choosing to compare Villas-Boas’s skills with former fans’ favourite and Spurs boss Harry Redknapp.
“Harry was more, ‘Go out there and play how you feel and express yourself’,” said Bale. “With Andre, there’s a certain shape and a style we play.
“Harry was more free and let you do what you want. Andre does that too, but there’s a lot more tactical work.
“It’s something that’s good to learn. We’ve done well this year and that’s down to our defending as well as attacking.”
Spurs fans despaired when chairman Daniel Levy relieved Redknapp of his post last season.
Tottenham’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League had only been extinguished thanks to Chelsea’s win in the Munich final. Levy’s decision seemed ill-thought.
Redknapp had completely reversed the north London club’s fortunes in his four years at White Hart Lane, having taken over from Juande Ramos with Tottenham at the foot of the table.
But fast-forward to Sunday, and Spurs’s 2-1 win over Arsenal highlights how Villas-Boas has breathed new life into a squad that was in need of new direction.
With 10 games to go, Tottenham look set to return to Champions League football as they vie for third or perhaps even second ahead of Manchester City and Chelsea.
Spurs also play Inter Milan on Thursday as they look to advance to the last eight of the Europa League.
If Villas-Boas was to triumph in this season’s Europa League – the competition that propelled him to overnight fame in 2011 with Porto – it would be hard for English football not to smile with him.