November 25, 2012
Pressure is mounting on our manager – not just from the tabloid press, but also from within our fan base. Whether you didn’t want Redknapp to go (been there, done that), didn’t rate André Villas-Boas’ reign at Chelsea, aren’t impressed with his tactics thus far, aren’t impressed with his perceived “negative substitutions”, etc. etc. etc., in my opinion, is all irrelevant at this point.
We have appointed a manager who is a deep thinker in football terms (I’d insert quips about his notebook here if I was one of the old crones on Soccer Saturday); he is a man who has quite literally made a career of studying opposition teams and coming up with a plan to beat them. He has clear ideas of what he wants to achieve on a match-to-match basis, and makes what he sees as the appropriate adjustments.
Alongside this backdrop of new analysis and tactical tinkering, we have a squad of players who have, effectively, been given the following guidance over the past 3-4 years: “go out and express yourselves”. Now they are being given very specific instructions – sometimes on an opponent-by-opponent basis. These changes in ideology are, logically, going to take significant time to implement. Our players are no longer individuals, expressing themselves however they please (or not, as our January to May run illustrated!) – they are cogs in a machine, and so one player not fulfilling his role can make all the difference.
Not only do our players have this drastic change to cope with in daily training and in match situations, the team has had its heart ripped away. Three of our four best players (King, Modric and van der Vaart) left in the summer, and three of last season’s stars – Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto and Parker – have had medium-to-long-term injuries.
When you combine these issues, the need to turn around six months of awful form under Redknapp (which many seem to conveniently forget) and a lack of fluency as yet on the pitch, it is surprising that, as has been widely documented on many Spurs blogs and forums, we are still (at the time of writing) level on points with last season’s tally thus far (when substituting the promoted teams like for like for comparison, i.e. Championship winners, second place, etc). This despite AVB having a weaker squad and Redknapp having had three years to implement his ideas.
AVB has the full weight of the foamy-mouthed tabloid press on his back (they seem to be totally against him for no apparent reason) and he may be anxious that removing the senior players from the squad too soon could be seen as him making the same mistakes again.
I do not agree with many of his team selections – in fact, I don’t think I’ve fully agreed with one yet – but I can generally see the reasons behind them. I think my biggest criticism of AVB thus far would be his continual selection of William Gallas, who I see as one of the weakest links in our side, whilst Michael Dawson watches from the sidelines. I have also been disheartened by his selection of Friedel over Lloris, who I think encourages pressure with his reactive goalkeeping. But, as mentioned above, given that he was widely-criticised at Chelsea for moving experienced (ageing) players out of the team too quickly, it would be a logical reaction from Villas-Boas – someone who does want to continually learn – to change his approach based on past failings.
There are, absolutely, positives in AVB’s reign so far, and signs of progressive change. For one, we have looked threatening and indeed have scored from set pieces, which is a joy to see in a team who has long struggled in this area. We have also seen the intelligent integration of players from our development squad; rather than just throwing them into a team together, we have seen the likes of Caulker and Carroll brought into otherwise strong selections, and they have flourished as a result. We have also, of course, won away at Old Trafford – I was beginning to lose hope of that happening in my lifetime!
Our manager needs time, and the patience, understanding, and support of our fans. COYS!