When Andre Villas-Boas takes his seat on the bench at the Etihad this Sunday, he will oversee his 50th game in charge of Spurs. It’s been quite a journey for the Portuguese tactician who began his managerial career 15 years ago with the British Virgin Islands. Expectations then were low, but now, at the age of 36, he faces a much tougher task – to lead Tottenham Hotspur into the Champions League.
When Villas-Boas took over last summer, he set about transforming Spurs into a title challenging side. Steffen Freund was appointed assistant head coach, whilst trusted colleagues Luis Martins, Jose Mario Rocha and Daniel Sousa joined the backroom staff. There is definitely a sense that all of the coaching team serve a purpose at the club, unlike the Redknapp regime where it felt as though Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond were there to make up the numbers. The outdated 4-4-2 system has been replaced with the modern, flexible 4-2-3-1 formation. This ensures defence solidity and good ball retention. Spurs have kept 7 clean sheets this term, more than any other team in the league.
Nevertheless, this formation does have its faults. AVB’s much maligned high defensive line is a risky strategy, especially for centre-backs Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen who are susceptible to be outpaced by opposition strikers. One man that is key to this tactic being a success is Hugo Lloris. He plays a vital role in the team, functioning as a sweeper keeper. Operating with two, deep-lying central midfielders is considered by many as too negative, especially in home games. Slow build up play was an issue for most of last season and has once again proved to hinder the team’s progress this campaign. However, the acquisition of box-to-box midfielder Paulinho and Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen has gone some way to fixing that problem. Another apparent flaw with this system is the use of inverted wingers. In Andros Townsend and Erik Lamela, Spurs have two of the quickest, most skilful wide men in the Premier League. It seems foolish not utilise them properly. White Hart Lane is the second smallest pitch in the Premier League so condensing the play does not do the team any favours. As a result, creativity is at a minimum, leaving £26m striker Roberto Soldado starved of service. This is certainly an issue that Villas-Boas needs to address.
There is no doubt that Spurs have struggled in recent weeks to break down teams, but this shouldn’t be too much of a cause for alarm. In Villas-Boas, Tottenham have a tactically astute manager who is driven to succeed. One criticism levelled at AVB is that he is a stubborn and unwilling to change tactics when Plan A isn’t working. This, in part, is true. However, the seven players recruited over the summer need time to adapt to Villas-Boas’ style of play. Football is a results driven business. Ideally, everything would automatically fall into place but in reality it doesn’t always work out like that. Here’s hoping that Andre Villas-Boas’ 50th game in charge is a memorable one and that we walk away from the Etihad with all three points on Sunday.
Until next time…
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