Why Andre Villas Boas got his tactics all wrong against West Ham


The title is giving off a negative view towards the former Chelsea and treble winning Porto manager but I just want to start off by saying that I am actually a huge supporter of AVB. I was happy when he decided to manage Tottenham and I knew Levy was making a perfect choice when he decided to hire him. AVB is one of the best young managers in the game and it showed this summer with reported interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona and the most publicized Paris Saint Germain. He made the right career move by deciding to stay with Tottenham after leading them to their highest amount of points in the premier league. He wants to achieve something with Tottenham and repay Daniel Levy’s faith in him by taking Spurs back to the Champions League where they belong and to win them a trophy in one of our many competitions. People say that Bale was the sole reason for Tottenham’s success last season but it was AVB’s decision to move him in the middle, giving him a free role to move all around the pitch, which led to the opposition unable to keep track of him leading him to have a much bigger impact in games and score stoppage time goals like a hero. Also AVB’s ability to change results with his in-game substitutions and formations was key to Tottenham’s successful season. For example, his bringing on of Tom Huddlestone and Jermain Defoe and switch to 4-3-3 against Manchester City saw his team score 3 goals and get the 3 points. Thus far, AVB hasn’t achieved much in his short career yet, but he has a bright future in the managerial game.
All that being said AVB got it all wrong against West Ham. Three reasons will explain this article.

Number 1: Holtby should have started ahead of Eriksen in this match. Especially when paired up with Defoe. Sure Eriksen was a man in form and may have more quality than Lewis Holtby but he has absolutely no chemistry with Defoe. Eriksen and Defoe haven’t played enough matches together for them to understand each other’s runs and Eriksen thrives over having a main target to play balls off of like he has been doing with Soldado against Norwich and Chelsea which led to those goals for Siggurdsson. Holtby on the other hand has been playing extremely well with Defoe assisting 5 of Defoe’s goals in cup competition. You can already see the chemistry hitting at the highest level and breaking down even the sturdiest defenses in the Europa League and league cup. A great example of this is in the League cup game against Aston Villa when he chipped the ball over the entire back four for Defoe to head home. I don’t think you read that right: HE GOT DEFOE TO SCORE A HEADER. How often does that happen? He perfectly placed that pass and Defoe was praising him and their chemistry after the game. AVB should have started Holtby to pair with Defoe in the West Ham game. This was an easy decision. If not that he should have subbed out Eriksen after halftime after his torrid time with the West Ham defense allowing him no space. The biggest difference between Eriksen and Holtby is that Holtby can play-make while in a much deeper role while Eriksen likes to operate just behind the striker and around closer to the goal. To be honest he should have started Soldado in the first place but if he felt pressured to start Defoe because of his great performances in cup matches then why didn’t Holtby earn his spot? He should have switched it at 45 if anything. Bringing on Holtby in the 81st min isn’t enough time for him to have an impact in the game. From now it should be Soldado and Eriksen or Defoe and Holtby. No mismatches until they gain that chemistry with each other through cup games.

Number 2: Walker should not have played this match. AT ALL. This is more my opinion than anything else but when a player finishes his warm-ups and tells you that he’s not feeling a 100%, you should never start that player because right there and then when he says that, he has checked out of the game mentally completely. You don’t want a player playing half-heartedly. White Hart Lane noticed this from the start when Walker wasn’t effective at all on that right hand side going forward and it just didn’t seem like he wanted to get forward. It put extra work on Townsend on that right wing going forward and though he thrived, we might have gotten a goal if both were into it. Also, his defending was nowhere to be seen. Walker was not present at both the second goal and third goal West Ham scored. If he was mentally into the game like I said, he would have been better positioned. You’d be surprised how much he covers for Dawson in matches due to Dawson’s lack of speed. If I was manager I would have played Naughton on his more preferred right back position and played Chiriches at Left back. Believe it or not, Chiriches is REALLY good going forward. His dribbling ability should not be overlooked and he used to playing left back and centre back while at Steau Bucharest. He is a natural left footer unlike Naughton. Naughton was killing our width on the left because he had to keep switching to his right foot. Just like Siggurdsson which leads me to my last point…

Number 3: Sigurdsson should have been subbed off at halftime. It was obvious he was offering anything on that left side. No tempting crosses, no good shots on goal and no cutting passes. I would have subbed on a more natural winger like Lamela or Chadli, which AVB did (Lamela came on in the 63rd min) but I think he should came on earlier at the 46 min after halftime. Or Chadli. Either would have been fine. But that’s about it for this one. I don’t think it would have made too much of a difference to be honest, West Ham were REALLY organized in the back but Lamela or Chadli both provide more of a threat and could have freed up space for Paulinho or Dembele on the left. Naughton isn’t good going forward on that left hand side.

At the end of the day, I’m hoping this 3-0 drubbing to West Ham will wake up AVB and make him think twice about his tactics at home games when teams decide to sit in defense. I’m sure this a blip on Tottenham’s radar and the international break couldn’t have come at a better time. Don’t get me wrong AVB is an amazing manager and my personal favorite at Tottenham so far but he got his tactics wrong in this game. Oh well, onto the next one. I expect Tottenham to bounce back in an amazing way.


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  1. 'Champions League where they belong and to win them a trophy in one of our many competitions'. That sentence sums up why other clubs hate us so much. I get endless grief every year when opposition fans read and hear comments like this. I know we all have dreams etc but people like you just make it worse when we get that old familiar end-of-season kick up the backside. We don't deserve anything. The team have to earn it over a season.

    • We have already had champions league with HR without spending 100 mil, from nothing to CL and where seen as the best team in Europe and should have played the year he was sacked, until Chelsea won the CL.
      AVB has as much chance as being in the top 4 than me flying t the moon and back.
      His tactics are wrong and the players he buys are the same and now understand why he lost his job as Chelsea.

  2. Also, this article was supposed to be about tactics, but all that you mention is player selection and substitutions; not a very in depth or revealing tactical analysis at all.

  3. I would have to disagree. Tottenham have earned a champions league spot and were unlucky not to have been playing in the competition last year when Chelsea took their spot after winning the competition. However they did finish 5th last year, they did so with the most amount of premier league points without getting a champions league spot.

  4. I think teams are working out how to counter AVB's tactics. AVB needs to get the team to move the ball quicker and improve the movement. Look at the way Man City moved the ball and made West ham chase shadows at times.

  5. only read as far as "Thus far, AVB hasn’t achieved much in his short career yet,"… really? i will continue reading, but come on… really?!


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