In the aftermath that was the heartbreaking outcome of Sunday’s games, we’re left to reflect on another season that left us on the cusp of Champions League qualification but once more falling at the final hurdle.
So now that the dust has settled, it might be time to look back at AVB’s first term in charge and seeing as it’s also nearing the end of the school year, let’s make it an “end of term” report.
The term began in difficult fashion for the new boy, losing the mercurial Ledley King through retirement and want-away playmaker Modric before the season evan began. They were swiftly followed out the door by fan-favourite Rafa Van Der Vaart and all of a sudden there were several gaps to be filled.
However it wasn’t all doom and gloom, Vertonghen was signed shortly after the end of last season and the big Belgian has been a revelation in his first season, culminating in him being deservedly included in the Barclay’s team of the season. Siggurdsson, Dembele and Dempsey soon followed with Dembele settling quickly into his new surroundings and although the former both struggled initially, they weighed in with some important goals throughout the season. Adebayor has displayed nowhere near the same form he showed on loan last season and despite showing glimpses of what he is capable of in the last few weeks, it might be too little, too late for the Togo international. Lewis Holtby joined from Schalke in January and his ability to play in different positions has proved him a useful addition to the squad.
Perhaps our greatest failure in the transfer market was the failure to add a striker in the January transfer window, the team were light up front all year with Defoe and Adebayor the only two out and out strikers in the squad. The side badly needed the addition of another front man after Christmas and the whole Damaio “will he-won’t he” fiasco let fans with a bitter sense of disappointment. The blame however must rest at “head boy” Levy’s door, his tendency to leave signing players till the last minute back fired badly.
There are times this season where the new gaffer’s tactics had me scratching my head and led to me shouting obscenities at my TV/Radio/Computer but more times than not, AVB has proved to be more than astute in knowing what a game needs.
His deployment of Bale full time behind a lone striker has more than paid dividends with the Welshman having a sublime season. Redknapp’s strategy of letting Bale play where he wanted worked sporadically last season but his role this season has left him as the focal point of our attacks and seems to have improved his overall game.
Perhaps the best example of Villas-Boas’ tactical nous was the recent game against Man City, trailing 1-0 and nearing the last quarter of the game he left a clearly unfit Bale on the pitch and brought Huddlestone into the fray much to the chagrin of the White Hart Lane faithful. Within 10 minutes the game had turned on its head and we ran out 3-1 winners. I, like many others, was left to tip my cap to the gaffer afterwards.
Subject: Team Morale
The difference between AVB’s tenures at Chelsea and Spurs is plain to see. At Stamford Bridge Villas Boas came into a dressing room full of overpaid primadonnas with far too many “locker room leaders” in the likes of John Terry. Despite his best efforts you always got the impression it was the lunatics running the asylum with the Portuguese left wondering what he had gotten himself into.
I’m pleased to say it has been much more plain sailing at Spurs, the players seem to genuinely want to play for the boss typified by Bale’s joyous celebration of his winner at Upton Park in February where he made a beeline for the dugout and lifted his manager off his feet in jubilation. Even after the disappointment of Sunday’s results, the general feeling coming from the players that they are proud of their achievements this season and want to go on to bigger and better things next year.
Subject: Cup performances
Most fans probably felt that our best hope of silverware last season would come in the cup competitions. An early, albeit, unlucky exit in the League Cup ensured a poor start and this was followed by some lacklustre displays in the Europa League. However, a hard fought win over Lyon was followed by a superb display at home to Inter Milan before the European campaign ended on a disappointing note with a defeat on penalties in Basle (Adebayor’s penalty still haunts my nightmares).
Possibly the most disappointing cup display came at Leeds in the FA cup, some horrific defending led to a deserved defeat and ensured a trophy-less season.
Subject: League Position
Unfortunately, despite a gallant effort the team finds itself on the periphery of Champions League qualification and looking at another season in the poor relation that is the Europa League.
What makes this all the harder to take is the fact that the team racked up it’s highest ever points total (72) in the Premier League, a total that would have guaranteed 3rd place last term and as high as 2nd a few years ago. So where did it go wrong? You have to look at the games following the victory over Arsenal in early March, leading comfortably at Anfield, two moments of madness by Walker and Defoe meant we left pointless and this was followed by an abject display at home to Fulham. I felt at the time that the damage had been done as “the gooners” had a much easier run-in and their record of 8 wins and 2 draws in their last 10 games seemed to prove the point.
It’s been the usual story of Jekyll and Hyde for the lilywhites, a win away at Old Trafford for the 1st time since 1989 being a particular highlight while failing to beat teams like Wigan helping to seal our fate. The team is nowhere near the pushovers they once were, our ratio of goals in the dying moments of games is evidence of that but consistency over the course of a season is key and we’re not quite there yet.
If Andre Villas-Boas were asked at the start of the season would he take finishing on 72 points I’m sure he would have taken it quicker that you could say Emannuel Adebayor. Alas, it just wasn’t to be, with some poor results in March ensuring we just missed out.
But it was always going to be a tough job following the ever popular Redknapp and hoping to improve on the good work he started, there has been the tiniest of improvements and perhaps the biggest work lies ahead of AVB and whether he manages to hold on to our biggest commodity in Bale and add significantly to the squad in the close season. If he manages this then the upcoming term could be the most successful in a long, long time.
Final Comment: Working well, can do better.
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