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Villas-Boas has now built Spurs in his own image, a possession-based side with lightning quick players that can counter-attack with devastating effect. Spurs style of play is based around sieging the opposition box and penetrating with raw power through Dembele and Bale or pace through Lennon and their full-backs. While they lack the creativity from deep after the Modrić sale, they now have the option of releasing a exceptional Bale from his shackles.
AVB has proved he is more than capable of leading Tottenham into a European place. He has showcased his tactical nous this season, often shifting between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2, allowing Gareth Bale to maraud defences with more freedom. Although predominately played on the left to stretch defences, Gareth’s massive strides in his development are solely down to Villas-Boas, He has encouraged him to cut in from both sides and allowed him to play behind the striker. Bale’s distance shooting, free-kicks and dribbling have improved drastically because of this. Bale has been transformed from an effective player on the wing to a game-changer who can single-handedly win you matches. Andre also plays his center backs in context to the opposition, deciding which player is more capable of dealing with this team’s particular threat. Even the consistent Vertonghen cannot hold a place at the back. The central midfield partnership of Sandro and Dembele earlier this season was arguably the best in the league, a perfect combination of strength, vision and mobility. AVB has applauded the duo who have only lost once when starting together.
Andre is a much more capable manager than Harry, it wasn’t Redknapp being too big for Spurs, it was that Tottenham simply were too good for Harry. They were now confirmed as a top team, a job Harry couldn’t handle. AVB, however, can. Having won cups and titles with FC Porto, it was understandable that Spurs now required a manager with proven credentials, not a manager with a solitary trophy with Portsmouth.
While Harry’s poor January transfer window cost him his job, Andre’s January ensured it maintained the momentum of his team. Instead of freshening up his squad, Harry idiotically sent Bassong (now excelling at Norwich) out on loan and copped the old and injury-prone duo of Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen who left by summer. While AVB, with the brilliant Sandro out for the season, snapped up 22 year old Lewis Holtby for £1.5 million – an incredible achievement for a German international who can play almost everywhere across the midfield. The work of Daniel Levy and his notorious bargaining abilities of course.
While Harry’s achievements at Spurs should not be under looked, his demise was of his own doing. Instead of ruling out the England job he continued flirting with the FA – much to the displeasure of players and fans. His refusal to rotate the squad over the Christmas period and into early spring burned out his squad when they reached the business end of the season. Spurs defender Vedran Corluka – on loan at Bayer Leverkusen – criticised Redknapp saying that they play with the “same 11, 12, 13 players and that’s why the players are tired”. He was right, Modric and Bale were burned out. Kyle Walker at the age of 21 had played every single league game that season bar one, which resulted in him missing the Euros with a broken toe. Instead of taking these ideas on board, Harry branded it as “nonsense” and stated that “I don’t ever remember Bobby Moore getting rotated, playing ankle-deep in mud every week”. It is exactly these credentials that prevented Redknapp from securing Champions League football.
Villas-Boas however has utilized his squad, handing many appearances to youngsters Caulker and Tom Carroll. His effective use of Sigurðsson and Dempsey has ensured the injuries and poor form of Defoe and Adebayor has not affected his team. It appears Andre knows exactly when to freshen up his team, whether it be through a squad shuffle or a formation change. AVB had not repeated the same mistakes that Harry repeated time and time again – i.e. the capitulation of his team after holding a significant lead in the Premier League table.While his man management techniques were criticised at Chelsea, his decisions at Tottenham were honest and effective. Take for example the Friedel case, a fine keeper but at the age of 41 he wasn’t going to be part of Spurs long-term future. So Andre bought 25-year old Hugo Lloris for an absolute steal at £9m and slowly eased him into the team, Friedel accepted that he was now no.2 and was even convinced to sign a new one-year deal. Michael Dawson’s days seem numbered when Spurs signed Vertonghen and it was no surprise to see them give Dawson permission to speak to QPR. Instead, Michael stayed and proved his worth, praising AVB for his honesty; he earned his place back into the team and Spurs haven’t lost a single game that their captain has started this season. While Harry is renowned for his unique motivational skills, Villas-Boas can lay claim to be the pivotal reason behind the improvement of many players this season, Defoe, Lennon have flourished, which has led to their re-emergence with the England national team. Villas-Boas has helped revolutionise the lone striker role, who’d have thought that Defoe, standing at “5 ft 6” , would excel in a position where strikers are considered to have to be either tall or bulky? Many thought the influential duo of Van Der Vaart and Modric would be missed but the shrewd signings of Dembele and Sigurðsson have meant Andre could still play the way he wanted to.
It seemed a risky move to hire AVB after his disastrous Chelsea reign but Daniel Levy deserves credit in realising the potential the young manager had in creating a side capable of playing flowing and expansive football. It was a shrewd appointment, and after a rocky start, Andre convinced both fans and players that he was their man. As the season draws close to the end, both Chelsea and Arsenal are left in dangerous positions where dropping out of the top 4 are real possibilities. Andre, however, will sleep well knowing he achieved success where Harry and his London rivals couldn’t.