The possible and apparently impending signing of AVB as the new Tottenham manager has understandably created quite a buzz in the footballing world.
What is interesting, though, is the fairly large number of exciting possibilities it implies, not least in the transfer market.
With AVB comes the talk of tactics, strategy, formations and then players. With his predecessor (is it safe to call Redknapp that already?), it was quite the opposite. The players, mostly the big names at that, were the basis for deciding the formation. The formation then helped decide the strategy and tactics to be used. Although it would be unfair to say the approach was a failure, it is general consensus that the results fell somewhat short of the expectations. True, there was that memorable year of playing in the Champions League, where Tottenham showed grit, guts and a nice mix of speedy youth and shrewd experience. Indeed, in Gareth Bale, in the 3-4 loss against Inter, we saw both.
There was the inexperience, though. That, and the definite inferiority in terms of squad size and quality. This is probably why a defeat to Real Madrid in the First Knockout stage was expected, and simply taken with a pinch of salt. The lack of proper squad rotation, which was a result of a smaller squad, meant the team got exhausted and lost out to the new Big Four in the title race.
Following seasons showed a sad pattern in terms of results. Bright starts and big wins eventually gave way to bad performances, player exhaustion and disinterested displays of schoolboy football. It was much more pronounced this season, and the timing could not be worse for ‘Arry. Masses and pundits alike believed that the lure of managing England had made him take his eyes off the Premier League, and indeed, off Tottenham Hotspur.
A firing was inevitable, and even though Redknapp had, with Levy’s ample resources, created quite a formidable looking squad, it certainly looked like the time was right for a new, younger and more success hungry manager to step in.
Enter Andre Villas Boas.
A young man, who talks, walks and thinks tactics. Although he more than proved himself in Portugal, Chelsea proved to be a little too much for young AVB to handle. Although forgettable, his seven month stint there has been anything but pointless. He has learned so much. To know what to do is good, but in this age, at this time, to know what not to do will prove to be far more valuable.
Chelsea are one of the powerhouses of English football, and indeed Europe. In a few months, winning the Club World Championships will give them the (deserved?) title of World Champions. In Chelsea, AVB has learnt that in big clubs and big leagues, often times the players are bigger than the managers. Egos are meant to be soothed, not trampled. Transitions are supposed to be smooth, not sudden. And the most important lesson of them all: There is no teething period.
AVB will take over the reins at Tottenham knowing full well what the English game is all about. What might work (wing play), what did not (high lines), why they did not, and what rectifications need to be made.
It is known that AVB likes to stick to a proven formation. High defense lines which require pacy defenders, possession based football, which works when you have a three man midfield in the middle of the park, attacking and attractive wing play, with wingers who often times play as inside forwards, and a lone goal scoring striker.
At Chelsea, with the exception of the attacking wing play (Sturridge and Mata), all the other elements were lacking. Even with the wings, these two players were not natural wingers- Sturridge clearly wants to play as a striker, and Mata’s most effective role is arguably as an attacking midfielder playing behind the lone striker.
Tottenham’s present squad, on the other hand, seems to be most suited for this kind of play, and this could well be what both AVB and Tottenham needed. AVB wanted a club with a squad that would fit in with his tactic, and Tottenham needed a virile manager with a solid game plan. This is symbiotic football at its best, one would think.
AVB’s wide 4-5-1 with Tottenham would look something like this:
The back four are Kyle Walker, Younis Kaboul, William Gallas and Assou Ekotto playing ahead of custodian Brad Friedel. Two attacking full backs who have shown they have the skill and speed to play the English game, and two center backs of whom at least one has the pace to adapt to the high line tactics which will probably be in use.
With AVB’s known propensity for playing younger talented youth products, players like Sandro and Jake Livermore could prosper under his management. Typically, AVB likes a three man midfield where each of the three has a different playing style. This is probably one of the main reasons Lampard was not offered an assured starting berth in AVB’s Chelsea lineup. One pure defensive midfielder, one box to box midfielder with the ability to play an attacking role if needed, and a third creative playmaker.
In Tottenham, we have Parker, Sandro and Modric seemingly fitting the bill perfectly. Although this is bringing up a rather unpleasant Lampard Version 2.0 scenario with VdV, maybe there’ll be a little more tact in managing that situation? Or maybe the manager will find a way to rotate that midfield effectively. Apart from these four there is Jake Livermore, a Tottenham youth product with a promising future, but he required decent playing time.
What with the now almost complete coup of Gylfi Sigurdsson from Swansea, and the resurfacing rumours of VdV wanting to move back to Germany (Schalke and Hamburg seem to be showing a lot of interest), the midfield appears to be pretty solid, if not a little daunting.
On the wings are the fast and effective Bale, and the fast and not so effective Lennon. Although Dos Santos has officially been a Tottenham player, he has been bundled out on loans to clubs in England (Ipswich), Spain (Racing Santander) and Turkey (Galatasaray). But given his stint in Barcelona coupled with AVB’s penchant for giving young squad members a chance or two to prove themselves, maybe things will finally start looking up for the young Mexican.
Defoe, who patiently sat on the bench as Adebayor (on loan from Man City) started matches and scored goals, is now the only choice as a striker.
The squad has clear holes that need to be plugged immediately. Also, there is the possibility that not all of the players mentioned will start for the club this season. The management and the squad themselves are aware of this. What then, can Tottenham hope to accomplish this season?
All is not lost, as we will see in: Part 2 of ‘Why Tottenham are Still The Team to Watch Out For’