It’s only natural human instinct to reject things we don’t understand. For immediate illustration of the inherent truth of this pop-sociology catchphrase, look to the chorus of boos that followed Andre Villas-Boas and his Tottenham side back into the dressing rooms at White Hart Lane last week, after the squad failed for the third occasion in a row to hold their nerve in the dying minutes of a game and prevent an unfavourable result.
It seems fairly obvious to me that a large section of his most vocal abusers in the home sections at the Lane don’t trust AVB because they don’t really understand how his career trajectory his taken him from the top of his profession back to square one; why he persists with a high line, pressing system when it doesn’t yield the optimum results; why he stuck with a doomed centre mid pairing of Livermore and Sandro during his first three games with Spurs. To his growingly frustrated detractors who pine for the simple days of Harry and 4-4-2, the workings of AVB’s more sophisticated and more guarded mind are a mystery, and a cause of mounting paranoia and hostility.
Surely, Villas-Boas deserves better. From his success at Porto, and the stories and evidence of his meticulous planning and hands-on coaching methods, it’s almost insulting to question the viability of his plan or his eligibility to manage a side like Spurs at such an early stage in his time with us. None of this, however, is to completely absolve AVB of responsibility for his own reception going forward. Now that the transfer window has closed, it’s time for AVB to start clearing up the confusion by making his point emphatically and laying out exactly what his plan is for future success. There are surely a few areas in which ambiguity will only befuddle and irritate, and clarification of his future programme could only boost his reputation within and outside of the club.
Surely, Villas-Boas deserves better. From his success at Porto, and the stories and evidence of his meticulous planning and hands-on coaching methods, it’s almost insulting to question the viability of his plan or his eligibility to manage a side like Spurs
First of all, I’m hopeful that it will become clear exactly how AVB sees the team lining up week by week. The team he fielded throughout pre-season and during the first few games deviated from the formation and tactics he has been renowned for in previous years; 4-2-3-1 in place of his famous 4-3-3, and with a slightly deeper back line than you would expect of a Villas-Boas team. Was this merely pragmatism, or a long-term tactical shift? It’s not clear exactly whether Villas-Boas has abandoned his preferred tactics altogether, or is merely biding his time until they become viable options again – making our approach in recent weeks a mere placeholder. All of these are questions are vital to understanding why exactly players like Sigurdsson, who plays exclusively behind the striker, were brought in, and what their job is this season. A spell of settled tactics will also help the team gel with the fluency of both VB’s treble-winning Porto side and the previous incarnation of Tottenham.
I’d also like to see some clarity of the manager’s view on certain key players whose future at the club were suddenly thrown into doubt by his arrival. It is still unclear what AVB’s exact plans are for Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas, Michael Dawson, and other long-term squad players about whom contradictory noises have been made in recent weeks. Does AVB really think they have a part to play in the coming seasons, or would they be of more use sold off while we still have the opportunity? In the case of Daws in particular, one of my all-time favourite Spurs, this ambiguous approach to player roles has been a touch frustrating.
None of these issues are necessarily accusations directed at VB for his conduct so far. With a squad inherited in transition which was resigned to losing it’s key player at the start of the window, all of the above are natural teething issues associable with a new manager. What’s more, I fully trust that a man of Villas-Boas has in his head a painstakingly detailed project sorted just for Spurs. Going forward now that the window has slammed shut, however, the onus lies on Villas-Boas to start unveiling that project. Which youth players will be pivotal for us in the future, and which veterans no longer fit? What system should we expect with the team we have – what should we hold up as the benchmark of the team playing the correct way? Where do new boys Dembele, Lloris and Dempsey figure in the new-look Spurs?
These are not peripheral concerns, but vital matters of cohesion and identity for the squad, which is of as much importance to fans like me as it is to players themselves. They will be pivotal to developing the trust we’ll be asked to place in Villas-Boas in the coming months. Once Villas-Boas has made his mark on the side and shown us what the programme is for future success, it’ll be a lot easier for all corners of the Spurs support to get with it.