Being sacked from two London clubs in the space of 22 months isn’t exactly what you want to put on your coaching CV is it? Andre Villas-Boas, yet again, finds himself jobless in London and Spurs now find themselves looking for a manager to take over a team with not a morsel of confidence.
Mind you, this confidence shot team is still in Europe and sitting two points above last year’s Champions, Manchester United, and only a mere five points off the top four with still more than half the season to play. I did sound out a few weeks ago my concern over AVB’s position after the 6-0 hammering they got by Manchester City.
From Daniel Levy’s perspective, they have yet to beat any of the top four this year, they have lost to two of their top four rivals by an 11 goal aggregate and scored none, Luis Suarez has scored more than the whole Spurs team and it was the manner in which they lost which would have sealed the deal for Levy. I’ve already spoken before about the money spent on players and to be honest who knows who bought them. Was it Franco Baldini and Levy or did AVB pick these players out, who knows?
All we can judge AVB on was how his team played and against Liverpool last Sunday, they were awful. Pundits, like Jamie Redknapp and others have mentioned how, under AVB, Spurs didn’t play the “Spurs way”. What way is that, attractive football? What have they won in the last ten years with the “Spurs way”? Oh, the League Cup. Harry Redknapp played attractive football and got them in the Champions League, yet still got the sack. The sacking of AVB is far more personal than playing the Spurs way. In the end, it seems that AVB struggled not coaching his players but managing them.
In his first year in charge, AVB worked with a team that was predominantly Harry’s. The team was centred on the ability of Bale and attacking with width. This season, he brought in a lot of players, whose choice we wait and see, but he implemented a style of play that we also saw at Chelsea. Managers tend to have their team set up and play with some of their own personal qualities visible. Look at United under Ferguson, ruthless (as Roy Keane pointed out as Fergie’s number one quality), hungry, determined, never say die attitude and successful, all the qualities of their former manager.
Chelsea, under Jose Mourinho (first time), were resilient, together, strong and a dominating team much like the demeanour of the gaffer. Spurs under AVB were extremely dreary, lacked ideas, too slow, too technical and flat and AVB came across that way too. In any interview his voice was monotone and boring, like Fr Stone in Father Ted. His attitude towards the media was poor and his body language was that of a man on the defence.
To me AVB is a good coach. He knows the game. He knows the drills the tactics. He knows all the modern ways to set up small sided games or certain sessions that prepare players for certain situations. But what it seems he lacks is the ability to be a manager. Now, everybody reckons they would be a great manager. We could all do the job. But it is far more difficult than you think. A manager manages the players. He manages 22 superstars who are on probably more than him, all speak different languages, have different cultures and possess different skill sets.
Like in a business, it’s the manager’s job to get his motley crew of staff, working together to achieve a common goal. In a business, that could be meeting sales targets or getting a project in before deadline day. The manager tries to get everyone to do their job properly, work together and if all goes accordingly, they meet their targets and everyone is a winner. In football it’s getting your players to be successful on the field.
Now, you know wherever you work, there is always a manager you don’t like. He or she annoys you for whatever reason and you just can’t be bothered. They ask you to do something and you will do it at 60% of your ability, maybe less. Some of you feel they don’t respect you. Some of you feel that you know more than them or some of you may just not like them as a person. This leads to a strained working relationship and you don’t enjoy your job.
The same goes for football and in particular AVB. He may know all there is to know about coaching but it is essential that the players respect you, believe you and are willing to play for you. They don’t even have to like you as a person, they just need to respect you. They need to follow you.
If you are a top-level manager you have top players, but getting the best out of them is the trick and it’s 70 per cent of the job
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AVB just couldn’t do that with Roberto Soldado, Erik Lamela and even Nacer Chadli.
Some of the most successful managers in the world have been known to be not the easiest to get on with. Fabio Capello, Rafa Benitez and even Mourinho at Madrid. But what these great managers did was build a collective spirit and a successful team. Their player’s believed in them. And with this they achieved huge success. The coaches I have named have all won the Champions league, the most coveted prize in football today. For Spurs fans, you will hope that if a new gaffer comes in, whoever it may be, that the team and some of the big signings will dramatically improve.
The most recent example of improvement under a new manager would be Manchester City under Manuel Pellegrini. The sound coming out of the Etihad Stadium is that he is easy to get on with, clear, simple in his instructions and trusts his players on the field. This wasn’t the case under Mancini. The Italian was accused of being too demanding, too direct in his approach to players, falling out with too many players and a lot of the players questioned his decisions during games. Samir Nasri, under Mancini, looked like a lost little boy on the pitch. Now, under the Chilean, he looks back to his best and causing havoc to opposition defenders playing in between the lines. He is full of confidence under Pellegrini and is starting to look the player we saw at Arsenal. Man City, this season, seem to be playing with a lot more freedom. No constraints or difficult tactical instructions to follow, just a clear message.
The same can be said of Spurs under “Arry” Redknapp. They played fluid attacking football. They had pace on the flanks, creativity in the middle and they had a collective spirit and wanted to play for him. Harry is not known for his coaching ability, no doubting he is a good coach, but he is world-renowned for his man management, for getting players to believe in him, themselves and the team’s goal.
Under AVB, like Roberto Mancini at City, Spurs looked too rigid, too technical. When I say too technical what I mean is that there was no doubting the player’s ability, but it looked as though they were playing to an over drilled pattern of play. Almost like robots. No freedom on the field no flowing football or individual brilliance. It seemed that Spurs, under the command of AVB, never really had a plan B. When their initial game plan wasn’t working or failed there was no back-up really. Mancini did win the league and what a momentous feat that was, but in the end, not even a Premier League title could save him from the sack. He lost the dressing room.
People will say the AVB deserved time with the team. As I pointed out earlier, they are still in Europe and not far off the top four in an unpredictable league this year. But in today’s world, time is not given. It is a luxury that clubs and owners cannot afford. I hope that in the coming days we find out more about what went on behind the scenes at Spurs. Was Baldini in control? Did he and AVB get on? Who bought all the players this year etc? I’m not saying it’s a definite, but to me, AVB has not managed the players both at Chelsea and now Spurs.
At Chelsea, he dealt with Terry, Lampard and Cole and tried to change a winning style and formula too quickly. At Spurs he left out club legend Defoe despite him scoring and scoring, he continued with misfiring Soldado and didn’t know what to do with the £35 million Argentine, Erik Lamella. His tactics seemed all over the shop, they played such a high line and just looked lost in attack. He looked lost on the sideline.
The last time AVB was sacked, his assistant at the time and a former player of the club, who the players loved and respected, stood in his place and won a European Trophy. Now at Spurs, Tim Sherwood, former Spurs midfielder, steps in to steady the ship and Spurs find themselves against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Europa league. Could history repeat itself? Could Tim Sherwood repeat what Di Matteo did and show AVB that managing players is as important, if not more important, than coaching them?