Not everyone who eats humble pie in full view of the public, chooses to come swinging at the next available opportunity. But then Villas-Boas was never your Average Joe. Villas-Boas is a man, who believes he is right, even when he admits he was wrong. It requires a certain suspension of self doubt, to follow a public admission of wrongdoing with an even more emphatic insistence the fault lay elsewhere.
The former came about courtesy Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy’s insistence that Andre Villas-Boas acknowledge his flaws at Stamford Bridge, that saw him get the boot and then have to watch in horror as the team won the FA Cup and the Champions League. Levy wanted to know the man he was entrusting his club to was willing to learn some lessons of his own.
Villas-Boas denied he was solely responsible for the fiasco at the Bridge
Villas-Boas will now coach Tottenham Hotspur next season
By all accounts Andre Villas-Boas capitulated, offering a grovelling assessment of his errors at Chelsea. Satisfied that Villas-Boas was now aware of his limitations as a manager and a human, Levy offered him the job. It is a pretty bold decision to make, in the circumstances. Villas-Boas is no longer a dark horse in the Premier League, like he was when he first made his way to the Bridge.
Back then, his potential was limitless, his resume was unblemished and his talents untested. In such a setting you might just find someone willing to take a leap of faith, and entrust a rookie with one of the toughest jobs in club football. Beginner’s luck can be a very tempting proposition.
Now, however, Villas-Boas will find his Premier League virginity is a thing of the past. And that he has an actual record to run on. When that record includes taking a club like Chelsea out of the top four, for the first time in ten years, you can’t help but feel the Portuguese is likely to be defensive.
That defensiveness was apparent when a supposedly chastened Villas-Boas more or less accused his previous boss – Roman Abramovich – of quitting on him, at the peak of their project. Insinuating that he had the rug pulled out from beneath his feet, when he was looking for support and suggesting his last words to the Russian billionaire was that this team could win the two trophies it was still in contention for, are likely to receive no response from the reclusive master of West London.
Most interesting, however, is Villas-Boas’ inability to turn the page on his Chelsea past. He could’ve moved to Italy, and ripped the English game to shreds as one unbecoming of his lofty game plans. The ever-technical Italians would’ve welcomed Villas-Boas and his academic style – up until his high backline goes bust. He could’ve gone to Spain, where a high backline might have fit in well with the Spanish preference for short, quick passes and possession-based play. Not to mention, little pressure having to deliver in a league which has become accustomed to Barcelona and Real Madrid as the only title contenders.
Roman Abramovich terminated Villas-Boas’ contract at Stamford Bridge
Villas-Boas who was fired from Chelsea finds refuge in Tottenham Hotspur
And yet, when the chips were truly down and at a time most men show their real colors, Villas-Boas chose to stick in England. At the scene of his most humbling failures, Villas-Boas remains intent on proving a point.
And he did that, by choosing Tottenham Hotspur – a club whose firing of Harry Redknapp makes Chelsea’s management look generous and understanding. Tottenham are, as Villas-Boas will soon find out, a club not lacking in ambition but certainly one without the comfort of an expendable bank balance.
Failing to make the Top 4 next season, with likely not much transfer activity, will see Villas-Boas preside over his second failure in as many seasons. Harry Redknapp, for all his unwillingness to take the blame, was a miracle worker. And were it not for the Spurs’ well-honed ability to shoot themselves in the foot, in the final stretch, he would still be in charge.
Instead having brought them to a creditable fourth spot, he still managed to lose his job in the aftermath of Chelsea’s Champions League win. That should give Villas-Boas sleepless nights. Not only will he be expected to control matters within his own dominion as manager, he will also need to keep an eye out for things beyond his control.
Making matters worse for Villas-Boas is the fact that the pursuit of success at Tottenham Hotspur is not as clearly defined as it is in other clubs. With City, United and Chelsea, the domestic league is a natural priority. With Arsenal, maintaining a profit and a healthy balance sheet while qualifying for the Champions League is success enough. For Liverpool, returning to the top 4 is sufficient.
The Spurs, on the other hand, are a club that will take any measure of success given to them – be it merely qualifying for the Champions League, or winning the Barclays Premier League. That sounds like a good thing, until you realize there simply is no minimum requirement and no baseline. No safety zone, a manager should keep his eye on and hope to achieve at the minimum.
In a club that goes from being a potential title challenger to not featuring in the Champions League, within a span of a couple of months, that safety zone of a minimum requirement would’ve been of great comfort to Villas-Boas.
Villas-Boas blamed Chelsea for quitting on him
Lampard won’t be pleased Villas-Boas replaced his uncle
Instead he’s now faced with the prospect of managing his previous club’s adversaries and having to deal with the not so relishing prospect of facing his former deputy, now in charge of the defending European Champions. With Chelsea’s old guard still firmly in charge, Roberto di Matteo will find he need not do anything extraordinary to inspire his team against the Spurs. Frank Lampard, in particular, will have a couple of scores to settle against the man who nearly ended his career and then replaced his uncle across town.
From Villas-Boas’ perspective, if his new side manage to get the better of the Blues in the league playing his brand of football – the one Chelsea turned their backs against – it will be some consolation. Not a lot, but it will have to do.