When Daniel Levy decided back in June that Harry Redknapp era needed to come to an early end and that he should replace him with André Villas-Boas, he was making a calculated decision. Unseating a manager with a proven track record only to replace him with one who’s relatively unproven was always going to have its pitfalls. He knew what he was getting himself into.
Villas-Boas’ arrival meant wide scale changes were in store. The playing style would change, personnel would change, and — to an extent — the club’s philosophy would change. New players with a different style would arrive, while some familiar faces would depart. New ways of thinking would be required, and it would understandably take time to implement changes of such magnitude. Experience would also be sacrificed. Redknapp’s 29 years in management is only six less than Villas-Boas has even been alive. Harry’s Portuguese successor would still be learning his craft, and he should be expected to make some mistakes from time to time. Setbacks would undoubtedly occur as the new manager, the players and the club feel one another out. Transitions, after all, are rarely completely smooth.
And without a doubt, certain segments of the support would take great offense to the move. Dismissing a man who hoisted Tottenham from the ashes of the short-lived Juande Ramos era to the lofty heights of the Champions League quarterfinals and two top four finishes would ruffle a few supporters’ feathers. The same discontent would arise when his the man named to replace him had “failed” with a Chelsea side that won the Champions League.
Knowing all of that before hand, why in the name of Bill Nicholson would Levy pull the trigger on sacking Redknapp and hiring AVB in the first place?
His reasoning was actually pretty straightforward: for Tottenham Hotspur to reach its long-term goals of competing for trophies on a regular basis, some short-term risks would have to be taken. Levy thought long and hard about his options and decided that, despite all of the risks, this was the best way to move the club forward.
The funny part? I would have written the above passages even if Spurs had wiped the floor with Chelsea Saturday instead of the exact opposite happening. Had they won their fifth straight Premier League match, I would have wanted this post to temper expectations and remind everyone that there would be setbacks yet to come. The bipolar nature of the support means that the same lot of Spurs fans who would be talking all sorts of nonsense about challenging for the title/being favorites for the Europa League/yadda yadda yadda are most likely the same group that are calling for AVB’s head despite having only suffered his second loss all season. Both lines of logic are premature, and only time and the results will tell how that will turn out.
Yet despite the loss, the signs progress are quite clear.
Prior to Saturday’s setback against Chelsea — who were undoubtedly the best side we’ve faced so far this season — Villas-Boas had guided Spurs to four wins in a row and was unbeaten in six, results that Redknapp wasn’t anywhere near able to produce in the first half of 2012. He’s wisely promoted Steven Caulker into the starting XI (a move ‘Arry also would have been quite adverse to) and has gotten the most out of new signing “Super Jan” Vertonghen. Oh yeah, and André also managed the small task of coming away from Old Trafford with all three points for the first time in my lifetime.
Let’s be clear, though still finding their feet themselves, Chelsea are a great side and have quickly morphed into a potentially devastating side. So there’s no shame in conceding points to them, especially this early into the transitional period under AVB. And even though the score line wasn’t exactly flattering, there were bright spots within the match that show what he’s doing for the club.
Even though the lead was eventually squandered, the young manager was able to rally the troops at half time and inspire them to come from behind and tilt the game on its head. They were able to do one better at QPR, where they reversed an early deficit and held on to win. Rallies of that type were another rare occurrence under Redknapp. They attacked remarkably well despite Gareth Bale missing the match to become a father and the increasingly vital Moussa Dembélé through injury. And after 8 matches, Spurs are still sitting fifth in the table… ahead of Arsenal too, if that makes you feel any better.
So things could be worse. Which means we all need to calm down, quit spazzing and realize the position in which Tottenham currently find themselves: a transition period.
Instead, let’s just hope that Villas-Boas is learning his lessons… primarily that we can NOT sit back and park the bus once we take the lead against top sides. In both matches, Chelsea and United both pulverized Spurs once they relented in attack and decided to try to defend their leads.
AVB’s clearly a smart guy, so I’m confident he is taking lessons from those results. Give him time. Give Spurs time. Just like Levy calculated, we’re already on our way to bigger and better things.