Throughout Tottenham Hotspur's ill-fated drubbing at the hands of fellow Champions League hopefuls Liverpool, Andre Villas-Boas (AVB) and Daniel Levy cut dejected faces as Tottenham were consigned to their third drubbing of the season. AVB in particular had the look of a desperate man at the end of his tether looking for a miracle.
Tottenham's woes on the field stemmed from the lethargic manner Tottenham passed the ball around, in effect sterilizing the attacking capabilities Tottenham possess. Long before this became a running gag for people to attack AVB with, I mentioned back October and again in November what AVB needed to do to unleash the beast Tottenham do undoubtedly possess. In typical AVB fashion he stubbornly stuck to his rigid formation 100% and has been made to pay with his his job.
Beyond the pitch, AVB got into frequent arguments that were unnecessary and lost him brownie points with important figures within the club, the fans and the media. His first skirmish was with exiled left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Emmanuel Adebayor who seemed to thoroughly enjoy AVB (and by association their team mates) get the beating of their lives (is it a coincidence their fingers equal five?).
"After Spurs fans were subjected to another performance where Tottenham could not get out of second gear,Villas Boas criticised the fans for creating a negative atmosphere. Whilst it is true negativity only brings more negativity, in this case you cannot blame the Tottenham fans. They lost their best player, replaced him with another that has the ability to recreate Bale's performances and even surpass them given time. Yet, they have been forced to watch a bunch of players who they paid a fortune for, get in each others way and are only doing the bare minimum expected."
"Earlier this week Villas Boas put Lamela's inactivity down to Lamela trying to get to grips with the language, well I have three things to say about that:
- 1) Arsenal fans should sing 'boring boring Tottenham' from now on
- 2) Get used to more boos in the meantime
*quote taken from Scoop on the City
- 3) Carlos Tevez"
Since joining the club in 2001, Levy has taken Tottenham from a perennial mid-table team who from time to time flirted with relegation, to a team that is a constant thorn to the Champions League places. The progress Tottenham have made under Levy is undeniable, however, they have plateaued in recent years and the only person to blame for that is Levy. Indeed, only once have Tottenham qualified for the Champions League and they have yet to have a sustained tilt at the title. Tottenham fans need to be aware Levy's chopping and changing of managers, nefarious technical directors and continuous selling of best players is strikingly similar to former Champions League underdogs: Leeds United and Newcastle United.
Of course one could argue with the historical advantage Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United enjoy, the trio will always be around barring catastrophe. In fact even during catastrophe they remain competitive: Arsenal have always finished above Tottenham since Wenger took over, this despite Arsenal going through their worst spell and Tottenham going through their best. Similarly, it has only taken Liverpool four years to get over the tumultuous reign of Hicks and Gillete; by comparison, yesteryear's version of Tottenham (Leeds United and Newcastle) dropped from Champions League participation to relegation in a matter of years. Right now Manchester United are in a long overdue catastrophic run, even if they do not return to the heights Sir Alex Ferguson took them to, they will most likely remain competitive.
Add into the mix the bottomless pitfalls of money Chelsea and Manchester City have at their disposal, it is arguably harder than ever to get into the top four. Yet, Tottenham have managed that feat twice (although Chelsea rendered the last time redundant). Indeed, comparisons with Leeds and Newcastle are slightly insulting to Tottenham. Tottenham have acquired a squad better than any Newcastle had under Sir Bobby Robson and they are far more stable financially than Leeds ever were. So why are they still floundering around, wishing for fourth instead of aspiring for first?
Remember Joao Moutinho? The Portuguese deep-lying playmaker Tottenham so crave. Well last season AVB moved heaven and earth to get his former player to White Hart Lane. According to The Telegraph the deal broke down over 500k. It did not seem to matter so much when Bale rescued Tottenham so many times, but now his individual talents have gone, Tottenham as a team have been left exposed. They have no one left to create chances for the team. This season Moutinho has been the creative force behind Monaco's title push.
This differs from Moussa Dembele who despite having an even higher pass percentage rate and dribbling skills, just does not have the creative eye to make chances for others. In fact, his high pass success rate is down to playing simple square balls most of the time.
Moutinho would have been the perfect conduit for Tottenham to base their attacks from. From a glance it appears the obvious was not so obvious to AVB. However, the summer signings Tottenham made were not down to AVB but rather Franco Baldini - appointed by Levy.
Sources from The Telegraph suggested Andre Villas Boas' targets were more akin to what they needed:
"Villas-Boas was devastated not to acquire Moutinho and believed that he struggled to get any of the players he wanted signed by Spurs. It is a long and perhaps, at times, unrealistic list but included Oscar, Fernandinho, Willian, Leandro Damiao, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Fabio Coentrao, Hulk and David Villa. The latter was even taken on a tour of Spurs’ impressive new training ground but decided to join Atletico Madrid."
*Quote taken from The Telegraph
Unlike Paulinho who has been hit and miss, Mkhitaryan has been a creative force for Dortmund. In a style similar to Kaka in his peak, he uses his pace to saunter from the middle to cut up teams. He is Dortmund's top assist-er with five so far - aside from Townsend (who has terrible decision making), Tottenham do not have this level of unpredictability.
AVB is a highly capable manager, Levy messed up what could have been a good partnership. Though as Tottenham fans will know, this is not the first time Levy has messed up a good equilibrium. When Martin Jol was in charge, he found his authority undermined by another Director of Football, this time in the shape of much maligned Damien Comolli. Comolli was responsible for the signings of Darren Bent, Ricardo Rocha, David Bentley, Gilberto and Gomes all who were comprehensive flops.
Furthermore, just like the sales of Bale and Modric, Levy briefly turned Spurs into a feeder club for Manchester United under Jol and Juande Ramos: Michael Carrick in 2006 and Dimitar Berbatov in 2008 both left for Old Trafford. The sale of these players reversed all the good Martin Jol did initially and it took a few years until Redknapp got Tottenham up and running again.
Will Tottenham fall to the wayside like Leeds and Newcastle? No. It is too incomprehensible that a team as prudent as Tottenham can fall away that badly. However, with the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool getting their acts together, Everton improving and Chelsea and Man City free to spend as they wish, Tottenham have missed a boat to solidify themselves the way Manchester United did when Liverpool fell off their perch; the way Arsenal did when Manchester United were desperate for European domination; the way Chelsea and Manchester City did when Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United were (and in United's case still are) regressing.
What do Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have in common? They have all established ways in which to run their club and it is no surprise it lead to long spells of domination for three out of the four teams. As Liverpool have recently found out: establishing a method of buying players, selling players, appointing managers and a steady football philosophy goes a long way.
If care is not taken, Tottenham could easily find themselves back in mid-table when they were caught between the different styles of Martin Jol and Juande Ramos.
*Statistics courtesy of WhoScored