Debate AVB The Manager, Not The Man

Spurs' poor form as increased the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas, and rightly so. But Matt Stanger feels the discussion is unfairly focused on his character and not his management...

Last Updated: 27/11/13 at 12:50 Post Comment

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Andre Villas-Boas has made mistakes this season. Those mistakes are not a) crouching on his haunches b) no longer crouching on his haunches c) blaming his team for the 6-0 defeat to Manchester City or d) not being Harry Redknapp. The first of those is an irrelevant idiosyncrasy, the third did not happen and the fourth, without an enormous amount of surgery, is impossible.

His mistakes are of a tactical nature in the understated task of integrating seven new players into a team that has lost its star. But you will not read a great deal about that. You will not read about Spurs sitting just two points behind fourth despite back-to-back defeats and a dismal scoring record. Instead, you will be told that Villas-Boas is 'beyond intense', 'a clipboard manager' (whatever that means) and 'always looking for someone to carry the can'.

You will be reminded that Spurs spent £107million and about the joke that they sold Elvis and signed The Beatles - the same joke that journalists relished in the summer before sharpening to a point in the autumn. Villas-Boas' veneer is certainly cracking and his stubbornness - such as his reaction to Hugo Lloris' concussion - merits discussion. But even that has been exaggerated. How exactly does it undermine his claim to continue in his current position?

The main problem facing Villas-Boas (apart from those surgery costs) is that Spurs are big enough to be the back-page lead - especially when words such as 'ashamed' and 'embarrassed' are thrown around - but not big enough for reporters to watch every week. That is why Andros Townsend is referred to as a 'symbolic pick' for England despite his less-than-impressive displays this season and why calls for Jermain Defoe to start in place of Roberto Soldado ignore the striker's inept performances against West Ham and Hull.

It is why Villas-Boas can lead Spurs to their highest-ever points total in the Premier League and yet be accused of being 'finally found out' just 12 games into the new campaign. The club is a honeypot when things go wrong, but when things go right - as they did for much of last season - they attract far less attention. Who wants to know Redknapp's thoughts when Spurs are achieving in his absence?

It is reminiscent of all those Stuart Broad columns in the summer and the moral outrage from 'chief sportswriters' after he refused to walk in the first Test against Australia. There is a lack of understanding that engenders shallow debate on Villas-Boas' management and, when the pressure increases - as it has over a stuttering start to the campaign - the depth of coverage far outweighs the detail. The only tactical issue widely discussed following Spurs' thrashing at City was Erik Lamela's selection on the left when he previously played on the right at Roma, as though that was the reason for shipping six goals.

Instead, the real focus has been on Villas-Boas blaming his players for Spurs' worst defeat since 1996, which would not necessarily be an awful thing even if it were true. While it has been reported that the manager said his players should be 'ashamed', he in fact said "we have to be ashamed of a result like this" and "it's a reality we have to face". He could not have done more to stress that he was talking about the group.

But the focus remains on perceived errors rather than actual faults. It is a no-win situation for a manager who has failed to ingratiate himself to the fourth estate after he touched the untouchables - Redknapp and Chelsea's old guard. Villas-Boas is the swotty weirdo with the notepad and the clipboard sitting in the corner of the old boys' club. He's the oddball autodidact when his predecessor has a long story to serialise. It seems this tale will never be about Villas-Boas the football manager, but rather the Portuguese traitor whose character flaws shine brighter than his success.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

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