Crunch match at the beginning of a crunch period for Villas-Boas
SOCCER ANGLES:Andre Villas-Boas takes his Spurs side to meet their old boss today, writes MICHAEL WALKER
He could annoy you, Andre Villas-Boas. If you were one of his players, that could definitely be the case. If you are Harry Redknapp at Loftus Road this lunchtime, it will certainly be possible.
Observing Villas-Boas on the touchline is to watch a study in micro-management. He is obsessive about detail, gesturing at players to move inches rather than yards.
A fraction this way. Yes, that’s better. Of course he would never say he does not trust players, but you would not have to be paranoid to take it that way.
But then “AVB” is part of a new breed of coaches for whom spontaneity seems incompatible with their “methodology”. It is the sort of new-school jargon, and approach, a man like Redknapp sneers at. You can understand why, because it is a view that sneers itself, at the likes of supposedly off-the-cuff managers such as Redknapp, who might just be a bit sharper in his football intuition and accumulated knowledge than he is often given credit for.
That said, Villas-Boas will arrive at Loftus Road as manager-of-the-month having guided Tottenham to four wins and a draw in their six Premier League games in December. He is not doing a bad job at White Hart Lane, and the form is good, but his performance deserves to be evaluated over the piece, not just after a sound month.
As Redknapp would be entitled to say, AVB inherited a pretty decent squad last summer, one that would be in the Champions League but for Chelsea winning the European Cup, once AVB had gone.
What Villas-Boas is doing though, is resuscitating his reputation post-Chelsea. It needs it. At Stamford Bridge his pedantic style of management played a part in his removal after only nine months. There were other factors, of course, not least Roman Abramovich.
Villas-Boas appeared to have been charged by Abramovich with gradually removing the Jose Mourinho old guard at the club but was decreed to have taken to that task with too much haste and not enough humanity.
Much of this was said to have occurred at the club’s Cobham training ground, where Villas-Boas was deemed to be aloof, monosyllabic. This was a contrast with Carlo Ancelotti.
The peculiarity was Villas-Boas knew Chelsea from the inside having been there with Mourinho.
By Chelsea’s demanding standards, AVB looked a good fit. At games, meanwhile, crouching on the touchline, coiled and anxious, the new, young manager of an experienced, old team became a magnetic distraction.
What AVB attracted, though, was criticism – from the stands, the boardroom and, again, from the dressingroom. It’s not a winning combination.
The mood within the group soured – which was not unpredictable considering what he was expected to oversee – but it was he who was jettisoned. The mood lightened. Chelsea rode a horse called luck all the way to a startling night in Munich.
AVB went to ground. He was only 34 last March, when his sacking came, but this was a serious blow to the status he built at Porto.
Could he resurface in English football, and quickly? It was unlikely, and not at Tottenham Hotspur where Redknapp was busy ensuring Spurs would finish in the top four, two places and 13 points above Chelsea.