Andre Villas-Boas: Bale sale the root of Tottenham sacking
The nightmare played out in front of Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy at White Hart Lane on Sunday was simply too grim for manager Andre Villas-Boas to survive - and so it proved as he was sacked only 16 games into the Premier League season.
But it was the scale of the gap in style and quality between Spurs and Liverpool, with the
recent 6-0 loss at Manchester City
no doubt still fresh in Levy's mind, that was the final straw for this demanding chairman.
Timeline: AVB at Spurs
4 March 2012:
Relieved of his duties as manager of Chelsea.
Appointed manager of Tottenham on a three-year contract, replacing Harry Redknapp.
Loses first game in charge, the opening fixture of the season, 2-1 away at Newcastle.
Gets first win of the season, beating Reading 3-1
Becomes the first Tottenham manager to win at Old Trafford in over 23 years with a 3-2 win over Manchester United
21 February 2013:
Spurs reach the last 16 of the Europa League following a 1-1 draw away to Lyon after winning the first leg 2-1
Tottenham failed to qualify for the Champions League after Arsenal finished one point ahead of their rivals to take fourth place
Tottenham qualify for the Europa League after an aggregate 8-0 win over Dinamo Tibilsi
After a mixed start to the season Tottenham conceded three goals in either half to lose away to Manchester City
Despite being unbeaten in the previous five games a 5-0 home loss to Liverpool would be Andre Villas Boas final game in charge
Andre Villas Boas is sacked by Tottenham Hotspur
Villas-Boas lost his match winner, the game-changer - but many observers, myself included, wondered if the coach, Levy and highly-regarded technical director Franco Baldini had pulled off the seemingly impossible trick of parting with your best player while at the same time raising optimism and expectations.
Yes Bale had gone, but Villas-Boas had been handed every penny to supposedly shape a more rounded squad, less reliant on the deeds of one undoubtedly world-class player.
Instead, in a season of disappointment and mishap, the feelgood factor of the summer has been replaced by questions surrounding the quality of the raft of players brought in with the Bale money, and an increasing sense of the inevitable culminating in Monday's parting of the ways.
Villas-Boas will be desperately wounded by the decision, even more so as he was on a mission to prove he was a victim of circumstance in his previous Premier League existence at Chelsea, when player power was used as a mitigating factor as owner Roman Abramovich
cut his reign short after nine months
in March 2012.
Many regarded Villas-Boas as fortunate to be handed such a high-profile appointment so soon after the Chelsea experience, but Levy felt there was an outstanding young manager waiting to get out despite the failure of Stamford Bridge.
As with his Chelsea exit,
there will be plenty of sympathy for Villas-Boas after such an unceremonious departure. It may be used as the latest example of the game's short-termism that he was clearing his desk despite a Premier League position that hardly counted as a catastrophe.
The big problem for Villas-Boas, and presumably the key factor in Levy's deliberations, was two such heavy and high-profile beatings by City and Liverpool, two clubs he would have expected Spurs to be rivalling this season. The loss of confidence was complete and Levy acted.
There was a hint of irony that Villas-Boas's departure was announced just as the
last 16 draw for the Champions League
was starting. This is where Levy expects Spurs to be and he clearly feels the Portuguese is not the man to take them there.
The clouds started to gather over Villas-Boas following that beating at Manchester City, a performance he
admitted left him feeling "ashamed"
and led to other frustrations about those summer signings and a sterile playing style bubbling to the surface among Spurs supporters.
The cracks had appeared and there were echoes of
those closing days at Chelsea
when Villas-Boas adopted a siege mentality and reacted very publicly to the scrutiny he was being placed under by the media.
Villas-Boas unhappy with negative atmosphere
But the key factor has been the failure of those brought in to act as replacements for Bale to even come close to replicating the excitement and defining moments produced by the man who scored 26 goals last season.
And those who, after his failure at Chelsea, still harboured doubts about Villas-Boas may have evidence to prove that Bale's presence last season was merely providing a spectacular cover for the shortcomings that undermined him in west London.
Levy ensured Villas-Boas was handed the money as Bale went out - but there is little on offer so far to suggest the majority of it was spent wisely.
appointment of Baldini,
a close confidante of former England coach Fabio Capello, as technical director suggests he will have been instrumental in these deals - but will he actually be charged with any of the responsibility for their failure?
The Italian must surely take his share of the blame if Levy has deemed the summer spending a failure.
He felt Redknapp could do no more at Spurs. There was an undoubted element of gamble in his appointment of Villas-Boas after Chelsea - and the decision to part so swiftly this season means the gamble has failed.
He was also questioned for allowing goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to continue in the goalless draw at Everton in November after he
sustained a head injury in a collision
with Romelu Lukaku. A week later he was forced to leave Lloris out of the home defeat against Newcastle United after he underwent an "impact test" that raised concerns among medical staff.
All these peripheral matters could have been reduced to side issues had results measured up - but Levy decided to pull the plug after watching Liverpool expose Spurs in all departments on Sunday.
Plenty will feel Villas-Boas deserved longer with the season still at such an early stage. The reality is that time, as Villas-Boas will know only too well after his time at Chelsea, is not a commodity that waits for a manager who has had £100m to spend and with expectations high.
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