AVB’s weird but not-so-wonderful ways

September 14, 2012 in Premier League

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In January 2010, after the resignation of Owen Coyle and with the immediate priority of keeping the club in the Premier League, the Burnley hierarchy stood face-to-face with a fresh-looking young chap, apparently keen to express his desire to take over from Bolton-bound Coyle. With PowerPoint in tow and ideas brewing like a mythical potion in his complex brain, Andre Villas-Boas sought to impress his potential employers with strategy, strategy and yet more strategy. Unfortunately, for all AVB’s enterprise, his method of seduction did nothing but confuse and dumfound the Burnley executives. AVB was out the door before he could say “solidificate”.

Nearly three years on and nothing seems to have changed. Despite leading Porto to various successes in his maiden season in charge, preceding spells with Chelsea and now Tottenham Hotspur have done nothing but consolidate the belief that the Portuguese hasn’t got a bleeding clue what he’s doing. It seems all his big words and outlandish formulae are confusing even himself. “Tommy Docherty used to say he never said anything to his players that his milkman wouldn’t understand”, Burnley Chief Executive Paul Fletcher said after AVB’s interview. “I don’t think any milkman would fathom the meaning of a lot of Andre’s presentation.”

Whether or not the cavity of knowledge and understanding was too much for the Burnley board members we’ll never know, though such a theory might explain why Burnley rejected him and Chelsea didn’t. His success with Porto in between will, of course, have a big say too, but had the 34-year old approached a meeting with Roman Abramovich in the same manner and the same stage in his career, would he have been successful? There would have been more of a chance, certainly. Without being disrespectful to Mr. Fletcher and his colleagues at Burnley, the two club’s priorities and criteria when selecting a manager are vastly different. Nevertheless, AVB is still causing players and onlookers to scratch their heads.

After causing the likes of Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole to question his tactics during his short tenure at Stamford Bridge, the madness has failed to halt during his time with Spurs. After shipping out a number of key players and failing to replace them with any more than a couple of unproven stop-gaps, Villas-Boas raised eyebrows. Moreover, having completed the signing of France captain Hugo Lloris from Lyon, many thought he would fit straight in as Spurs’ new no.1. But AVB had other ideas. Instead, Lloris, a £12m capture, was immediately told he’d be sitting on the bench for the foreseeable future. Needless to say the highly rated ’keeper wasn’t impressed at being named as 42-year old Brad Friedel’s understudy and a public admission of discontent followed. As if rattling Daniel Levy’s cage wasn’t enough.

Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric joined the exodus this summer

Levy, of course, subtly voiced his concerns at the volume of players using the exit door when he stood in the way of the deals taking Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone away from the Lane. At least, that’s how I see it. Whether you agree with AVB’s bold approach or not, it is more vivid than Boris Johnson’s hair that it’s not working for the players. There’s a time and a place for causing a stir. When trying to repair a damaged reputation and attempting to continue the fantastic work of the man you have succeeded, that is not the time. White Hart Lane, home to the oh so flippant, is not the place. As Tottenham seek their first win of the season in the Premier League, the jury remains out of the building and far down the street on AVB’s mentality and ability to succeed in what can be both the most beautiful and the most gruesome league in world football. The future is bleak for Andre’s giant cauldron of strategy.