Without question, Tottenham Hotspur have improved dramatically since the departure of Andre Villas Boas in mid-December. Prior to AVB’s exit, Spurs had only managed to score 15 goals in their opening 16 league games, and now have 22 goals in 12 matches since former midfielder Tim Sherwood assumed the reigns.
This remarkable turnaround is largely due to Sherwood’s reintroduction of striker Emmanuel Adebayor to the first-team fold. In early February the forward laid bare the reasons for his lengthy exclusion from the first team setup under Villas-Boas, recalling private and public criticism of the manager’s tactics.
Naturally, the manager runs the team and has the final say, and players should adhere to the manager’s decision – something Alex Ferguson in particular was steadfast in in his tenure at Manchester United. As such, Villas-Boas did not take too kindly to questions being raised about his methods and summarily excluded Adebayor from the first team before the league season even kicked off.
Spurs’ abrupt change in form since the Togolese’s reintroduction may suggest that managers should also be sufficiently open-minded to at least consider players’ opinions should their own strategies fail to yield results.
The fact is Tim Sherwood took over the Spurs helm with a clean-slate policy and performed more than admirably, as the aforementioned goal-scoring statistics show. Comparatively speaking, Sherwood has claimed 8 wins from his 12 league outings in charge, weighing against AVB’s record of 8 victories from 15 games.
By no means am I suggesting that AVB is a poor football manager, indeed he bettered Jose Mourinho’s league record at FC Porto and would certainly not have secured managerial positions at two of English football’s most admired clubs if he was a bad manager, but I do think he may well still be employed at Spurs had he not been so impatient with Adebayor.
It was a brave decision to put his foot down and exclude a proven goal scorer in the Togolese forward, and play a misfiring Roberto Soldado in his stead, and it was clearly a decision born from pride. Adebayor had not started a single match under Villas Boas before his departure, and it may well have been the decision that ultimately cost the manager his position in North London.
Since his return to first-team action, Adebayor has struck the back of the net 10 times in fourteen outings and provided goal assists on three additional occasions since December 22nd. Largely as a result of this, Tim Sherwood has thus far succeeded under pressure where many had expected failure given his relative inexperience in management.
Characterful displays in victories over Manchester United, Newcastle, Everton, and especially on the European stage against Dnipro, provide evidence of a rejuvenated team under Sherwood’s stewardship.
Last week’s Europa League victory in particular, after losing 1-0 in the Ukraine to a former Spurs manager in Juande Ramos – after all the criticism leveled at Spurs about his time there, shows the kind of spirit running through the team at the moment. For the uninitiated, Juande Ramos issued a damning indictment against Tottenham Hotspur and executive chairman Daniel Levy ahead of Dnipro’s Europa League match against Spurs. In it Ramos claimed that in his time at Spurs, players were fat and unfit in spite of his best efforts, and questioned Levy’s running of the club, though perhaps not in so-many words.
Such comments may have dented Spurs’ confidence going into the two-leg match, but Sherwood, as good managers are capable of, rallied his squad and outperformed Dnipro to win 3-1 at home and claim a 3-2 aggregate victory over the two legs.
In respect to the Premier League, Spurs are unlikely to secure entry to next season’s Champions League, given the form of the teams above them, rather than their own, but one has to wonder where they might have been had they shown this level of desire to perform earlier in the season.
In fact, Spurs have also vastly improved defensively in the wake of AVB’s departure, conceding only 12 goals in as many league games since Sherwood succeeded Villas-Boas, where the latter conceded 21 goals in 16 league matches.
I am not one to advocate the firing and hiring of managers in a game of “managers’ musical chairs”, but in the contrasting cases of Andre Villas-Boas at Spurs and David Moyes at Manchester United: Spurs have been vindicated by their decision to replace the Portuguese man, while Man United will receive no such recompense until the same is done with Moyes.
Then again, I’ve been wrong before …