Bang and Blame

After another less than fluent performance earlier today by a Tottenham side during his tenure, Head Coach Andre Villas-Boas decided to openly criticise the club’s own fans in his post-match interviews, which brought up the theme of self-entitlement – the self-entitlement of the football industry which allows leaders of businesses to believe they can blame their most loyal customers for their under-performance.

This is an arrogance virtually unique to football, although as slopping shoulders go in public life it follows hot on the heels of the coalition Government’s Energy Secretary, determined to bury his head in the sand regarding unregulated privatised companies, unsubtly suggesting the poor and elderly whose living standards have fallen might want to wear a jumper in order for them to keep escalating bills down.

Villas-Boas’ deliberately directed comments took the shine of an important win against a Hull City side set-up to frustrate and time-waste. His delivery in the interviews with both BBC and Sky suggested it was an excuse he had built up in his mind as it looked Spurs would huff-and-puff but fail to break Hull down, with a lack of guile, despite a wealth of talent and riches at his disposal. Even more worrying, he is giving his players a ready-made excuse for future failure at home.

With the last home performance, an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to a West Ham side who had previously struggled to get attempts on goals against other opponents, still fresh in the memory, he decided to unload on his own fans. The notion that a bit more noise in the stadium would suddenly transform his players into stop giving away sloppy fouls or mean they might be a bit more organised when defending set-pieces or they would start beating the first man when crossing the ball or even, like many a great past Tottenham team, pass and move to get behind a team, is laughable.

Against West Ham there were more signs that Villas-Boas struggles to adapt during games. Last season Arsene Wenger outwitted him at White Hart Lane by moving Aaron Ramsey to right-back, being visible to most in the ground except seemingly the Spurs coach; Ramsey twice got in goal-scoring opportunities before there was a change, which was, strangely, making Tottenham’s most potent player, Gareth Bale, effectively marking a right-back. That Villas-Boas change nullified Tottenham’s greatest threat, but at least stopped Ramsey running the match and the home side hung on for a game they were at one stage cruising, to win 2-1.

Earlier this season at home to Chelsea it was apparent changes made by Jose Mourinho at half-time meant players were getting in between the Spurs midfield and the back four with ease, but by the time a change was made the momentum had shifted and Chelsea had already equalized. To those who go to White Hart Lane every week seeing Spurs either hanging to leads narrower than Roy Keane’s eyes or struggling to break teams down, has become the norm since Villas-Boas came to the club. And for those who remember the entertaining Spurs sides until Gerry Francis set the club back with a methodical and negative outlook, it is frustrating to watch, considering the quality players now in the squad.

Less than three years ago Spurs were putting the European Champions to sword (when the atmosphere was rocking) before the following season embarking on a league campaign when their attacking free-flowing football was being compared to Barcelona, before some poor management from Harry Redknapp led to the surrendering of a lead that should have assured a top-three finish, if not a title challenge to the death.

After leaving him out of the opening game and withdrawing him in the second game last season Villas-Boas sold Rafa van der Vaart and consequently struggled to play any fluent football, with Gareth Bale’s performances and constant telling contributions papering over the cracks. Spurs hung on for draws at home to Norwich and West Brom despite taking the lead in both games and lost 1-0 at home to Wigan, when Villas-Boas substituted his one striker Jermain Defoe while chasing the game.

There were wins too, but hanging on against Newcastle wasn’t because of a subdued crowd, but because the coach omitted the left-back and the left footed centre-back Jan Vertongen, opting instead to go with four right-footed defenders in a team lacking balance, a mistake repeated as far as the left-back was concerned, who was the spare man, against West Ham; Zeki Fryers was ignored for the right-footed Kyle Naughton, and it wasn’t until 3-0 down, when the game was already lost ,Villas-Boas was finally brave enough to put Eric Lamela on in that position.

But there were good performances last season too, notably away to Manchester United, still at a time when not every away team were favourites, and also away at West Ham, although both games featured great individual, vital Bale goals. Now, post Bale, more creative talent has been brought in, with the strongest squad in the club’s history.

Yet it is struggling to flourish. Perhaps this is not surprising as the Head Coach is one who last season away at Manchester City clearly set out to play the long ball. Coupled with the constant use of offside it is more like Arsenal pre-Wenger than the Tottenham-way the home fans Villas Boas criticised today are used to.

Tottenham’s pattern of play has improved this season and as Cesc Fabregas inferred in his interview published in The Guardian yesterday there is a certain lack of understanding of some English football fans who groan when their team keep possession even when not going forward. However, poor decision making and misplaced passes from highly paid professionals will naturally emit the odd sound of audible frustration from fans who invest time, energy and thousands of pounds a year to support their club.

That unique brand loyalty football clubs is taken for granted by football clubs, as Villas-Boas’ arrogant comments remind us. It would be foolish for Spurs fans to let those words distract them from the fact Villas-Boas has plenty of room for improvement in his own role.


Mel Gomes is the author of the e-book Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley which documents Tottenham’s return to the European Cup. It is available to preview for free and download in full from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.

Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley

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andre villas boas criticises Spurs fans