Desmond Kane

Out of the freezer and into frying pan for AVB

Desmond Kane

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Forget last night's trip to the Arctic Circle, High Noon on Sunday is where it all goes down for Andre Villas-Boas. One way or another, Tottenham must stand and deliver against Manchester United. Or risk seeing their manager go up in flames.

AVB stood for A Very Bad week before the Portuguese martinet was forced to oversee last night's Europa League dead rubber against Tromso at the minute Alfheim Stadion in Norway.

Tottenham won 2-0 against (very) limited opposition to validate their progression to the tournament’s last 32 as unblemished, unbeaten Group K winners. It probably sounds better than it was.

Tromso are a team wallowing in the chill of relegation from Norway’s top tier only a few weeks ago, a side who had managed just five shots on target in their Europa League section before last night’s frozen get-together. Without sounding as blunt as Roberto Soldado, Tottenham should be dispensing with such lowly opposition.

The result and performance means little amid Tottenham’s grand designs. Only defeat would have gnawed at the soul of the hardy bunch of visiting fans.

In a part of the world where darkness descends over the locals in early afternoon, at least there seemed to be somewhere to hide for AVB if he needed it.

There will be no such refuge back at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Being bludgeoned 6-0 by Manchester City in Manchester can be shrugged off as a freak result, but only if you quickly atone for your sins.

A similar shredding by United in London will make AVB’s prospects of surviving beyond Monday seem fanciful.

It is not like it could not happen with West Ham United and Newcastle United recently discovering discrepancies in AVB's somewhat laboured methods by making off with three points despite never attaining greatness.

Just think. If United can ride roughshod over Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 in the Champions League, an outfit perched second behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, they certainly possess the ability to dole out a similar beating to a Tottenham side who are nothing but unconvincing.

It was not meant to be like this for AVB's Spurs at the start of the season. Not when they had sprinkled around £100m of gold dust over their squad to replace the £85m hole left by the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.

Men like the hoary old former owner Alan Sugar were yesterday emerging from the shadows to declare the AVB project a gamble that has failed.

Sugar has apparently been "dreaming" of Sir Alex Ferguson taking over. One suspects it might take more than a sweetener in his whiskey to persuade Fergie to become Tottenham manager.

But there will be other candidates circling, like lynx looking for fresh meat near Tromso, if AVB’s side become a carcass for a second Sunday in a row.

"I think it is pretty fair with the record he (Ferguson) has, he will be a pretty good manager in every club in the world,” said Villas-Boas.

Sugar was the bloke who appointed Christian Gross manager during nine years as chairman that never saw Spurs break into the Premier League’s top six. AVB will not lose too much sleep over his musings, but Sugar has a point about Tottenham's inability to penetrate tight, or not so tight, defences with any regularity. Their first goal last night was an own goal.

A phoney war in Norway is hardly preparation for combat with a suddenly battle-hardened United, who looked like genuine Premier League champions for the first time in a long time in Germany.

All Spurs attain for winning Group K is the knowledge that first spot helps you into the last 32 of a competition spoiled by its longevity with the bonus being the home return leg in the first knock-out stage. Whether AVB will be around to continue his dalliance with the Europa League in February depends on happenings at home.

Tottenham are eight points behind leaders Arsenal after 12 games. They do not want that gap to widen. At least Spurs will welcome back some of their favoured faces for the match with United. Or will they?

There is talk of Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe, a figure apparently ripe for a move to Toronto in January, starting against David Moyes’s side. The performance of Soldado last night hardly suggests AVB is risking it all.

Soldado wore his £26m price tag like a noose around his neck in Tromso. He cut a lonely figure failing to muster one shot of his own on goal, but he was not helped by an unappealing and predictable build-up that has become the hallmark of Spurs in recent times.

There was a worrying lack of urgency and vitality that will surely be needed to do away with United.

It is astonishing to think that Tottenham’s last goal from open play in the Premier League came when Soldado scored in the 2-0 win at Aston Villa on October 20 some 381 minutes ago. But then you watch them play and it is less unfathomable.

There was a fine injection of pace from Moussa Dembele on a plastic surface that rendered turning at any great speed as problematic as two minutes skinny dipping in Tromso harbour.

Dembele scored his side's second goal and should have had another moments later as he saw a shot trickle back off a post. But Spurs could have encountered early heat when the unknown Zdenek Ondrasek clipped a shot wide of goal after eluding Michael Dawson.

It is merely an observation, but Dawson seems like a player better equipped to deal with balls coming down on top of him. He was booked in the second half after being outpaced by Ondrasek, who was bundled to the ground.

His lack of movement at key moments is surely a cause for concern when inventive players run straight at him.

AVB was well wrapped up in Norway. He may need to don a suit of armour to deflect the verbal bullets coming his way if his side are trounced again this weekend.

These are important days for Tottenham. These are particularly telling times for AVB.

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