Pitchside

Levy, not AVB, the real problem at Spurs

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Of all clubs Tottenham should be most acutely aware of the fruits of patience; yet that commodity was in short supply with the news that Andre Villas-Boas had left the club in in the wake of their 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool.

Patience shown with Gareth Bale, who made a dreadful start to his Tottenham career, saw them receive a world record fee for the player. Whether that patience was a conscious decision is another matter, however - with the club said to have attempted to offload him on a couple of occasions during his early struggles.

But the point holds – knee-jerk reactions bear little fruit. The decision to either fire or fail to back Villas-Boas falls under knee-jerk criteria.

The official line is, of course, that the Portuguese’s departure was by mutual consent despite his insistence after the Liverpool match that the decision as to whether he remained in his post was not his to make. Regardless, it was a short-sightedness that expedited his departure.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is a businessman whose currency of choice is results; not patience. Reports had been emanating for some time now that Villas-Boas’s position was under threat – particularly since the damaging 6-0 defeat against Manchester City on November 24. In all likelihood, he was fired.

Semantics aside, having led Tottenham to their highest-ever Premier League points haul in his first season in charge, Villas-Boas tenure was brought to an abrupt - and premature - end having endured a tumultuous second season at the helm.

Considering he leaves the club in seventh in the most open Premier League in years, with a 100% record in cup competitions and the highest win percentage of any Spurs manager in the Premier League era, tumultuous, it could be argued, is a little strong. But gone he is.

Granted, Tottenham have not set the Premier League alight this season but there were mitigating circumstances for which Levy can be held partly accountable – and, it must be said, this is not the first time that the chairman has, in part, been culpable for a stodgy Tottenham start.

Levy’s transfer modus operandi is to deal late but this has cost the club before and has done so again. In 2012, for example, the sanction of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart’s moves to Real Madrid and Hamburg came in late August. He then, it is reported, failed to secure the signing of Joao Moutinho having baulked at paying an added €500,000 (£425,000) on a deal said to be worth €31 million (£26.2 million).

While Levy was haggling, Tottenham picked up a measly point in their opening two very winnable-games against Newcastle and West Brom. They missed out on a Champions League spot by one point last season despite the aforementioned record haul of points.

Then this year, Bale’s move to Real Madrid set in motion a complete re-balancing of the Tottenham squad. Villas-Boas was adamant in his desire to keep Bale; Levy sold. Resultantly, there were a total of seven new faces, and while some players arrived early in the window in anticipation of the Bale windfall, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Vlad Chiriches were signed on August 30. The importance of a good pre-season cannot be under-estimated.

Having lost their best player and replaced him with seven, there was always going to be a period of re-adjustment for the manager and the players – and while Tottenham’s results, and, almost more importantly, performances were not of the calibre of a club that was looking to break the top four, Villas-Boas deserved time, and support.

Premier League clubs, dizzied by money, expect instantaneous results but it is a wholly unreasonable expectation – teams are built, not bought. Tottenham bought a team over the summer but the unfortunate Villas-Boas was not afforded the time to build it.

Furthermore, it may sound counter-intuitive but the fact that Tottenham invested so heavily should have bought Villas-Boas more time and support, not less. If rumours are to believed, some of the summer’s acquisitions were not on Villas-Boas’s say so but did broadly suit his philosophy – and with the required time and support, he could have moulded the team to suit his attacking instincts.

Those signings suit the high-press coupled with ferociously quick transitions. Therefore Villas-Boas’s replacement will almost certainly need to have a similar philosophy – but how many coaches are available that suit the £100m worth of investment that Spurs made this summer? Not many. That’s what makes this departure all the more galling and baffling.

Additionally, Tottenham could have kept Bale and made a couple of additions to their already impressive squad. Admittedly, it was Bale’s will to move to Madrid but when has a player’s will dictated Tottenham’s transfer policy? It hasn’t. Modric’s didn’t - Levy denied the Croat his move to the Spanish capital in the summer of 2011 before selling a year later on his terms, but this time the chairman made a business decision when a football one was required.

If Bale had been held to his contract in the Premier League’s most transitional year then Spurs could have made genuine progress - and earned serious prize money. As it stands they are now in the throes of a serious transition.

The moral of this sorry episode may be patience is a virtue – and a rewarding one at that. However, Villas-Boas’s departure reeks of short-termism, and that short-termism has effectively ended Tottenham’s shot at capitalising on the travails at the other top four-seeking clubs.

Marcus Foley - on twitter: @mmjfoley

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