Greg Stobart: Why Spurs had to sack Villas-Boas

The manager ran out of excuses after Tottenham's 5-0 loss to Liverpool, but the club's hierarchy, including chairman Daniel Levy, must take its share of the blame.
As the television cameras focused on Daniel Levy in the director's box at White Hart Lane on Sunday, you could almost sense the Tottenham chairman’s finger hovering over the button as he watched Andre Villas-Boas like a hawk.

At that time, Spurs were being thumped 5-0 by Liverpool. On Monday morning, the club confirmed that the Portuguese had been sacked as head coach following a hastily arranged board meeting.

The humiliation came three weeks after an equally embarrassing 6-0 defeat at Manchester City while Spurs were also humbled by a 3-0 home loss to rival West Ham in October. With the lack of attacking flair — Spurs have scored just 15 league goals despite 100 million pounds of summer spending — and some woeful defensive displays, the writing was on the wall for Villas-Boas.

The question asked by White Hart Lane insiders — is Villas-Boas a genius or a fraud? — has been answered by the board.

Tottenham has been up just five points at home and failed to win any of its matches against the top eight, picking up just three points from a possible 21.

For the Tottenham board, the decision had to be made now, while the club still has a chance of reaching its goal of a top four finish and qualification for next season’s Champions League. Spurs are, somehow, still five points off fourth place but look as if they have been left behind by the likes of Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal this season.

Ultimately, Villas-Boas has now failed at Chelsea and Tottenham, and in both cases was under-qualified for such prestigious roles in the first place. And Levy must take responsibility for his role in appointing Villas-Boas in 2012 after sacking a popular manager in Harry Redknapp, who had just led Spurs to a fourth-place finish in the Premier League.

Villas-Boas was Levy’s appointment, the man to take the club to the next level. But he leaves the club with a squad that lacks an identity and has none of the star quality he inherited in a group that included Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart.

Villas-Boas was ill-judged in picking fights with the media, players and members of the board, particularly over transfers. He knew of the club’s transfer strategy when he took the job, yet complained when it became clear he did not have full control over signings.

Franco Baldini was brought in as technical director to aid with transfers, with Villas-Boas’ full backing, but within weeks there were rumors coming out of the club that the men were clashing.

Villas-Boas has failed to integrate the pricey players signed in the summer, with 30 million pound winger Erik Lamela barely given a chance and 26 million pound striker Roberto Soldado having scored just one league goal in open play.

A win percentage of 53.7 compares favorably with his predecessors — and is, in fact, the best of any Spurs manager since 1899 — but he has individual moments of brilliance from Bale last season to thank for that.

It was the nature of the results and performances that did for Villas-Boas.

"He has an outstanding reputation for his technical knowledge of the game and for creating well-organized teams capable of playing football in an attractive and attacking style," said Levy on the day of Villas-Boas’ appointment.

But he didn’t deliver. Nor did he match his promise of bringing players through the youth system and making the most of the club’s state-of-the-art, 40 million pound training center.

And Villas-Boas leaves with his reputation, certainly in England, completely in tatters.

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