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Losing Tactics

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.

Andre Villas Boas has pretty intractable way of doing things. Fans of Chelsea never warmed to his cold calculation, or his increasingly gruff and incomprehensible tone. Spurs fans, obviously tired of the fairly superficial glamour brought by Harry Redknapp, embraced Villas-Boas and his brand of tactical nuance. But following their humiliating defeat at the hands of City, Spurs’ fans must seriously doubt the legitimacy of Villas Boas and the extent to which Bale-mania concealed his deficiencies as a manager.

Firstly, losing Gareth Bale would clearly affect any side in the Premier League; there is no doubt of that. But it was hardly as if Spurs spent the transfer window in a Manchester United-esque hibernation. They spent over one hundred million pounds on a range of exotic talent, allowing the likes of Scott Parker and Tom Huddlestone to saunter out the door. Erik Lamela looks utterly lost playing in some vague, Bale-esque role just behind the striker. Roberto Soldado has scored only once from open play, while Jermaine Defoe rots away in the relatively insignificant Europa League. Paulinho started like a veritable house on fire but has since failed to give the same authoritative performances in the league as he has at international level.

But who is really to blame for such a flagrant misuse of resources? Villas-Boas’ overly defensive approach has to be the key issue plaguing a group of clearly talented players. He seems more interested in keeping a compact tactical formation then actually attempting to win football games. City’s decimation of Spurs was merely a punctuation point in a season littered by a dependence on overt analytical posturing. What good is it dominating the midfield area when your striker is ill-equipped to deal with life alone up front? Soldado is your stereotypical poacher looking to pick up the driftwood; he is not the dynamic Swiss Army Knife that the role requires him to be.

Andros Townsend has looked so impressive this season because he at least seems to value the principle of attack. His pace and direct running threatens to inject some life into a Spurs team seemingly composed of wax dummies. Lamela is robotic while Sigurdsson and Eriksen overcomplicate to the point of absurdity. His players seem so shackled by pre-conceived roles that they have lost the essential core of playing winning football. Kyle Walker clearly labors under the misconception that he is the next Cristiano Ronaldo, and his attacking prowess tends to overshadow very real defensive limitations. How ironic that a team supposedly built on the backbone of defensive solidity has a right back who doesn’t defend.

Sunday’s demolition exposed new dimensions of naiveté in Villas-Boas and his humbled players. It seemed as if he felt it was possible that Spurs could go toe-to-toe with the City side. Having Lennon, Holtby and Lamela playing behind Soldado clearly indicated his efforts to try and augment their flagging attacking threat. But surely he should have known that it was not the line-up necessary to contain the swift counter-attacking threat posed by City? Sandro was made to look pseudo-heroic because he was the only Spurs player willing to track back consistently. Villas-Boas is often lauded as a Napoleonic tactician, yet he persistently makes dramatic errors in both his selection and team set-ups.

After their horrid home defeat to West Ham, Villas-Boas decided to have a go at the muted atmosphere at White Hart Lane. Now after this debacle he has stated that the players should be ashamed of themselves. Perhaps it is about time that he actually acknowledges his own complicity in what has become a massively disappointing season for Spurs. No wonder Villas-Boas was so desperate to keep the messianic Bale; his swashbuckling brilliance afforded him the opportunity to minimize scrutiny of his own managerial performance. Without the peerless contribution of Bale we are starting to see the same Villas-Boas we saw at Chelsea; he is a taciturn and coolly analytical thinker with no real sense for the intuitive, intangible aspects that help win football matches.

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