Last weekend saw Harry Redknapp face his former employees for the first time since his questionable sacking in the summer. Under Redknapp Tottenham had their best four years of Premier League football, peaking at Champions League qualification in 2010, however if Andre Vilas-Boas was to bring Europe’s elite competition back to White Hart Lane, then it’d surpass Redknapp’s achievement.
Not for one second am I suggesting ‘Arry’ didn’t do an amazing job at Spurs, that isn’t in question. When he took charge back in 2008 the club were adrift at the bottom of the league after picking up just two points from eight games and in 24 months were facing the likes of Inter Milan and Werder Bremen in the Champions League.
|AVB's Spurs rescued a late point against Manchester United on Sunday|
What am I saying is everything was in piece for Redknapp to succeed at Tottenham. He had the core of a very good squad in the form of Luka Modric, Michael Dawson, Aaron Lennon and the then underused Gareth Bale. During his tenure the transfer windows were all about who he was going to add, with none of the departures against Redknapp’s wishes. In Andre Vilas-Boas’s first transfer window he lost two world-class players in Modric and Rafael Van Der Vaart.
Vilas-Boas hardly arrived at White Hart Lane with a glowing CV in English football following his dismissal from Chelsea just seven monthsinto a five year deal. For me he arrived at Chelsea at the wrong time, and his timing at Tottenham was even worse if anything. Whoever followed Redknapp was always going to be under extreme pressure. Not many saw the former Portsmouth manager’s dismissal coming, leaving fans and pundits alike confused.
And following just two points from their opening three games, including 1-1 home draws with the likes of Norwich and West Brom, the White Hart Lane faithful were growing restless very early on. However much to his credit, Vilas-Boas has turned it around! Spurs sit fourth in the Premier League and even have a better points return from the same fixtures as last year.
|The pressure was heavily on Vilas-Boas following their 1-1 draw with Norwich|
One thing Redknapp has always had is he is loved by the media. AVB can’t say the same. Ridiculed for his job at Chelsea, and not given the respect he deserved for his amazing season with Porto. Going into the game at Old Trafford, a tabloid printed a piece suggesting there was ‘choas’ at White Hart Lane, with all the star players not liking the new manager in charge. Subsequently Tottenham went to Old Trafford and stunned the hosts winning 3-2, something Spurs haven’t done since Gary Lineker and go back in 1991. The majority of the players at the end of the game hugged their manager, and clearly want to play for the ‘gaffer’ as Gareth Bale said at the end of the game.
Despite having a return of just 0.25 points per match from their first eight games, Spurs were never going to be relegated the year ‘Arry’ took over, they had too much quality, meaning there was only one direction for them, up! Champions League qualification the very next year however was beyond their expectations, but they didn’t have to fight off the sort of quality that exists currently in the Premier League.
You could easily suggest that eight teams can realistically challenge for Champions League football, whilst only six could in the 09/10 season. The two that missed out on the top four where Manchester City and Liverpool. City weren’t the machine they are now; whilst Liverpool were on the start of their heavy slide which saw them slip from 2nd the previous season to 6th and even lower since.
With both Manchester clubs seeming to have a stranglehold on the top two, realistically there is only two spots left, and with Chelsea favourites for third, meaning it’s likely if Vilas-Boas is to qualify for the Champions League, he’ll have to do something no Spurs manager has done in Premier League history, finish above their London rivals Arsenal!
Tactically Redknapp has always been questioned, and there are signs that Vilas-Boas has already answered a few questions that were asked last year. Tottenham struggled when playing both Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermaine Defoe in a 4-4-2 last season, with Redknapp often leaving Defoe on the bench, often hinting the two couldn’t play together. Yet Spurs’ recent fun of good form (seven wins in nine over Christmas), started when AVB changed from 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2, with Defoe in particular in fantastic form this season.
Having conceded a ridiculous amount of late goals in the earlier stages of the season, Tottenham appear to have stopped that rot and are defensively much stronger than at any previous point so far, meaning they’ve given themselves a very good platform to qualify for the Champions League for only the second time, and if they are to do so, I wonder if AVB will get the credit that Redknapp did for the same achievement?