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Spurs chairman has cut his losses but should also pick up a share of the bill

There was an acute sense of deja vu about the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas.

The early statistics had been promising for Andre Villas-Boas but inconsistent league form and baffling decisions would cost him his job. Picture: Getty Images
The early statistics had been promising for Andre Villas-Boas but inconsistent league form and baffling decisions would cost him his job. Picture: Getty Images

The Portuguese arrived at Tottenham Hotspur as the replacement for man of the people Harry Redknapp with a bruised reputation, having suffered the wrath of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea. According to the bookish Villas-Boas, this was a calumny visited upon him for two reasons: an unwillingness by the Russian to back his vision fully and the recalcitrance of a dressing room that for too long had been used to getting its own way.

Yet, for Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman who has now parted company with his sixth manager since 2001, these were not obstacles in his desire to replace Redknapp, with whom he had grown weary over repeated embarrassing public pronouncements.

The warning signs for Levy, though, should not merely have come from Villas-Boas' toxic tenure at Stamford Bridge. For Spurs fans, there was a more immediate comparison to be made in the shape of Villas-Boas' predecessor but one - Juande Ramos. The Spaniard was ushered into White Hart Lane in the dead of night with surreptitious negotiations securing his release from Sevilla, with whom he had won consecutive UEFA Cups, as a replacement for Martin Jol.

Ramos was charismatic and had a reputation for attacking football. He identified Michael Dawson, hitherto a regular, as a weak link, often omitting the defender because of his obvious discomfort on the ball. So far, so AVB.

In Ramos' first season, he won the Carling Cup and was feted for the way he set his team up. A spending spree approaching £60m meant Tottenham entered the 2008/2009 season with optimism at sky-high levels. What they got was a shambles, the club's worst start to a season resulting in the Spaniard being hoist on his own petard.

And so to Villas-Boas. He said he had learned many lessons, that his failures at Chelsea had not been of his making and that he would deal with people differently. Yet Dawson was ostracised quickly, players appeared confused and it became clear there was an over-reliance on Gareth Bale. For the detractors, this latter point was a stick to beat AVB with, yet it ignored the reality that it was the coach who moved the player into a more central position to extract greater efficiency from him.

The statistics were favourable even if the on-field product was not as pretty as it had been under Redknapp. Villas-Boas secured Tottenham's best points total in the Premier League era with 72. In all but two seasons since the inception of four qualifying places in the Champions League, it would have been enough to guarantee participation in the competition. In the process, he had helped to turn Bale into a world star.

At the season's end, the club hierarchy met on the yacht of Joe Lewis, the Spurs owner, and discussed how the club could secure the Champions League place to help attract a naming rights partner to help fund the Northumberland Development Project, Levy's vision for a new stadium. But as with most of Levy's tenure, there was always the sense of Spurs taking one step forward and two back. Bale's sale to Real Madrid was one of slow release. The backdrop to his exit was a recruitment drive somewhere in the region of £110m. It was all so typically Levy, according to fans who had witnessed the departures of Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric, without the necessary reinvestment being made that would turn Spurs into title contenders. Yet they still made a profit last summer.

Nevertheless, despite the arrival of seven players who had no Premier League experience, 6-0 and 5-0 defeats - by Manchester City and Liverpool respectively - do not fit the narrative of owners who want their club to finish in the top four.

It has been suggested Villas-Boas did not want those players. Indeed, he hinted at as much following Sunday's defeat by Liverpool. Yet it was he who championed the arrival of sporting director Franco Baldini; welcoming it for the very reason that he would have greater say over arrivals. However, it seems the pair had fallen out of late, notably over Erik Lamela's lack of playing time.

As Spurs were being drawn against Dnipro in the Europa League knockout stages and were preparing for a League Cup quarter-final against West Ham United tomorrow, it seemed curious that they should be looking for their fourth manager in five years, yet inconsistent league results and some baffling decisions were Villas-Boas' undoing.

Dawson, out of form and unsuited to the system, was an ever present and there was little flexibility over the use of inverted wingers, a tactic that was not working. A tactical mastermind should be able to work around such inconveniences. He should also be able to learn from his mistakes, but the high line which failed so miserably against City was exposed dreadfully again on Sunday.

He could surely attest, though, that he is not the only one to have made major blunders at Spurs lately. Not least the man who appointed him in the first place.

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