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Why Spurs can’t afford to sack AVB

It’s doubtful that Wolverhampton Wanderers’ dreadful 2011/12 campaign will be cited as an example to learn from on a regular basis – it was an astonishingly bad campaign that saw the club relegated long before the end of the season.

Andre Villas-Boas

However, the manner they sacked Mick McCarthy serves as an interesting case study. After a 5-1 thrashing at home to West Bromwich Albion, the Wolves board decided it was time for a change – the club had won just once in the previous eleven matches. McCarthy was dismissed, and the club started looking for a replacement.

When they started the search, however, they realised there weren’t any suitable candidates for the vacancy: no realistic targets appeared to be an upgrade on McCarthy. Eventually, his assistant Terry Connor took charge for the final 13 matches. Wolves won none, drew four, and lost nine. McCarthy may have been struggling, but the lack of a superior alternative meant he should have remained in his position.

When deciding whether to sack their current coach, clubs must consider the identity of his potential replacement. Reports that Daniel Levy is considering dismissing Andre Villas-Boas this week appear remarkably premature, and when assessing the ‘Next Tottenham manager‘ market, it’s difficult to see where they’d find an improvement.

The favourite is Swansea City’s Michael Laudrup – best-priced 6/1 at BetVictor – and while the Dane has unquestionably done a fine job in Wales, the leap to a club with loftier expectations might prove difficult. Laudrup has always seemed an amazingly relaxed, rather casual football manager – and has previously dismissed links with bigger clubs, as if his managerial ambitions are limited.

Laudrup also has a rather inconsistent track record as coach – he did well with Getafe, a club similar in stature to Swansea, but failed at Spartak Moscow when the pressure was much more intense. It would be a significant gamble to appoint Laudrup primarily based on a Capital One Cup victory.

Second favourite is Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle, 8/1 at BetVictor, who has recently enhanced his reputation because of his popularity as a pundit. Hoddle is certainly a talented coach: his appreciation of talented technical players is plain to see, and his understanding of the game is clearly impressive, but his previous spell at Tottenham was unsuccessful, and question marks remain about his ability to deal with players on a personal level.

Hoddle hasn’t managed for over seven years since an underwhelming period at Wolves, and Daniel Levy surely wouldn’t appoint someone simply because they once played for Tottenham with great distinction.

Third-favourite Jurgen Klinsmann is a similar candidate, favoured mainly for his history at the club. Clearly an intelligent manager with interesting ideas, particularly in terms of physical preparation, it’s unthinkable that the German would leave the United States job before next summer’s World Cup.

Paddy Power have Roberto Mancini at 14/1, but there were a variety of question marks about his performance at Manchester City, despite his title victory, while 16/1 Jurgen Klopp isn’t realistic at this stage – he doesn’t want to leave Dortmund, and could do better than Tottenham anyway.

It’s difficult to find a favourable name on the list. Some, like Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc, wouldn’t leave their current job. Others, like Gianfranco Zola and Gus Poyet, are already employed and haven’t done anything to suggest they deserve a chance at a club like Spurs.

In all likelihood, Levy would appoint another relatively young, studious coach. Someone like Frank De Boer of Ajax would be the obvious option – he’s a talented manager with a bright future in the game – but again, has he achieved anything more than Villas-Boas at this point? Villas-Boas did what De Boer has done at Ajax, succeeded with the biggest club in a weak league, playing some fantastic football along the way. But Villas-Boas also succeeded in Europe, something De Boer has yet to achieve, and the fact he led Spurs to their highest-ever Premier League points tally last season shouldn’t be forgotten, either.

There are certainly concerns about Spurs’ current performance – the 6-0 defeat to Manchester City was an extreme example of their current problems, but many of their displays this season have been completely underwhelming, even in victory. Only the 2-0 win over Norwich at White Hart Lane has been remotely convincing, and it’s difficult to understand what Villas-Boas’ intended strategy is – whether he wants Spurs to play possession football, or a much more direct approach.

Still, it would be hasty to call time on the Villas-Boas project at such an early stage, especially considering the huge transformation in Spurs’ squad over the summer. If Laudrup and Hoddle are the most likely alternatives, it doesn’t make sense to dismiss Villas-Boas.

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November 6th, 2018 by Simon A

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