Andre Villas-Boas has been appointed as the new manager of Tottenham Hotspur, just seven weeks after Harry Redknapp guided them to fourth place in the Premier League.
The 34-year-old’s appointment will create some concern at White Hart Lane following his disastrous tenure at west London rivals Chelsea last season where he was fired after just 27 league games in charge. The former Porto manager failed to convince the fans, the players or the owner that he was the right man to deliver them success. In order to avoid a repeat of the same fate with Spurs, here are five issues he must deal with at White Hart Lane..
1. Win Over The Dressing Room And The Supporters
At no stage during his spell at Chelsea did Villas-Boas got the full support of the dressing room. The former Porto manager’s age counted against him. He was 33 when he took over at Stamford Bridge, younger than senior players such as Frank Lampard and barely older than the captain John Terry. With no playing career and only a few years’ coaching experience, he lacked the dignity of older managers and when results didn’t go their way, the protesting voices grew. In the end, Abramovich directly blamed these critics within the squad for the premature end to the Villas-Boas’ tenure. But after a number of humiliating defeats, including the 3-1 defeat against Napoli that left them on the brink of exiting the Champions League, the fans had run out of patience as well.
At Spurs, Villas-Boas must create an immediate bond with his squad. This should be easier than at Chelsea with fewer big egos in the dressing room and he has the advantage of a full pre-season to shape his plans. A strong start in the league will banish the disappointment of Spurs missing out on Champions League qualification and help win over the fans, who would probably have wanted a more experienced manager.
2. Sort Out Luka Modric’s Future
An immediate priority will be to sort out the future of Luka Modric, who is reportedly wanted by Real Madrid and also is a long-term target of Manchester United. The Croatia playmaker, who was an integral part of Tottenham’s success under former manager Harry Redknapp, was promised a new deal last summer after rejected Chelsea’s approach, but he has yet to commit his future to the club. He has made no secret of his desire to play Champions League football again and even though he was not at his best last season, he is still one of the most gifted midfielders in the Premier League.
With Modric not inspired by the prospect of playing yet another season in the Europa League, Villas-Boas must waste no time in persuading the most influencial players in his squad to have faith in his plans. If he still wants to leave, then Spurs should let him leave and cash in on him. A fee of £30m-£40m for the former Dinamo Zagreb playmaker who turns 27 soon, would be great business.
3. Strengthen The Defence
To compete for the Premier League or for a place in the Champions League next season, Villas-Boas needs to ensure his team have a very strong defence. That means going to the transfer market. The first priority will be to finalise a deal with Ajax for their skipper Jan Vertonghen. Negotiations for the Belgian international have dragged on all summer and a stage has come that he is already back in pre-season training with the Dutch club. But with most of the hard work completed, Villas-Boas should be able to quickly seal the deal.
Doubts remains over the future of Ledley King. He has become a hero in the eyes of many Tottenham fans after 14 years of loyal service to the club. But the question is how often will he feature in the forthcoming new season. His well-publicised chronic knee problems caught up with him towards the end of last season which may force him into retirement, where he is expected to be offered a coaching role. Such is his influence, if King breaks down again, it will leave a massive hole in the back line – despite the impressive form of Younes Kaboul and the return of Michael Dawson from injury. Vedran Corluka has already departed White Hart Lane this summer, joining Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow for £6m, but the need for defensive acquisitions is less urgent than bringing in new faces up front.
4. Bloster The Strikeforce
Following the departure of Louis Saha this summer and Emmanuel Adebayour’s return to his parent club Manchester City, Spurs have only one recognised striker in their squad – Jermain Defoe. The former Portsmouth forward scored 17 club goals last season – despite spending much time on the bench – but didn’t feature in England’s UEFA EURO 2012 campaign beyoung a 15 minute cameo against France.
Therefore, Villas-Boas will have to immediately dip into the transfer market to buy at least two strikers and his cause will be helped by the transfer budget expected to be given to him by Daniel Levy. Adebayor was a hit last season scoring 18 goals in 37 games but his wages, reported to be around £175,000 a week, have been an obvious stumbling block. If Tottenham can reach some sort of agreement with the former Arsenal man then they should. If that is not possible then another hitman must be pursued. Villas-Boas reportedly has his sights on the 22-year-old Chelsea frontman Daniel Sturridge, with a £10m bid being lined up but Roberto Di Matteo is keen to hang on to the player. Hulk would also be a perfect fit but he appears to be on his way to Chelsea. Brazil striker Leandro Damiao and Marseille’s Loic Remy are possible alternatives.
5. Get Rid Of The Deadwood
Although Andre Villas-Boas will want a big squad that will help him challenge for silverwares on all fronts, there are plenty players increasing the wage bill who could leave. Vedran Corluka, Niko Kranjcar, Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen have already left, but there are still plenty of others who could be discarded. Giovani Dos Santos, Heurelho Gomes, Sebastien Bassong, David Bentley, Jermaine Jenas and a couple of more reserves players were all out of the first-team picture under Harry Redknapp. Clearing them off the wage bill would free up plenty of money for new signings.