It's been a successful season but there are a few things Villas-Boas could have done better.
This not criticism of Villas-Boas.
Villas-Boas should pick a philosophy and stick by. Daniel Levy left him very short-handed. He could not have fully implemented the system he wants this season. He could, however, have implemented it to some capacity.
At the beginning of the season, we relied on blistering attacks and counter-attacks. The pace of Walker, Lennon and Bale was utilized to it's fullest. This was evident against Reading (in September) where Walker created 2 chances, one from a run to the byline and cut back which Jermain Defoe dispatched. Aaron Lennon created 4 chances, one of which was an assist. Gareth Bale created 2 chances. This is all very self-evident. Walker, Lennon and Bale created 8 out of the 14 chances we created throughout the game against Reading. At the beginning of the season, Tottenham relied heavily on wing play and pace to create chances. Another game where this was evident was versus QPr and even versus Manchester United. André said after the game versus QPR:
"In the beginning we thought that giving QPR the initiative was the best solution but it proved to be wrong.
I'm only concerned with first part of the quote. Villas-Boas deliberately wanted to hand the initiative to QPR in order to break on the counter. Certainly this is evident in the second goal scored by Jermain Defoe after Jan Vertonghen had broke out of defense and by the heat map from the game.
For most of the game, Kieron Dyer (who played RB after José Bosingwa was subbed off after 3 minutes) was instead Tottenham's half.
Excuse the watermark and quality but nevertheless what I wanted to show is shown. In the snapshot, Vertonghen receives the ball from Sandro and Kieron Dyer is caught up-field and he is behind Bale. Bale is the only one who'll win that race and it results in a goal for Defoe from a Bale shot.
To summarize; Tottenham footballing philosophy was to break with blistering pace in the early part of the season. It worked brilliant for a time until #FuckTottenham became a thing.
Circe the beginning of December teams started to be terrified by playing Tottenham. and rightfully so we were right at the beginning of the 3 month unbeaten run ( I still refuse to believe Everton happened). It correlated with a period when we started to play a Tiki Taka sort of football. It may not have been by design but it was case. Here's a list of the possession and territory stats for games around that period. (possession on the left, territory on the right
- Spurs vs. West Ham (59.4% | 51.3% )
- Spurs vs. Liverpool (51% | 51.0%)
- Spurs vs. Fulham (54.9% | 45.0%)
- Spurs vs. Everton (50.4% | 48.8%)
- Spurs vs Swansea (49.9% | 59.9%)
- Spurs vs Aston Villa (59.1% | 52.9%)
The possession figures speak for themselves. I've including the territory figures because it'll lead me seamlessly on the next point. It's evident that we made a transition mid-season to a passy-passy team. You could see it from watching the team play and from the stats back it up. We out-possessed Liverpool, the kings of possession. The heatmaps show how much we were dominating teams
Versus West Ham:
For comparison, this is Barcelona versus Rayo Vallecano, a game they won 5-0:
Every coach or manager has his own philosophy. Walter Mazzarri implemented a brilliant fast counter-attacking team at Napoli. Sam Allardyce is known for having stout defenses. Arséne Wenger is known for buying young players and teaching them to be petulant, whining divers. Pep Guardiola is known for Tiki Taka. Even Tony Pulis has a philosophy. I can't say I know what André Villas-Boas' philosophy. André does and he must implement it over the summer. No more dilly-dallying, André. I don't want it to happen that we have a manager at the helm whose philosophy can be summed up in 5 words; "Fucking Run Around A Bit."
The Ramsey/Carroll axiom
One thing that was noticeable about Arsenal run of 10 games post the North London Derby was, not that the referees give wrapped every second game for them, but that Aaron Ramsey was key to it. Ramsey may not make bursting like Judaism's Lost Messiah Giacomo or he may not split a defense like Messiah Giacomo but he recycles possession and he is always ready to receive the ball. He never shies away from the ball. He along with Arteta were able to suck the life out of the opposition.
Ramsey sounds a lot like a players (actually, 2 players) we have on our roster. Thomas James Carroll and Lewis Gareth Bale Holtby. We can learn from what Wenger did with Arsenal this season, I hate to have to say that, but football is nowhere for sentimentality. Against Fulham, Ramsey received attempted 129 passes, 45% of Arsenal's total passes. He completed 114 passes, 52% of Arsenal total completed. I don't think it's too much to solely attribute the win in that bat-shit performance to Aaron Ramsey.
Dribblers like Lennon, Dembele and Parker are great in a counter-attacking system. However when you have teams packing their own half, you need a passers or two. It's almost a meme on the site, Scott Parker was a square peg in a round hole. He was a player unsuited to trying to be a metronomic passer. Tom Carroll and Lewis Holtby on the other hand are too players who can pass and well. Holtby is metronomic, he'll be our Arteta and Carroll is incisive, he'll be our Ramsey.
Short passing may be infuriating, scratch that. Short passing is infuriating. If you have the ball, the opposition can't score, the longer you have the ball, the more likely you are to score. it's a basic premise, axiomatic, in fact. And we can learn from it.
This has been discussed at length. I don't want to go over covered ground. It's too important to leave out however.
The great Sir Matt Busby once said:
If they are good enough, they are old enough
That statement is very true. Brian Clough and Peter Taylor then made a career out of trusting youth. Arsenal's whole brand was built upon that. It was very clear to see that Parker was hurting our system and hurting the team in general. It was also clear to see that Carroll, Holtby or even Livermore were best beside Dembele. Why then did Villas-Boas not play them? God knows. All I know is they should have been played.
Utilize the squad
Does Jake Livermore even play for us anymore? It isn't like he's all that bad. At the very least, he won't be actively hurting the team like Parker. Carroll, yep.
We all love Jan Vertonghen but he has made some horrific errors. This stems from mental tiredness. From the first Basle game to the Wigan, I count 6 goals he was culpable for. Stocker goals in the first leg. Both Everton goals. Dragović's goal in the second leg and both Wigan goals. Villas-Boas ran Vertonghen into the ground. He should have utilized Caulker more because Vertonghen's fatigue was evident in many games. I don't really have much to add to this. Villas-Boas needs to consider every player in the squad and not forget
Yo, André, cheer up
This season has been a 'what if' season. What if Sandro hadn't been injured? What if Adebayor had shown up? What if we hadn't been decimated by injuries? What if Mike Jones and co. didn't exist? What if, what if, what if....
None of these went our way, they all went the way of the foe. Napoleon Bonaparte once said;
I prefer lucky generals
I could not agree more. At the end of the day, without a shred of luck, you will fail. How many matches can you name that Tottenham were truly lucky to come away with points? Wigan away is the only one that comes to mind and even then, we only got one more point than we deserved.
Don't get too down, Spurs fans, there's next season and the season after. Retribution is best served with pain on the side. We have a young squad and one that has England at it's core. With some wise signings and keeping hold of key players, the sky is the limit
Have your say in the comments, what could Villas-Boas have done better during the season gone by?
And I apologize if the overall theme of this was a bit negative.