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Under Siege: How AVB has Weathered the Media Storm to Get it "Stop On"

The media are on AVB's back but in spite of their relentless criticism, or perhaps because of it, AVB's turning this Tottenham side into a formidable one.

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Shaun Botterill - Getty Images

In the pre-match build up to the United fixture, rumors swirled that Tottenham's players were miserable and mutinous and prepared to tar and feather their horrible, non-Redknappian manager. By now, you've probably seen the article in the Sun that spawned these "rumors," but here it is, in part, anyway:

Players complained that AVB’s gruelling double training sessions — sometimes staged just 24 hours before a match — left them too tired to perform in Premier League matches this season.

And Spurs stars have also hit out at their manager’s negative style of football, telling him they would prefer to play a more attacking system. AVB has scrapped the double training sessions after listening to his squad.


But AVB is said to have been left reeling by the mutiny, which reportedly follows bust-ups with some of the club’s old guard behind the scenes.

The Portuguese boss, who took over in July, ruthlessly axed chief scout Ian Broomfield earlier this month.

AVB’s row with Sherwood has also caused concern.


The situation has echoes of the way AVB infuriated the Chelsea squad last season before he was sacked.

The fantasists at The Sun cobbled this together from gossamer and moonbeams in yet another in the long line of anti-AVB articles the British tabloid press has been so fond of since he took over the squad in July.

And if results keep panning out like they did on Saturday, that's absolutely fine by me.

First of all, in case any of you are concerned by this utter tripe, let me put your minds at ease: basically none of this is true. According to journalist Duncan Castles, the two-a-days were a training method used (not uncommonly in the Premier League) to build fitness during the pre-season, and haven't been seen since.

Oh, and there's no mutiny.

And if you don't believe Kyle Walker, Gareth Bale also denied being unhappy with the manager. Gylfi Sigurdsson did too. Steven Caulker denied it. Even Tim Sherwood says he's happy.

(Incidentally, Ian Broomfield was in fact let go. But if anyone thinks for one second that anyone other than Daniel Levy is hiring and firing people at Tottenham Hotspur you clearly aren't too familiar with the club.)

So now that we can all agree that none of these problems actually exist, what do we learn from all this? That some corners of the media maybe would love to see AVB fail? Of course they would. But what does this mean for the club?

One of AVB's biggest criticisms from his time at Chelsea and one of supporters' major concerns when he took over at Tottenham Hotspur was how he dealt with the media. Last year he frequently acted defensive and petulant in interviews, and the press delighted in crucifying him for it. The players turned against him, the fans turned against him, and eventually Uncle Roman turned against him too.

But now? He's matured but, well, let's face it -- he still acts a little defensive with the press.

But this time it might be working. Take this interview regarding Hugo Lloris.

He's defensive and a little petulant, but he totally handles this guy's line of inane questioning. There is no Lloris controversy, and AVB calmly lays the smack down telling him so.

So why is this working at Tottenham when it didn't work at Chelsea? Because there's nothing actually wrong at Tottenham. We have yet to lose since the opening day of the season. Since the transfer window closed and all the proper pieces have been at the club, AVB has gradually molded this team into a cohesive and stylish football-playing unit.

Look again at that list of players above who have publicly supported the manager in the press. This is a team that's behind Project Sexy Villas-Boas and, especially after this weekend, they can see that it's working. Dembele and Vertonghen have bedded seamlessly into the team. Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe look like players reborn. Sandro is a one man wrecking crew. Andre Villas-Boas has a plan, and his plan is working.

AVB is a famously meticulous tactician. After fucking running around a bit under Harry, many predicted the players would balk at such a structured playing style. But contrary to all media reports, the players appear to have embraced AVB's tactical missives. Even players who some thought lacked the discipline or playing style to fit into an AVB side. A few subtle moments from this weekend illustrate this pretty well.

As we've all learned over the years, Jermain Defoe is a selfish, me-first player who never picks his head up to pass and is always looking to score. But on Saturday Jermain Defoe managed to be involved in all three goals without scoring a single one of them. On the first two, his off the ball runs dragged Johnny Evans out of position to create space in front of goal. On the third, he dragged Rio Ferdinand wide, held the ball up under pressure, and played a beautiful through ball to the onrushing Gareth Bale.

This is not how Jermain Defoe plays football. This is a Jermain Defoe who has listened to his coach and followed his instructions.

Aaron Lennon doesn't shoot, and even when he accidentally does he probably meant to cross the ball instead. But on one of his first opportunities with the ball at his feet, he charged directly towards Rio Ferdinand in the center of the box and fired off a shot. AVB clearly targeted Ferdinand's lack of pace as the weak point in the United defense and told the team to exploit it. It's no coincidence that all three of our goals game from either running at him or overpowering him. Even goal-shy Lennon put aside his own natural instincts to follow the plan.

Sandro often acts like a headless Godzilla-chicken destroying anyone in his path. But on Saturday, Steven Caulker went on a 30 yard run up field to try and create something after dishing the ball to Bale. Nobody passed him the ball back, and it didn't really have any impact on the game. But when he made that run, Sandro calmly slotted in at center back until Caulker returned to his position. It was a little thing, but a sure sign that tactical discipline is a lesson these players are learning.

And one lesson Andre Villas-Boas appears to have learned from his Portuguese predecessor at Stamford Bridge is how to get the team behind you when everyone else is against you. Jose Mourinho was famous for instilling a siege mentality at the club. He wasn't just defensive with the press, he often straight up antagonized them. And in doing so he fostered an atmosphere where his team feel like it was them against the world.

While Jose's sieges were often of his own making, AVB was under attack before he even met his squad. But he's weathering the assault. The team has come together and are playing for their coach and for each other. In the face of the media's onslaught, calm behind the walls of Hotspur Way, AVB appears to be building the foundations of something with the potential to be great.

By all means, let the siege continue.