Andre Villas-Boas is no longer the manager of Tottenham Hotspur. He was fired unceremoniously, with the club issuing a two-sentence statement on the matter. One of the sentences was "We shall make a further announcement in due course."
If you've been following the club's season, you'll know that the writing has been on the wall for a long time.
On November 26, The Guardian ran a story that stated Villas-Boas was on the verge of losing his job. David Hytner cited many reasons for his superiors' dissatisfaction with his job performance, but the most important pieces of the post centered around accusations that he had lost the dressing room due to his comments to the media and general approach to management.
Villas-Boas said that the City loss ought to have provoked shame in the players, which went down badly in the dressing room ... His comments after the City defeat were badly received in the dressing room and it reinforced the impression that Villas-Boas might be happy to talk up the collective when results are good but he will revert to blaming others in times of adversity.
The criticism from the dressing room is that his highly scientific approach overlooks the human dimension, which is ironic, given that is one of his buzz phrases. The players, technically, ought to have been ashamed after City but, on a human level, would that soundbite not have been better kept behind closed doors? Other managers might have accepted the blame in public, albeit as a diversionary tactic.
After Hytner published that article, I ran a commentary on it, specifically focusing on the above allegations.
If all of the dressing room unrest stories are bogus, he's probably not going to get fired. It's hard to believe that Levy, Lewis and the rest of the club's executives would be so quick to sack a manager for purely results-based failures when it's impossible to justify hiring him if immediate results were the club's top priority.
If he does go, I assume there's going to be a Chelsea-like burn book reading in which all the players talk about how he made them feel like garbage and was a dressing room cancer. It's the only reason I can think of for canning a young manager who was hired to be part of a long-term project more than he was hired to oversee said project. But, of course, we have no way of knowing whether or not that's true.
Three weeks later, now that Villas-Boas has been fired, I'm feeling similarly, though I'm siding with the club a bit more than I thought I would. Even though Sunday's result was the third truly embarrassing defeat of the year for Tottenham, I still find it hard to believe that Villas-Boas was only fired because the results he achieved on the pitch were not satisfactory, especially given the lack of clear top-notch successors. We should find out whether or not that was the case over the course of the next week.
But then again, if it was just about results? Well, we can't blame the board like we could have after the Manchester United draw. Sacking him then might have been rash, but sacking him after the Liverpool match? Well, slightly different. Our own MCofA illustrated why on Twitter today.
What got AVB fired in one chart. The defense, his calling card, collapsed from excellent to below average. pic.twitter.com/UjtOIrjFXj— MCofA (@MC_of_A) December 16, 2013
Still, a sacking purely based on results while Spurs are five points out of fourth would strike me as harsh, especially for a manager who has won 54 percent of his matches.
Since the West Ham game, when folks first started calling for AVB's head, I've held the opinion that it's not worth firing him purely based on results unless we're legitimately in a relegation battle. This is simply because I don't believe that there are viable candidates that will be able to significantly improve on Spurs' results so far this season, even given the drubbing at the hands of Liverpool. The international managers we've been linked to have jobs through July, the likes of Frank de Boer, Lucien Favre, Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel probably won't leave their posts mid-season and just about anyone else we could hire is substandard.
Unless de Boer, Tuchel or a similar manager harbors a strong desire to move on from their current club that we don't know about, the best we can hope for is a great stopgap. The best we can hope for in the summer is our Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson.
I have a confession: I have never believed in Andre Villas-Boas. I wanted to like him, I wanted to be proven wrong and I never once rooted for him to fail. I rooted for him to create something better than his Porto team, to integrate new players into his ideal system and to guide Tottenham to Champions League and a hopeful cup victory, proving all of his haters -- myself included -- wrong. I wanted to believe that he was not the manager who created a toxic atmosphere at Chelsea or the manager who made very questionable tactical decisions in his first three months as Spurs manager, but the manager who won a treble with Porto and who was run out by a dysfunctional Chelsea side full of the types of big egos that don't exist at Spurs.
Instead, my gut feeling about him was right, and that's not something to gloat about. I hate that I was right. I really wanted to be proven wrong so that I could enjoy a decade-long era of Spurs greatness, anchored by an extremely popular young manager who brought talented youngsters up through the ranks and won trophies while playing a beautiful brand of football. It wasn't to be.
He's gone, and now we're left to wait for lots of things. We haven't gotten AVB's side of the story yet, nor have any of the players been able to speak about him honestly. He could say a lot of things that make us think twice about the people who run our club, while the players could come out and say things about Villas-Boas that make us wonder how we ever hired him in the first place. We could see a permanent hire made this week, we could see a future boss named shortly or we could see Tim Sherwood given every chance to earn the job on a full-time basis.
Without that information about what exactly went wrong, when it went wrong and what our future holds, I'm just sad. The manager who so many supporters thought was set to be the perfect backbone of a long-term project wasn't the right fit for the job, and that sucks. Loving Villas-Boas and getting behind him in defiance of those who attacked his credentials felt good to a lot of people.
It sucks that fans won't be able to feel that anymore, but Villas-Boas was sacked because we can do better. If not immediately, at least next season. Whether or not Andre Villas-Boas was fired prematurely, it's obvious that, perhaps for non-footballing reasons or perhaps for a wide variety of explicitly footballing reasons, he was not the best man for the job.
We don't know if Spurs will find a better fit, but we know a better fit is out there. And for that reason, I'm choosing to stand behind the decision. Tchau, Andre.