Learning to love anti-AVB bias
Did any watch that ancient dinosaur of a football programme on BBC the other week? You know, the one where overpaid ex-professional footballers are given heavily edited highlights of all the matches that have been played that day and use them to reaffirm their preconceptions and prejudices about players, teams, clubs and managers, all delivered with a liberal dose of cliché and catchphrases.
Because I am unable to get to White Hard Lane to watch games, it wasn`t until live internet streaming enabled me to watch just about every game in full that I realised just how poor some of the punditry and commentary in the media is.
Again and again, they repeat the same old mantras about the same players: Alan Hansen suggesting that Benoit Assou-Ekotto is a liability in defence when he has been one of the most consistently excellent players for Tottenham for at least three season (albeit with the occasional lapse); everyone suggesting that Harry Redknapp is some sort of genius wheeler-dealer in the transfer market, when, of all his achievements at Tottenham, transfers were one of the areas that let him down; and then there is Jermain Defoe who everybody, apart from people who actually watch Spurs every week, seems to suggest is one of the most deadly poachers/finishers in the Premier League. Jermain Defoe is a good finisher and has an excellent attitude. His application and effort - not to mention his goals - are a credit to him and of great value to the team but he is not, and never will be, a deadly finisher. He scores lots of goals but he misses a lot too. He is good but not great. And when the ball is laid on plate for him by one of our excellent midfielders the ball is not "only going to finish in one place". It is just as likely to be scuffed, miss the target or hit straight at the goalkeeper as it is to end up in the back of the net.
And of course there is AVB, media darling extraordinaire, who can simply do no wrong. OK, so he`s let them down by not falling flat on his face at Tottenham; he masterminded a stunning victory away at Old Trafford; he`s brought the best out of Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Sandro; he has successfully converted Defoe into a lone striker (which no other manager has managed to do); he has skilfully managed a depleted squad, having lost three of our best ever players in the summer and several more through injury, without ever once complaining; he`s integrated youth players into the team and kept all the senior players onside; he`s taken the Europa and Capital One cups seriously, qualifying for the knockout stages of the former while maintaining strong challenge for a Champions League place. When problems have emerged - such as that of conceding late goals - instead of mouthing clichés and deflecting blame he has analysed the data and taken steps to rectify the problem. Most disappointingly, he has not been arrogant, naïve or intransigent tactically as so many had hoped, confidently switching formations to suit the occasion and the players available.
He has also established his authority as manager at the same time as integrating himself as part of a team. Indeed, it is noticeable and refreshing how often he refers to "we" rather than "they" or "I".
Although it would be foolish to believe that he would not have his head turned should his success continue and one of Europe`s giants come calling, there is a feeling that he has bought into the Spurs philosophy and Daniel Levy`s vision for the future. He appears grateful for the chance to prove himself and seems eager to move forward with the club as part of a long-term project.
So what did Dion Dublin reply on Match of the Day when Gary Lineker tried to coax a little praise out of him for what AVB has achieved so far at Spurs?
"With the squad of players he`s got, he should be where he is."
No doubt that is exactly what would have been said about his predecessor in the same position.
Last weekend, I happened to flick over to Gillette Soccer Saturday before the QPR game on Sky Sports when Jeff Stelling asked Charlie Nicholas, "As far as Villas-Boas is concerned, what's Villas Boas changed there since Harry? Has he changed much?"
"No,no, no. Because he inherited a good batch - a very good batch, actually. So he didn't really need to change much, Jeff. But I think slowly he has just adapted his personality ... You know, 'cos I think Harry would be more in line with... Go on, entertain me, Gareth Bale, Defoe - who didn't always play under Harry - but, you know, go and entertain me, this is the way I like to see games... Whereas there`s maybe a bit more structure been put into the team through Villas Boas. But when you inherit such a good batch of players like he did, why would you even think about changing when you can tweak it here and there. You know and he's done that but I think Tottenham are going along as well as what they were last season. Nothing's changed dramatically, so err.... And it's still a decent squad."
Spot on, Charlie. The squad has hardly changed from last season, has it? I mean, apart from Van Der Vaart, Modric, Parker, Kaboul, King, Friedel, Assou-Ekotto, and a fit and available Adebayor, the first team team and results are basically the same as they were for the second-half of last season, aren`t they? OK, so the majority of the starting eleven and the systems have changed, but I can`t think of anything else.
And even though Good Old Harry (never Redknapp, of course) was an absolute for guiding Spurs to fourth in the Premier League, any replacement who couldn`t at least match that after losing four or five of last season`s most influential players would be a complete dope, wouldn`t he?
But, do you know what? For all that, instead of being annoyed, I`m actually starting to enjoy the anti-AVB bias, and almost hoping that it continues. Not only is it revealing, and increasingly amusing, I also think it may actually start to help Spurs. The players seem to like and respect AVB, and most of the Spurs fans seem to appreciate what a good job he has done so far under a huge amount of pressure. So, if the critics what to keep throwing bottles from their privileged seats, it may actually help the manager, players and fans to form a tighter bond. A siege mentality has never harmed certain other clubs, after all.
Maybe Vital Spurs should run a competition to find the most biased anti-AVB punditry of the season. Post accurate quotations or links below.
Written by One Cent Rob