Andre Villas Boas goes, Franco Baldini stays. That’s football I suppose or football as we know it today. There is a good case for saying that Villas Boas had lost his way, but how responsible was he for the players on whom last summer Spurs spent £100 million, fully £14 million more than they got from Real Madrid for the irreplaceable Gareth Bale?
It seems plain enough from his somewhat reticent responses that those purchases were by no means wholly chosen by Villas Boas. Yet Villas Boas goes – don’t be too sorry for him, between Spurs and Chelsea he has now pocketed some £16 million in compensation and need never work again – while Franco Baldini stays. Although several other ancillary foreigners are on their way.
In Italy, for example, the club manager never ultimately calls the shots; that privilege goes to Baldini figures, though there too it is the manager who carries the can. This said, there is little doubt that tactically and in his selection Villas Boas hardly made the best of what he had and by the time he was sacked he seemed in the vernacular to have lost the dressing room.
Playing so high a line up field when his defenders by and large hadn’t the pace to recover was a manifestly risky policy. Keeping just one attacker up front was stubbornly unproductive. Yet had Bale stayed at White Hart Lane, what a different picture there would now be! It was his cornucopia of goals which inspired and saved Tottenham last season.
An ancient football question, can one man make a team? In this case the answer might well be yes.
Across London meanwhile Arsene Wenger seems unassailable. Not a single trophy for so many years even if season after season the Gunners qualify for the European Champions Cup.
Not the least embarrassing feature of the 6-3 thrashing by Manchester City was the fact that three of those goals came after City’s outstanding marksman, Sergio Aguero, had left the field seriously injured after a few minutes of the second half.
Arsenal’s supposedly solid defence was largely cut to pieces. Taking off Flamini deprived it of what scant protection it had. Which reminds one, not least as his name has recently come up as a player who could be sought by Premiership clubs – of the way the Gunners allowed Alexandre Song to depart for Barcelona. Yes, he wanted to go; but why? The allure of a great club with a great team is obvious enough, but how was Song, resolute in defence and often a shrewd passer of the ball going to find space in a midfield inspired by Xavi, Iniesta and company!
In the event, Song has had little opportunity at Barca which might have been predicted. Arsenal use the talented Arteta in defensive midfield but this is not surely his natural role.
Meanwhile, Steve Coppell stays in the shadows. Having walked away from modest Crawley Town after its actual manager was sacked, Steve now turns up as director of football at a once powerful Portsmouth club struggling desperately in the bottom division of the League. Though all credit to their loyal and generous supporters who have kept it afloat after all those dubious former owners had left it improvident.
As one, has said before. Coppell, worked such successes at Reading and was once such an excellent England outside right, has somehow since those Reading days drifted into relative obscurity. Goodness knows what he or anybody else can achieve at Portsmouth. But at least he is still, however marginally, working in football.