The reputation of Andre Villas-Boas was built in no small part by winning the Europa League with Porto in his first full season as a manager, yet as his Tottenham side approach their latest match in the competition, the Portuguese boss finds himself with more questions than answers at this early stage of his tenure.
That sensational treble Villas-Boas won with Porto 18 months ago, and in such style, is beginning to look like an awful long time ago now and as his Spurs side continue to promise more than they are delivering, there are signs that the natives are just beginning to get restless.
I am the first to admit I am a fan of AVB and I think despite his obvious mistakes at Chelsea, he was harshly treated under difficult circumstances, but his time at White Hart Lane so far has been underwhelming and there seems to be an uneasiness around the club that is palpable, without being toxic.
On the face of it, everything is going reasonably well: Tottenham are level on points with the all-important fourth place in the Premier League and are still in contention for Europa League qualification. But there doesn’t seem to be many positive vibes coming out of the camp and whether it is the goalkeeping situation (with Brad Friedel and Hugo Lloris in and out of the team), the puzzling and continued absence of Emmanuel Adebayor or the poor atmosphere around the Lane, there doesn’t seem to be much positivity surrounding Spurs.
Losing 1-0 at home to Wigan Athletic is never a good result no matter who you are, but the manner in which Tottenham were beaten seems to have set alarm bells ringing. Friedel said the players ‘needed to have a good, long hard look in the mirror’ after Spurs failed to win at home for the fifth time in seven matches and their run now stands at just one win in five.
Their next home match is against the relative minnows of Slovenian side Maribor in their Group J (J!?) match in the Europa League and for all their struggles at home, Spurs have to be winning this one.
They are 1/4 with bwin to do that, with the draw at 21/4 and the away win priced up at 8/1, and apart from the quality gap, Tottenham should be taking maximum points because they desperately need to.
Spurs are unbeaten in the Europa League, but they also haven’t won and three consecutive draws leaves them in third behind Lazio and Maribor and one point ahead of Panathinaikos.
But what is most disappointing about that record is that AVB is taking the tournament seriously. Whereas Liverpool and Newcastle United have used the competition to blood youngsters and give fringe players a run-out, Villas-Boas has made his intentions clear by picking strong sides for all of their three group games.
If he picks another one on Thursday, and there is no suggestion that he won’t, Spurs should win. Maribor might be top of their domestic league, but this was a side beaten home and away by Birmingham City last season and Tottenham should have far, far too much.
But 1/4 is no price and instead I’ll take the evens that Spurs win a match that sees under 3.5 goals. Six of Tottenham’s matches at White Hart Lane have had three goals or less and Maribor like to keep things tight on their travels, as a narrow 1-0 loss to Lazio shows.
With the Slovenians sure to show little ambition, it could be a frustrating night for Spurs but they should eventually get the job done and I think that the evens on a home win with three goals or less looks a knocking bet.