Managers are always keen to protect their players in front of the glare of the world’s unforgiving media no matter what has happened on the pitch, but there is quite a fine line between doing the natural, fatherly shielding routine and coming across like a deluded nutcase currently inhabiting another planet from the rest of us.
Last Saturday, Andre Villas-Boas crossed that line so comfortably that he is probably still floating around in a galaxy far, far away somewhere – a galaxy that thinks even when you get beat 5-2 in a local derby that you can come out in your post-match interviews and pretend everything is just fine and dandy.
That’s what Villas-Boas did just after his Tottenham Hotspur side were hammered 5-2 by north London rivals Arsenal at the Emirates at the weekend and for Spurs fans, most noticeably owner Daniel Levy, it must have been quite a worrying sight to see AVB so detached from reality.
There is no doubt that the correct dismissal of Emmanuel Adebayor, who had put Spurs 1-0 up, after 17 minutes had an effect on the match, but even from that point there is no need to automatically capitulate just because you have a man less and there is no way of explaining away such a heavy defeat to your most despised rivals.
But that is what the former Chelsea boss tried to do and coming out with guff like ‘we controlled the game from the first minute to the last’ and ‘we were unbelievable’ makes you sound like you need to be carted off to the funny farm, not that you are doing the players a favour by supporting them in public.
Although in truth, the real reason for Villas-Boas’ bullishness was less to do with the players and more to do with himself.
Tottenham have been stuttering all season, both in the Premier League and in the Europa League, and when he replaced Harry Redknapp in the summer, a return of 17 points from their opening 12 games was not what was expected of the 34-year-old.
Spurs are in eighth position, seven points adrift of fourth place and the final Champions League position, and are actually one place and two points behind Sunday’s visitors to White Hart Lane, West Ham United.
You’d have got a good price on that being the case towards the end of November and it tells you a lot about how the clubs’ respective seasons are shaping up. One is underachieving while the other exceeds expectations and as such, I won’t be touching the 31/50 on a Spurs win.
West Ham are 4/1, with the draw priced at 3/1, and I must say I do think that the Hammers can make life difficult for Spurs at the Lane.
Whatever way AVB dresses it up, Tottenham are in rotten form. They have lost four of the last five in all competitions, with the only win coming against Maribor in the Europa League and I can’t be having them at that price to beat a West Ham side that have adapted to life in the Premier League with ease.
Villas-Boas wasn’t the only manager coming out with outlandish statements at the weekend, but if we’ve come to expect quotes like ‘Sam Allardyce is unique’ from, er, Sam Allardyce (it’s a good job, isn’t it?) then we have also come to expect his teams to get results on a consistent enough basis, no matter the style with which they are achieved.
The Hammers have it in them to give Spurs a hard time and I think they can go into the interval level so I like the 23/10 that the game is 0-0 at the break. Tottenham have been poor at White Hart Lane this year with just three wins from eight games and incredibly, they have not been ahead at half-time in any of those matches.
Even worse, Spurs have scored just one first-half goal all season at White Hart Lane – Jermain Defoe’s strike against Maribor. Five of their eight matches have been goalless at the midway point, which is more than just a trend, it must have something to do with the way Villas-Boas is setting up the team, and Allardyce is just the sort of manager to get his team to frustrate.
The Irons won’t show much ambition and have kept out their hosts in the first half of three of their five away trips this season. They have also failed to score in the opening 45 minutes of three of their five games away from Upton Park and with their gameplan sure to be sit, defend and look for a set-piece, there won’t be many goals at the Lane on Sunday.
Tottenham had Europa League action on Thursday, too, and with AVB’s decision to play strong teams in that competition leaving a hangover that affects Sunday’s Premier League matches, it could take Spurs a while to get going again. With that in mind, 23/10 on a goalless first half looks like a sound price to me.