Tonight a little after 8 o’clock White Hart Lane will be witnessing a rare treat, a strong Spurs side playing in the Europa League. It was in this competition that Villas-Boas made his name as a coach in Europe in his treble winning season with Porto and it appears that he wants to win it again with Tottenham.
As reported in the Metro, AVB has hinted that the approach of resting big name players for the competition and treating it as second place to the Premiership and Champions League qualification are long gone.
It will be refreshing to see a side with aspirations of playing regularly in the Champions League actually treating this competition with respect and if you want a man that will do his uppermost to win it for you then AVB seems to be the man ready to do it. The last time he won with Porto he did so in style; winning 12 of the 15 matches, scoring 3 or more in almost half of the games and using an offensive 4-3-3 formation throughout.
It is the same formation that he has been using with Spurs so far and really clicked into gear on Sunday against Reading with Jermain Defoe flourishing. It should also be noted that in that season Porto’s Falcao won the golden boot in the competition with an incredible 17 goals in 14 games with 3 assists as well.
Defoe has never been seen as a lone striker but the role that AVB has him playing gives him a much more direct form of access from the wide men and the three midfielder’s behind him. This was the same system used by Falcao in devastating fashion and with Defoe grabbing 3 goals in the League this season whose to say that he won’t be as lethal against the B-teams of Europe?
Whether or not the Spurs fans will react favourably to AVB’s fondness of the competition will remain to be seen. Playing in the Europa League is like being in the second season of the Wire, it’s probably a wonderful experience but the majority don’t have the patience for it.
I think it could prove to be a smart move by AVB. It will take time before he makes his mark on Spurs and winning a trophy will do wonders to bring together a sense of togetherness within the squad. It may also detract away from the fact that due to Chelsea’s big spending and Arsenal starting brightly, that 4th Champions League spot will be harder than ever to try and win. So winning a trophy may soften the blow. The Europa League is AVB’s choice because he knows how to win it and you get more money than the FA or League cup.
The only downside will be involving that fourth Champions League spot I previously mentioned. Hypothetically if Spurs win the Europa League but finish 5th in the League then financially speaking this won’t have been a successful season and many will point the finger at AVB for not putting enough attention on the League because of a distracting run in Europe. Even though in football terms a successful season is defined by how many trophies you win this is the Premiership and everything is about money.
Whether or not Spurs have a chance of winning it is too early to say. With teams such as Udinese, Inter Milan, Napoli, Athletic Bilbao, Athletico Madrid, Basel, Rubin Kazan, Lyon and Spurs first opponents Lazio all highly regarded in Europe. Not to mention all the Champions League sides that get eliminated after the group stages which will include one of the champions of England, Spain,Germany or Holland. Meaning it won’t be an easy ride for Spurs.
However, the display against Reading left a lot of Spurs fans very happy. The front three and middle three all played excellently together and made the loss of Luka Modric look similar to the loss of Michael Owen from Liverpool just before they won the Champions League. Defoe was on fire with a wonderful second goal, Lennon has started to adjust to the role of the inside forward but whether he can do it against the top sides remains to be seen and Bale scored for the first time since the end of January.
The midfield trio looked even better as Sandro was given a license to roam that freed up space for Sigurdsson to maneuver, which the Icelandic man’s defence splitting through ball that put Lennon through before he cut back for Defoe to slam home. New boy Moussa Dembele added to his debut goal last week with a solid passing display and grabbed an assist for Defoe’s second goal.
During the Europa League competition there is not doubt that many a sterner test will await them, the last time they won the trophy they had to beat Barcelona along the way but I doubt we will see a repeat of that fixture.
Whatever happens I will be tuning into the Spurs/Lazio game; even if this whole competition blows up in AVB’s face at least he is approaching the tournament like manager’s should …wanting to win it.