Villas-Boas edges nearer a spin in the Spurs hotseat
If Portuguese takes over at Tottenham he will face a struggle, just like Arsène Wenger across the way, to keep key players
The sound of crowing in north London football circles is once again emanating not from the famous bronze cockerel sitting in Tottenham Hotspur's reception area at White Hart Lane but from the Arsenal end of the Seven Sisters Road. Yet there can be no guarantees as to how long that will last amid the strangely interwoven fortunes of the capital's three principal clubs.
Andre Villas-Boas is being tipped to arrive at Spurs this week as manager of a club cruelly denied a lucrative place in the Champions' League next season by their two greatest rivals. Were it not for Chelsea's astonishing recovery in winning the competition after the same Villas-Boas left them down and apparently out of it in March, Spurs and Arsenal would both have been involved for the second time in three seasons.
Alternatively, had Tottenham taken a single point more during their poor run-in, roles would have been reversed and it would have been Arsenal who were condemned to the Europa League after Arsène Wenger's 14 successive years in the senior competition.
As it was, Spurs cut the gap between the two sides from six points the previous season to a single one, finishing with seven points more than they had done 12 months earlier; none of which was sufficient to save Harry Redknapp's job. Redknapp's popularity is one of the factors that his successor must overcome.
If it is to be Villas-Boas, then he will be setting about a similar long-term redevelopment to the one he attempted at Chelsea. On that occasion a three-year project was curtailed after only seven months, at the club's usual vast cost in compensation payments, and it is understood that Villas-Boas has confessed to Tottenham's appointment board that he attempted to change too much too soon.
But it might not be Villa-Boas. Laurent Blanc is also thought to be in the running for the Spurs post and heading to White Hart Lane for talks this week; a suggestion more plausable since it was announced yesterday that Blanc had left his post as France's national coach.
As with Arsenal, Tottenham not only have a playing squad in a state of flux, but they face the strong possibility of losing their best player. Luka Modric, whom the chairman, Daniel Levy, did exceptionally well to keep from Chelsea's clutches last summer, now seems even more likely to depart than the Footballer of the Year, Robin van Persie.
Levy has achieved another coup by persuading Gareth Bale to sign a new contract until 2016, and complications over the signing of central defender Jan Vertonghen from Ajax have now been resolved. Spurs are also optimistic about seeing off Liverpool's hopes that the Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson would follow their new manager Brendan Rodgers from Swansea, where he was an impressive loanee, to Anfield.
Will the new incumbent be as keen as Redknapp was to keep the former Arsenal man Emmanuel Adebayor, whose fate may also be tied up with Van Persie's? Manchester City's Roberto Mancini is urging his football administrator Brian Marwood not to leave this summer's purchases as late as the 11th-hour signing of Samir Nasri last August, and he would like a deal done on Van Persie much earlier.
But Marwood knows that City must eventually bring their huge losses down to make a gesture at least towards Uefa's Financial Fair Play. Until players such as Adebayor are off the wage bill – preferably leaving a handsome transfer fee behind – that will be impossible.
If Villas-Boas is to be the man for Spurs, he will set his sights on Joao Moutinho, the Porto midfielder who for many observers was a more consistent influence on Portugal at Euro 2012 than Cristiano Ronaldo. "He is so versatile that you can play him in any position in midfield," Villas-Boas said recently. "He was always very attacking in his position. Now at Portugal he plays more in a holding role, creating more and organising more. With Portugal's 4-3-3 formation he has a bit more freedom but he is a responsible player with unlimited capabilities I see him more as a No 8 rather than a No 10."
If Modric departs, the No 10 role falls vacant, and Rafael van der Vaart would doubtless be attracted to it, with Aaron Lennon and Bale on either side in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Whoever takes over will also be aware that two England internationals, Scott Parker and Kyle Walker, could both miss the start of the new season.
At Arsenal even more of a turnover in playing personnel is underway, so far in more satisfactory fashion than a year ago. At that time, it will be remembered, Wenger announced that if both Cesc Fabregas and Nasri were to leave "you cannot convince people you are ambitious after that". Both went in August, Nasri's departure coming so late that Wenger was forced into an untypical burst of panic buying. This time targets such as Germany's Lukas Podolski and the tall French striker Olivier Giroud were secured in good time, and now Arsenal, like City, must clear out some dead wood; albeit with less financial imperative.
Supporters have been drooling over the possibilities of Jack Wilshere returning to a front six also including Mikel Arteta or Alex Song, with two from Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Podolski out wide, and Van Persie behind Giroud. The more likely scenario must be that Van Persie goes, leaving Aaron Ramsey or Wilshere to slot in behind the main striker. Then the cock will not be crowing quite as loudly.
Best and worst scenarios
Best Robin van Persie stays, Jack Wilshere is back to full fitness and Olivier Giroud is the centre-forward Marouane Chamakh never was.
Worst Van Persie leaves for Manchester City, or returns abroad, and Giroud and Lukas Podolski struggle to adapt.
Best Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor all decide to stay and play for new manager Andre Villas-Boas, who has learnt lessons from Chelsea.
Worst Villas-Boas is unable to persuade Modric and Adebayor to stay or Moutinho to sign and fails to win over squad or crowd.
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