Tottenham signings, including Erik Lamela and Roberto Soldado, must improve dramatically - or Franco Baldini could follow way of Andre Villas-Boas

Baldini oversaw nearly £110m in player sales but their failure to fire has seen Villas-Boas sacked

Sam Wallace
Tuesday 17 December 2013 10:13
Franco Baldini
Franco Baldini

What little power Andre Villas-Boas commanded among the Tottenham Hotspur hierarchy had crumbled away when yesterday the club made the swift decision that time was up for the modern young coach with the big ideas.

The call was made by chairman Daniel Levy following a meeting with Villas-Boas and the technical director Franco Baldini. It is Baldini who has overseen the investment of almost £110m in seven new players but the feeling within the club, as the team were crushed 5-0 at home by Liverpool was that change was needed - and the most obvious change was the manager.

For a club that started the new season on a crest of a wave after an unprecedented level of investment in seven new players, the falling away since then has been dramatic. Just 103 days after Gareth Bale's departure to Real Madrid, his former manager has been sacked and Spurs find themselves looking at an interim appointment until the end of the season.

Tim Sherwood will take the team against West Ham in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals tomorrow night, the beginning of what the club hope will be a stint in charge taking him to the end of the season. Sherwood could yet make the job his own on a permanent basis, although whether he is compatible in the long-term with Baldini remains to be seen.

Villas-Boas' long-term successor will have to buy into the vision created by Baldini and Levy which has at its heart the seven players bought in the summer. That policy of reinvesting the money from the Bale transfer simply has to be made to work. Those players will have to play.

The conversation that eventually led to Villas-Boas' exit surrounded Emmanuel Adebayor, a player whom Villas-Boas has picked for just 45 minutes of football this season — the second half of the 6-0 defeat to Manchester City. But in the meantime there have been suggestions that he had not been happy with some of the seven players brought in this summer.

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The most notable of those has been the Argentine Erik Lamela, who arrived for a record pnds30m deal from Roma the former club of the Spurs technical director. Baldini, Fabio Capello's general manager during his time in charge of the England team, is convinced of the qualities of Lamela. That tension has been growing for some time.

By the last few days of his time in charge, Villas-Boas found himself isolated within the club with just Luis Martins, Jose Maria Rocha and Daniel Sousa, the Portuguese assistants he brought with him, still part of the inner circle. His relationship with Steffen Freund, his German assistant, had become so testy that the two men no longer sat alongside one another on the bench.
Of the seven players who came to Spurs in the summer, only Roberto Soldado was expressly Villas-Boas' choice. The pnds26m forward has struggled, especially in the league, and at 28 does not fit the age profile of the club's buying policy. The club have long maintained that the summer's acquisition policy was, on the whole, a collegiate effort between board and head coach, the official title given to Villas-Boas.

Having originally tried to placate the young coach, who has a tendency, from his Chelsea days, to imagine the world is against him, Baldini was among those who agreed that he had to go. The manager's future has been a matter of discussion at the club for some time with the only significant obstacle to his removal the question of who would replace him.

Curiously, Villas-Boas never fallen out irrevocably with his players, as he did with many at Chelsea. While there were a few grumblers, like Adebayor, completely frozen out until half-time in the 6-0 defeat to Manchester City, the Spurs players generally liked and accepted his methods. The team were only five points off fourth with 16 games played but the scale of the defeats to Manchester City and then Liverpool on Sunday, has contributed to Villas-Boas' sacking.

Villas-Boas' hint at Sunday's post-match press conference that the new players have not been his choice further imperilled him. His criticism of the home fans at White Hart Lane after the win over Hull City has not helped, given how conscious Levy and the club are of the way they are perceived by supporters. The team's failure to score goals, they have managed just 15 goals in 16 leagues, has been a major contributing factor.

A manager under this kind of pressure might have handled the scrutiny better but Villas-Boas has decided to meet it head on, confronting critics in the press and reacting to comments from the former chairman Alan Sugar. Whatever the merits of this approach, it has evidently not gone down well with the Spurs board.

Nevertheless, there remain concerns in some quarters about the quality of the signings Baldini has made, and that they would have been better served buying two elite-level players rather than seven of roughly the same quality. None of those seven — with the possible exception of Paulinho — have established themselves as obvious first team regulars. Additionally, Sandro was rushed back too quickly from injury and broke down again on Sunday.

Outside of Villas-Boas' staff, the key figure at the training ground is Sherwood. He oversees the development squads with Chris Ramsey and the former Spurs striker Les Ferdinand. There is also the former captain Ledley King who remains a presence at the training ground where he is doing his coaching badges.

None of them have had any involvement with the first team until now, other than developing players from their junior teams to work with the senior squad. It was Villas-Boas' way to do all the coaching, even to the exclusion of Freund and his Portuguese assistants. It will be a very different approach from Sherwood, for a newly-assembled squad that had hardly started to settle in under their previous manager.

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