Tonight’s game between Tottenham and Liverpool at White Hart Lane could be billed as a clash between two managers struggling to make their mark at their respective new clubs, but defeat could leave one of Brendan Rodgers and Andre Villas Boas in far more trouble than the other. However, even a victory may not guarantee peace for AVB.
Brendan Rodgers is quietly marking a turnaround in Liverpool’s fortunes with a side made up of talented youngsters such as Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey, built around the existing wizardry of Luis Suarez and midfield industry of Steven Gerrard. The relative youth of his side means that Rodgers’ charges will make mistakes, may suffer the occasional poor result, but will enjoy the support of the majority of fair-minded Liverpool fans. The disastrous on-pitch results of the Hodgson period, and the off-pitch circus that accompanied Kenny Dalglish’s side last season also buy Rodgers some time to turn things around, as does his previous success as manager of Swansea. The Liverpool fans can see what Rodgers built at the Liberty Stadium, the way his side played football, and should have the patience and foresight to let him see it through at Anfield.
Step forward tonight’s adversary, Andre Villas Boas. The Spurs hot seat has so far proven something of a rollercoaster for the Portuguese. Unlike Rodgers, he came to his job with negativity, at least from English football fans, ringing in his ears after his brutally short spell at Chelsea. Unlike Rodgers, he came to a club that was doing comparatively well, and off the back of an immensely popular manager in the form of Harry Redknapp. And unlike Rodgers, he had an established team, that while losing key players such as Modric and Van der Vaart, has had the ability to go out and buy reinforcements in the shape of Moussa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen and Clint Dempsey. This has meant that poor results, and there have been some shockers, have been held up to scrutiny not just by Spurs fans, but under an intense media spotlight. This regardless of the fact that under Redknapp, Spurs suffered from the same problems that they do now, namely a poor chance conversion rate and some worrying defensive lapses.
Villas Boas personality is also very different to that of the no-nonsense Rodgers. Villas Boas’ intellectualism and meticulous game planning from his now infamous notebook have made him a target for mockery, quite unfairly. Some of Villas Boas’ tactics have been called into question, such as the decision to play one up front against Wigan at home (with a steadfast refusal to modify that tactic whilst losing), but an unfortunate injury to Dembele and Adebayor’s reckless sending off whilst ahead at the Emirates couldn’t be pinned at the manager’s door.
A good result tonight in a traditionally fiery fixture would serve to buy Villas Boas some more time, but only that. A good win against West Ham at the weekend has meant that in terms of on-field matters at least, this has been a fairly quiet week for the Spurs manager. Somehow though, you feel that even in victory, it is only a matter of time before the knives are yet again out for AVB.