Buck up Villas-Boas - or Spurs will boot you out

Tottenham Hotspur's manager Andre Villas-Boas.

POOR Roberto Soldado. He is being wrongly vilified for Tottenham Hotspur's misfiring attack and dramatic slide down the English Premier League table.

To me, the real culprit is manager Andre Villas-Boas, who continues to stick by under-performing players and refuses to adopt a system best suited to his squad.

Sunday's 0-6 thumping by Manchester City was hardly a surprise, given Spurs' poor form in recent weeks.

What was perplexing was once-banished striker Emmanuel Adebayor being brought on in the second half. It was a desperate move by Villas-Boas, who can have no excuses for having to rely on the out-of-shape, out-of-form Togo international.

The danger signs were there last season - Gareth Bale scored 21 of the team's 66 league goals.

A one-man team can only survive for so long, especially when that particular individual is sold and is not adequately replaced.

After missing out on a Champions League spot, the North Londoners pumped £110 million (S$220 million) on seven players in the summer, financed by Bale's move to Real Madrid.

But only one - Valencia hitman Soldado - was a recognised goal threat. And we know it takes time to settle into the EPL's rough-house style, particularly for the 1.79m player who struggles aerially, unlike his City counterpart Alvardo Negredo.

Villas-Boas filled his bloated squad with playmakers, full of guile but no girth. They have managed only nine goals in their 12 league games - just one more than bottom-placed Sunderland.

Jermaine Defoe has been scoring for fun in the Europa League, which may be of a lower standard but still, benching an in-form striker is one of football's cardinal sins.

A Defoe-Adebayor combo has worked well for the Lilywhites before, but it looks like the £26-million Soldado will stay up front as long as he is fit.

Winger Erik Lamela, who arrived from Roma with the same hefty price tag, is also being forced into the game, instead of being given a chance to acclimatise from the slower and more technical Italian Serie A.

Villas-Boas does not want to make tough decisions and seems to be looking after his own job. Perhaps he does not want to offend club chief Daniel Levy, who reportedly hand-picked most of the new signings.

The Portuguese tactician should look at London rivals Chelsea, where Jose Mourinho happily wields the axe on off-form talent.

Spurs' dressing room must not be a happy place now as some players are not being played on merit. Pass-master Moussa Dembele has to be wondering why he sits on the bench while Paulinho, who could be the next Kleberson, struggles to impose himself in central midfield.

Glyfi Sigurdsson was bagging crucial strikes last month and now, he barely gets 15 minutes as a late substitute.

Having topped the pack early on, Spurs are now ninth, eight points behind leaders Arsenal.

Villas-Boas has lost the plot at Chelsea before. If he continues with his mind-boggling tactics and baffling team selections, Spurs will be in the market once again - for a new manager.

stsports@sph.com.sg


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