Career Record: 75-24-22 (19-11-10 at Chelsea)
Accomplishments: As a member of Jose Mourinho's coaching staff since his time in Porto, AVB has been part of a coaching staff that has won 3 different domestic leagues on multiple occasions, the Champions League with 2 different clubs, and numerous domestic cups in 3 different leagues. In the less than 2 1/2 years he's been a club manager, AVB has won a Liga Sagres title, Portuguese Cup, and a Europa League title with Porto. He was also in charge for the early stages of Chelsea's FA Cup and Champions League winning campaigns. Not a bad haul for a 34 year old.
Before he was a manager: There actually isn't much to say here, as he never really had much success playing the game. He realized early that he lacked the physical gifts required to play professionally. Luckily for AVB, a random chat with neighbor (and Porto manager) Bobby Robson led to his starting on the road to his coaching badges at the age of 16. There was never any doubt that AVB was destined to manage.
Before Chelsea: At this time last year, AVB was possibly the most in demand manager on the planet. He got his first managerial job at Academia, and led the winless team from the bottom of the table to a very comfortable 11th place finish. His high pressure/high line system made the club loads of fun to watch, and immediately caught the interest of the big clubs in Portugal.
His single season in charge at Porto was legendary. He'd take the same high line system he employed at Academia and make it fit perfectly at Porto. He seemed to have an uncanny ability to find the perfect roles for his players, dramatically increasing the values of guys like Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, Hulk, and Alvaro Pereira. Porto would finish with and undefeated league season, and they'd lose only twice with 4 draws in his 51 fixtures in charge. Chelsea would quickly snap him up, and most of you should be familiar with what came next.
His struggles at Chelsea: There were always questions about how such a young and inexperienced manager would handle this appointment, as Roman Abramovich has certainly proven to be a hard man to please. There was also the question of how he'd deal with a squad with vastly more experience than the manager had to call on, many of whom were nearly the same age as AVB.
Tactically, AVB preferred a 4-3-3 system that was more or less the same as Chelsea had run for the past season and a half. The major difference in the system was the high pressure that AVB liked to employ. Chelsea had used a very deep line for years, something perfectly suited to their personnel when they were in their primes. Now that the squad was getting older with many losing a step, the system made even more sense. This would prove to be the first real mistake that AVB would make with Chelsea, forcing a defensive system on the team that clearly led to many of their early struggles. He was willing to back the high line off a bit for must win games as we saw versus Valencia, Tottenham, Newcastle, and Manchester City in December. He'd eventually adjust his primary shape as well, but he was certainly a bit too slow with this change for my liking.
AVB also showed a strong tendency to be very heavy handed with the players. When Alex and Nicolas Anelka expressed their desire to move on, AVB had them banned from the first team facilities. Salomon Kalou was reluctant to extend his contract, a stance which left him frozen out of the first team. He also showed no reluctance to bench older players like Frank Lampard in favor of guys like Meireles and Romeu. I don't actually think these would have gone over as poorly as they did if Chelsea were performing well, but they weren't and it did.
AVB's communication with the reserves and youth ranks was also non-existent. Dermot Drummy and Ade Viveash were holdovers, and AVB quickly clashed with them. Unfortunately, this led to their being essentially no communication between the coaches, with Michael Emenalo having to serve as the link from youth to first team. Frankly, this was the only thing with AVB that I'd deem as inexcusable.
AVB and the media: In this regard, I believe Andre Villas-Boas really got a raw deal. The media knew what early struggles would do to his job security, and in this regard they really appeared to be attempting to create stories out of nothing. Unfortunately, AVB took the bait far too often and called them out on it. He wasn't a popular guy with the tabloids, and unpopular guys make easy targets. They also sell papers.
Dealing with the media was also potentially a real strength in some regards. Like his mentor in Mourinho, AVB would often make sure the media focus was on him and not the players after a poor performance. He'd criticize the refereeing or something the opponent did, taking the focus off of a poor team performance and putting the spotlight on himself and other factors. Unfortunately this doesn't work if the club doesn't respond, and Chelsea's older players in general seem to respond well to negative media attention being placed on them.
Is he a fit for Spurs?: This is the big question I suppose. It's hard to look at the struggles AVB had at Chelsea and say they were outside of his control. He was far too quick to force his system on a team that it didn't fit, and doing so was bound to lead to a poor season. He was far to slow to react to this, building a sizable hole from which to climb out of. At the same time, it's hard to look at Spurs and see more than minor tinkering needed to allow the high pressure approach he loves to work. Without the additional Champions League fixtures to worry about, squad depth should be less of an issue in season 1 of the transition. There's also a good possibility that his first real failure might make him slow the transition, as he's certainly had some time to reflect on why things didn't work.
In many ways, he's the anti-Redknapp. The media won't like him, and his dealings with them will be all business. You'll never play JFRAAB again with AVB, while he does seem to allow the players some freedom, he's generally very aggressive about holding a shape. He actually does a very nice job adjusting his tactics to the situation mid-game, and I've never really had too many issues with his substitutions. He's also probably the hardest working manager I've ever seen, actually moving into the training ground offices to save himself the wasted time of commuting in attempting to make things work. I think given another summer to adapt Chelsea's squad to his style he'd have done very well.
Personally, he wouldn't be my first choice for the Spurs appointment. He's very much the polar opposite of 'Arry, and I'd be shocked if this didn't rub many players the wrong way. That said, if Levy is planning to cash in on his big assets this summer, AVB would probably be an excellent choice to bring in. As long as he shows that he's learned from his experience at Chelsea, he's still likely one of the best young managers on the planet. I'd imagine the guy has one hell of a chip on his shoulder as well, so I'd expect him to be very hungry to stick one to Chelsea and the English media if given the chance. If he's the guy, it will be fun to watch.
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