An unconvincing victory over Norway’s Tromso on Thursday night did not even paper over the cracks for anyone but the most optimistic Tottenham supporters.
Spurs laboured to a 2-0 victory over a team to whom Shamrock Rovers would have given a good game.
While the Europa League has been a relative success for Tottenham – 7 wins out of 7 with 19 scored and 1 conceded – the standard of opposition has not been high. The most challenging opponents should have been Anzhi Makhachkala, but the club went in to financial meltdown prior to the start of the season selling 135 million euro of talent.
Back in the Premier League on Sunday, Tottenham take on a resurgent Manchester United, fresh off their biggest European away win since the 6-0 victory over the aforementioned Shamrock Rovers in 1957.
All the signs point to a very difficult afternoon for Andre Villas Boas’ struggling side.
Against Tromso there was a personnel shake-up but no tactical change.
The midfield of Mousa Dembélé and Étienne Capoue showed little adventure and Andros Townsend’s deteriorating form was further cause for concern.
Roberto Soldado continued to struggle, failing to record a single shot in the whole game. Soldado is only months removed from a free-scoring period in Spanish football. 81 goals in 141 appearances for Valencia was preceded by 33 strikes in 66 games for Getafe. At Tottenham, he looks like a player who just does not fit.
In spite of all the new signings this summer, Gylfi Sigurdsson continues to be one of Spurs’ most reliable performances, operating tirelessly on the left wing. And Vlad Chiriches took the defensive plaudits for a solid performance alongside the ailing Michael Dawson.
What Spurs fans expect to see on Sunday is a solid defensive unit with overlapping full-backs exposing the space that the inverted wingers – which has been AVB’s tactic of choice for much of the season – open up for them. They also expect to see Paulinho, Sigurdsson and Townsend get in the box and get shots on target. It hasn’t happened for much of this season and if Spurs give a toothless and spineless performance akin to last weekends, then a second Manchester thumping is on the cards.
And that, I would think, would be the end of Andre Villas Boas…regardless of what a former manager says.