It did not take the Tottenham fans long to get on Andre Villas Boas’ back but already he is showing that his appointment in the summer could have been one of Daniel Levy’s shrewdest moves. The Tottenham supremo is one of the smarter minds in the Premier League, and although eyebrows were raised when Harry Redknapp was fired, the current Queens Park Rangers boss has no record of long term success, even if his ability to rally a team short term is unrivaled.
Villas Boas made a slow start to life at White Hart Lane but he has the tools to develop the kind of team he wants to create – fast, aggressive, attacking. The Portuguese tried hard to sign Joao Moutinho in the summer and if he had signed the Porto man then Tottenham would likely be closer to Manchester City and United than they are now. But with Moussa Dembélé, Sandro and Gylfi Sigurdsson Tottenham have a mobile, technical and strong central midfield. They have fed superbly off Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale’s skill and pace, whilst Jermain Defoe continues to show why he is the most underrated English forward of the last decade.
Lessons have clearly been learned from his time at Chelsea. Whilst Villas Boas was unfairly castigated for taking on some of the vested interests in the club’s dressing room, he appears to have more humility and tact than he did a year ago.
Victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford earlier this season marked the high point of the Portuguese’s spell in England. It was Tottenham’s first win there for 20 years and now with the league leaders returning to White Hart Lane this weekend Villas Boas has to show that his team can beat United not just once, but twice. This will be their biggest test of the season and a crucial one with Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal breathing down their neck. There has been just one defeat, at Everton, since the 5-2 loss to Arsenal in November.
At present, Tottenham are probably favourites for third place. Chelsea may have talent in abundance but they are inconsistent and their home form unconvincing. Tottenham are showing the best consistency of the London sides challenging for Champions League places. It has been a long time since the North Londoners have finished above local rivals Arsenal too. But with the Gunners struggling as much as ever in the battle for the top four, and Tottenham a year better and wiser from when they let a huge lead slip to them to cede third place, this year represents a huge opportunity. If Tottenham can finally finish above Arsenal, then Villas Boas will well and truly have won over the doubters.