After four wins on the spin at White Hart Lane, it’s fair to say that after something of a false start, the Andre Villas-Boas revolution is well under way at Tottenham Hotspur. As the team is beginning to bind together and develop it’s Portuguese moulded, tactical coherency, fans can now finally gauge a clearer picture of what the football is going to look like for the foreseeable future.
For all the faults and occasional blindness that Harry Redknapp showed during his tenure as Tottenham boss, one thing he could never be afforded of, was exhibiting an entertaining brand of football in N17. The seeming remit for Villas-Boas was to develop a more tactically astute side, while keeping in with Spurs’ traditional football aesthetics.
So how has he done so far?
Seven league games into the season is probably not the best barometer for a half-term school report, but after a begrudgingly slow start, Tottenham have now required some serious momentum under their new manager. Results wise, AVB has delivered a proverbial slap in the face to the endless amount of doom mongers and naysayers – and not all of them reside in Fleet Street, either.
Indeed, now would be a good time to remind the short sighted minority that instigated the booing after the new manager’s first two home games, that the opening day defeat to Newcastle United, remains their only loss of the season. Spurs have slowly grown in both confidence and stature and considering the transfer market travails that dogged their season’s opening, they currently sit joint fourth in the Premier League – only one point behind second placed Manchester United and two above seventh placed Arsenal.
“AVB Out.” Quite.
Although despite such good work of late, Tottenham remain a work in progress. A victory at home to Chelsea on the 20th would potentially see optimism take the roof off their hallowed old ground, but even if that does occur, there’s a long way to go before Spurs fully adhere to the Villas-Boas blueprint.
Such wide ranging tactical changes, such as the ones we are seeing in the white half of North London this autumn, take time to perfect. Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Aston Villa perhaps offers us the best example of what we’ve seen from Tottenham so far and it was a microcosm of the way they’ve performed in their own backyard.
For large proportions of the game, Spurs dominated a largely impotent Villa side, but the statistics don’t necessarily tell the full story. Reading back, you would of thought an analysis that encompasses 57% possession, eight corners (to Villa’s zero) and 23 shots on goal, that Tottenham had Paul Lambert’s men over a barrel for 90 minutes. But that wasn’t strictly the case. Spurs played, as they have done since their opener at St. James’ Park in August, displaying a very neat and efficient brand of football. Lots of crisp, short passing, a very pressing work ethic and doses of some clever movement. Yet for the first half against Villa anyway, it still felt a little flat and disjointed at times.
This isn’t an overt criticism, in that most importantly, Tottenham took the three points. In years gone by, this sort of game would have represented a definitive banker for the Lilywhites to stuff up. Off the back of a massive win, confidence bustling and anticipation whetted, how many times have we seen Spurs win a massive fixture, only to cock it up at home against a less fancied outfit?
It is definitive progress in that respect. But at home anyway, Villas-Boas still seems to be employing a very measured and restrained way of playing, that is perhaps verging on the wrong side of caution. Spurs’ best performances of the season have come against Reading, Manchester United and perhaps to a lesser extent, Newcastle United. The common denominator? Away form home, Tottenham have looked a far more attacking outfit with a far more expansive style and cutting edge.
In all three aforementioned games, Spurs have been able to convert their neat possessive style into something far more meaningful. We saw the damage they were able to inflict upon Reading at the Madjeski and despite loosing at St. James Park, they scored once and hit the frame of the goal twice. Their best exhibition was undoubtedly their breathtaking first 45 against United, in which Villas-Boas sent his side out with both a bold attacking roadmap for victory and also the necessary balls to do so. At home, we haven’t really seen anything of the like that has captured the imagination.
There can be a sense of wanting your cake and eating it at White Hart Lane at the moment and baying for some instant entertainment considering their run of results and current league standings, is being wholly unrealistic. You perhaps get the feeling that Villas-Boas is looking to build a unit of defensive solidarity at home, and that stemming the leaks at the back is the first step along the way. Make White Hart Lane a fortress, before turning it into a theatre.
Although when the time is right, Villas-Boas could do worse than taking the stabilizers off his Spurs side at home. The Spurs support are right behind their man, yet White Hart Lane still felt uncharacteristically flat at times during the weekend, as it has done several times at home this term.
This new continentally defined Tottenham Hotspur are growing a tactical nous and perhaps a steely mentality that the swashbuckling days of Redknapp could never offer and there is a genuine feeling of founded optimism in N17. Villas-Boas has to scratch the itch of a domineering home conquest, though. The way things are progressing at the moment suggests that might not be far away at all. And what better time to do it, than sending a bold, positive and brave side out to face Chelsea? The stage is set.
Is there room for improvement in Tottenham’s and Villas-Boas’ home form? How would you set Spurs up against Chelsea at White Hart Lane? Let me know on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and throw me your opinions.