By Greg Stobart at White Hart Lane
As the Tottenham players walked off the White Hart Lane turf, Andre Villas-Boas waited on the touchline to congratulate them one-by-one for a professional performance and comfortable 2-0 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday.
It is hard to believe this is the same man who failed so miserably at Chelsea, who was aloof with the players and looked so out of his depth trying to take the Blues’ through transition that many wondered whether the potential he showed as a manager in Portugal was all a sham.
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Tabloid newspapers have variously reported that Villas-Boas has three games to save his job and that the Spurs players are rebelling against training methods that have left them tired.
The victory over Villa, thanks to second-half goals from Steven Caulker and Aaron Lennon, was Tottenham’s fourth Premier League win in a row and takes them up to fifth in the table.
Unbeaten in all competitions since the first day of the season, two points ahead of Arsenal and one behind the two Manchester clubs, the momentum is starting to gather in north London as the players embrace the Portuguese’s coaching methods and tactical work in training.
Ask most of the Spurs squad - certainly the ones who are playing regularly - and they will tell you that training is far more vibrant, focussed and professional than the previous regime.
Villas-Boas is a perfectionist, he thinks through every last detail as he plots how to win a match like Spurs’ first victory at Old Trafford in 23 years. Nothing is left to chance, luck is earned not given.
There was certainly a slice of fortune in the way Tottenham took the lead against Villa, Jermain Defoe’s shot flicking off Caulker’s heel and into the net.
That relaxed the home side and the crucial second, swept into the bottom corner by Lennon, felt inevitable. More could have followed were it not for profligate finishing, particularly from Clint Dempsey and Gareth Bale.
Villas-Boas insists this is a virtually new Tottenham team in the “early stages” of its development, but he is delighted with the way the players have adapted to his methods after a shaky start to the campaign that included defeat at Newcastle and home draws against West Brom and Norwich.
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He has also been prepared to make brave calls and against Villa handed a first league start to Hugo Lloris, ending 41-year-old Brad Friedel’s run of 310 consecutive appearances. Spurs subsequently kept their first clean sheet of the season in the Premier League.
In the club’s new £40 million training centre in Enfield, he also has the perfect day-to-day working environment to prepare the players as he targets a top four finish next May.
Up next is Chelsea at White Hart Lane on October 20. They are the league leaders, but Villas-Boas has a point to prove to the west Londoners and will do everything he can to make sure Spurs continue their excellent form.
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