By Greg Stobart
One criticism of Andre Villas-Boas’ brief and ill-fated spell as Chelsea manager was the way he tried to shake up the squad too soon and fell out with a number of popular players.
The Portuguese learned the lessons from his treatment players like Alex and Nicolas Anelka at Stamford Bridge by treading carefully when he first took over Tottenham, but he is now again showing that ruthless man-management streak.
This time, he has the backing of the board, is secure in his role and comfortable making big decisions that he feels will benefit the team in the long run.
Emmanuel Adebayor, for example, is unlikely to feature any time soon as he trains with the reserves. The Togolese striker has been hit by personal tragedy recently but training ground sources claim the pair fell out a number of times last season and Villas-Boas believes his poor attitude in training has an adverse affect the rest of the squad.
Indeed, Spurs tried desperately to sell Adebayor over the summer - or to allow him to join another club on loan - but nobody was willing to match the striker’s mammoth wages, with a pay cut out of the question, and he was reluctant to leave London.
It means Adebayor remains at White Hart Lane but has been cut off from the first-team squad, much like Benoit Assou-Ekotto before he was granted a loan move to Championship side QPR on the final day of the transfer window.
In the Cameroonian's case, it was again a question of attitude. Assou-Ekotto was involved in Spurs’ pre-season tour in Hong Kong for the Barclays Asia Trophy but on his return was told he was surplus to requirements. The left-back was ordered to stay away from the first-team.
Other players, including Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon, have been involved in training ground arguments with Villas-Boas and their playing time has suffered for it, with the latter currently well behind the club’s stated schedule as he recovers from a foot injury.
Villas-Boas is keenly analytical of the mentality of individuals and the squad as a whole, and spoke after Saturday’s win over Norwich of the need for winners; players who hate to lose and raise their game when most needed.
As Spurs prepare to kick-off their Europa League campaign against Tromso on Thursday night, Villas-Boas can pick from a squad he has built having spent the best part of £100 million on new signings over the summer with the full backing of the board.
The depth of the club’s squad, plus the growth of his own power base, means Villas-Boas has no time for players who display a lack of commitment or question his authority as manager.
He admits himself that the biggest challenge this season will be assimilating the seven summer signings and, with a new team made up of different nationalities, build a culture and team spirit - not to mention on-pitch tactical understanding - for immediate success.
For those reasons, Villas-Boas has sought to play down talk of a title challenge for Tottenham this season, insisting the focus is on finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League after missing out by just one point last term.
His public statements have also been a message to his famously ambitious chairman Daniel Levy, who has privately spoken of his belief that Spurs can challenge for major honours as early as this season.
Summer transfers and managerial changes mean that any one of six clubs could win the title this summer, and Levy feels Spurs have a shot, with a top four finish the minimum and most important requirement.
Villas-Boas, for his part, believes Tottenham can win the Premier League next season if they continue to follow his blueprint. So far, he is getting his way.
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