by Ben Bowler
Having closed the gap on rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in the hunt for a top-four place, Tottenham will now be aiming to finish the job over the coming weeks. If so it would be a remarkable vindication for the suave unshaven man known to us all as AVB.
Heading into this final run-in, Spurs fans should certainly be pleased with how this season has gone and the direction the club is heading. They have a young manager who is enthusiastic about the game, as well as some world class footballers who can turn a game on its head in the drop of a hat. Okay they have Bale.
Jibes about the north London side being a one-man band have almost settled into fact but the astute way their influential Welshman has been utilised – and the manner in which he quite plainly would run through walls for his manager – illustrates a lesson learned.
The Spurs manager had a stormy start to his managerial career in the Premier League at Chelsea. A more mature manner in dealings with the media has helped his cause, but most importantly it has been a greater willingness to engage with his players that has paid dividends in getting them on his side.
Yet Villas-Boas has still plenty to do to make a successful go of his stay at Tottenham. Champion’s League remains the primary objective but should it be attained this will bring further challenges. Forging a sustainable working relationship with chairman Daniel Levy will largely depend on the speed with which their top targets are recruited this summer whilst the premier tournament brings a level of expectation that has proven to be many a coaches’ undoing.
But for Villas Boas, so far at least, he has come up trumps and pulled out all the stops to get the White Heart Lane faithful onto his side. Terrace grumbles about his leaning to caution have subsided – not coincidentally with the recent upturn in results and performances – and he is now enjoying something of a reputation rebirth. For this he must largely thank his players who have experienced similar resurrections, namely Michael Dawson who has been tremendous of late while new signings Mousa Dembele and Hugo Lloris have settled in impressively.
It has not been a smooth ride to reach this point – perhaps nobody expected it to be so – and flaws have included a poor execution of tactics as AVB initially struggled to implement a strategy that differed substantially from his predecessor. They have also conceded too many sloppy goals, a failing uncharacteristic at the Lane even under the gung-ho Redknapp.
Overall though the progression has been steady and encouraging with the flourishing of AVB’s plans well-timed for the season’s conclusion.
Life after Redknapp? It’s only just beginning.