Tuesday, January 1, 2013
The season to be jolly
Miguel Delaney, White Hart Lane
The Christmas period is always a rather peculiar time. With so many fixtures in such a short space of time, there is an awful lot of potential for upsets, extreme scorelines and generally abnormal results.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas, though, will hope his team's run over the festive period reflects reality rather any ructions caused by the calendar.
After Tuesday's 3-1 win over Reading, Spurs have come away with ten points from 12. It's all the more impressive when you consider that Jose Mourinho's Chelsea are the only side in Premier League history to amass a 100% record over the four-game festive spell. In fact, put in that context, it's almost the best Tottenham could have hoped for.
"It was extremely important," Villas-Boas said. "I'm not sure if it will be decisive for the end of the season, but to take ten points from four games is extremely important for us, particularly with two difficult away trips."
Reading manager Brian McDermott was in agreement, saying: "They had plenty of possession. Andre has put a good side together."
In truth, Tottenham weren't at their best in what many would have seen as a much more forgiving home game. Given the amount of times they had dropped points against supposedly lesser sides earlier in the season, though, the victory itself was a sign of progress. As well as more naturally fitting into Villas-Boas' system, Spurs are developing a harder edge.
"You have to take two games at the beginning of the season out of the situation," the Portuguese added. "Stoke [0-0 before Christmas] was an extremely good game, a team continuing to show good levels of form, undefeated at that time for eight games. We had an extremely good game; we didn't win. Norwich too. West Brom certainly not. It could have happened today. At 2-1, Reading had a big, big chance to go 2-2 that would have changed the game."
But Pavel Pogrebnyak missed that chance and Tottenham's 2-1 lead remained intact. Having come from behind after the Russian striker's opener for Reading, Spurs then made the game safe through Clint Dempsey's deflected effort.
Generating such wins has already changed the complexion of their season. Whereas previously Tottenham might have only thought they could target fourth place, third is now up for grabs.
McDermott said: "There's a real good chance they're going to finish very, very high in this league." And, as Villas-Boas himself insisted, that is not all down to the crisis Chelsea suffered over November. "We trust our abilities," he said. "I trust the abilities of my staff."
Trust in Emmanuel Adebayor also paid off, as the forward finally ended his seven-week goal drought. That was another sign of how things are coming together for Villas-Boas.
The only problem, though, is that Adebayor may yet go to South Africa with Togo for the African Nations Cup after an ongoing dispute. "I'm not involved," Villas-Boas said. "If a player wants to go, he goes. If he doesn't want to go, he stays."
It seems, however, that, despite a few lingering doubts about their spark and creativity up front, Tottenham will not bring any new faces in.
"I've told you before we are pretty happy," their manager said. "We have different types of players for different positions. We are solid. We have options. I would say it's extremely unlikely we will do anything in January."
Reading, meanwhile, have already acted in the market and are set to bolster their defensive options by bringing in Sporting's Daniel Carrico this week. It reflects the fact that, unlike Spurs, there is absolutely no doubt about the need for reinforcements at Reading.
Tuesday was another classic example. Despite a generally decent performance in which they had Spurs on the rack both before Michael Dawson's equaliser and for extended periods after it, they ultimately lacked the quality to get a result - and possibly lack the quality to stay in the division.
"I think today I couldn't fault our players, the discipline of the team," McDermott said. "I thought we were going to get something today... it wasn't really a 3-1 game. That didn't really tell the story of the game. We've played 4-3 games and 7-5 games, and both will go down in history for what they are, but we're in the results business. That's the most important thing."
Villas-Boas is certainly proving that. As he walked out of Tottenham's press room, he looked at the TV screen and noted that Swansea had scored a late equaliser against Aston Villa.
The chaos of Christmas is finally over. Throughout it, though, Villas-Boas and Spurs have managed to stay very steady.