Spurs' feast of points has Villas-Boas looking good
The popular image of Andre Villas-Boas has gone from genius to joke and back again, all within 18 months.
Suddenly he has rediscovered the alchemist's touch that once made him the most sought after young manager in the game, transforming Tottenham into Premier League title-chasers who have won seven matches in their past nine and surged to third place in the table.
Villas-Boas (pictured below) has a habit of deflecting attention on to himself by answering questions at warp speed and in vast detail, but even he could not deny that this vanquishing of struggling Reading was "extremely important".
For, even with stand-out talent Gareth Bale suspended for diving, Tottenham still had enough stardust to outclass Reading.
They produced 30 shots on goal to their opponents' seven, with Emmanuel Adebayor reviving his lethal finishing touch.
It was only his second league goal this season – the other was in the north London derby before he was sent off – but in this form he could yet provide Tottenham with another potent attacking outlet.
All the more reason, then, for requiring his services during a tricky month in which the team travel to leaders Manchester United. Villas-Boas was unsure, though, whether Adebayor would join Togo in South Africa for the Africa Cup of Nations.
It had been understood that he would miss the tournament amid security concerns, after he fell victim to a bus bomb attack that killed two of his team-mates in Angola in 2010.
Villas-Boas said: "The player can go, I understand it's still a possibility. I'm not going to put pressure on him. We've left it up to the player to decide."
Aaron Lennon also produced one of his finest performances in a white jersey, terrorising his markers on the right flank.
Villas-Boas, savouring Tottenham's collection of 16 points since December 1, said: "We are enjoying our football and playing well. When you win so many points in a month, you're confident."
The manager has engineered stark improvements throughout this Tottenham squad. Jermain Defoe has visibly gained in confidence, while Lennon has matured into a winger of genuine menace, allying an end product to his prodigious pace.
Villas-Boas' relationship with the home supporters, though, remains curious. For the final 10 minutes, after substitute Clint Dempsey's deflected strike had wrapped up the victory, he was serenaded with chants of "Andre, give us a wave". He steadfastly refused to respond, as if determined to preserve some element of his inscrutable mystique.
When results have been so outstanding, perhaps his reluctance to indulge in badinage with the fans could be excused.
Villas-Boas, after his departure from Chelsea and his early difficulties at White Hart Lane, has learned enough about capricious attitudes in the English game to realise that any affection might not last. But with more displays like this, he will be granted the freedom of the borough of Haringey in no time.
The one blemish on an auspicious afternoon for Villas-Boas' side was the opening goal. They held a proud record of never having conceded in the first 15 minutes this season, but such distinction was promptly erased when Ian Harte's free-kick struck the underside of the bar, cannoning back for Pavel Pogrebnyak to head in on the rebound.
Tottenham rallied from the lapse and swiftly claimed their reward, as Michael Dawson pounced upon Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner to glance a header beyond Adam Federici.
From there, their superiority soon told. They deservedly grasped the lead six minutes into the second half after Lennon easily outsprinted Harte and crossed for Adebayor to connect with a crisp header at the back post.
Reading had two rapid-fire chances to equalise, first when Pogrebnyak headed wide and when Jimmy Kebe's one-on-one with Hugo Lloris was cut short by a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Kyle Walker. Any chance of a reprieve was snuffed out when Dempsey's shot took a ballooning deflection over Federici.
Villas-Boas clenched his fist in satisfaction, his new year's joy complete. (© Daily Telegraph, London)