Wednesday 21 March 2018

AVB: Title race is wide open

Paul Hirst

Andre Villas-Boas believes the door is wide open for Tottenham to challenge for their first title in over half a century.

Villas-Boas' new-look Spurs team will face their biggest test of the season on Saturday when they host Chelsea at White Hart Lane.

After a £103million summer spending spree, the north London club have started the campaign well, registering eight wins out of nine matches in all competitions.

Such form has suggested that Spurs, who are second in the Barclays Premier League, could be serious title contenders.

Not since 1961 have Tottenham topped the table come the end of May, but, if the early-season form of their rivals is anything to go by, Villas-Boas admits the title could be within the club's sights.

"It looks that way," the Portuguese said when asked if he thought the title race was open.

"There is no team on maximum points again. The champions are at the moment struggling for points, although they have gone through a calendar that no-one has gone through yet.

"Manchester City lost points at Cardiff and drew at Stoke, so there have been some surprising results.

"We, after Saturday can end up being with two defeats and it could be the same for Chelsea, so it looks like it is going to have that pattern for the rest of the season."

There were inevitable concerns that Tottenham would not be able to cope without Gareth Bale following his world-record transfer to Real Madrid.

But the seven players brought in as a result of the Welshman's departure have settled in superbly.

Roberto Soldado has scored four goals in six games, Paulinho has added drive to what previously looked a flat midfield and Christian Eriksen has given Villas-Boas an effective number 10 that he has been lacking since Rafael van der Vaart returned to Hamburg.

Tottenham's record of conceding one goal in nine matches is also something that Villas-Boas should be proud of.

The 35-year-old claims the best is yet to come from his team, however.

"We can become better, I agree with that," he said. "We will bond together more with results.

"At the moment we are getting them and we have not had that blip that would disturb our confidence a little bit.

"We have the solutions in depth that we probably never had, so it is a question of continuing to be constant with the results, wins and clean sheets, and the motivation will increase."

Tottenham's strength in depth was evident on Tuesday night when a team containing eight changes hammered Aston Villa 4-0 away from home in the Capital One Cup.

Much has been spoken of the impact of Eriksen, Soldado and Paulinho, but it was a member of the old guard - Jermain Defoe - who starred at Villa Park, scoring his third brace of the season to give Villas-Boas a selection headache ahead of the derby against Chelsea.

"Jermain is doing extremely well," said Villas-Boas, who is yet to give Defoe a Premier League start this term.

"He's been excellent every time he's been given his opportunity.

"He is scoring goals for fun, which is what he has done throughout his career and he is ticking all the right boxes.

"He's competing for that position with Soldado but he's been doing very well and I'm very happy with him."

Villas-Boas has had just two senior strikers to call upon this season, in Defoe and Soldado.

Emmanuel Adebayor is yet to feature this term having been told to train with the development squad following his return from compassionate leave.

The Togo striker will start training with the first-team squad again on Monday, however.

Villas-Boas has no problem bringing Adebayor back in to the fold despite ostracising the 29-year-old recently.

"He seems okay," the Spurs boss said.

"He will be in a position to start with the team after the international break."

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