Jermain Defoe senses that Tottenham's season is finally under way. Defoe scored twice in Spurs' desperately one-sided 3-1 win at Reading on Sunday, the club's first win this season and the first under new manager Andre Villas-Boas.
After the club changed managers this summer, as well as selling their chief creators Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, a transitional phase is inevitable. Teams need time to cohere. Spurs lost their first game before drawing two winnable home matches with West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City.
Two weeks off, though, seem to have provided the necessary settling-in time and breathing space, away from the panic and nonsense of the transfer window. "I think maybe the international break's done everyone a favour really, because everyone goes away and you forget about your club for a bit and then you come back and regroup, and maybe that helped us a bit," explained Defoe afterwards. "Everyone came in and was just raring to go, really looking forward to the game and everyone looked sharp in training and we had a feeling that everything would click today."
Last season Spurs started slowly too, not winning their first league game until after the first international break. They finished in fourth place. Defoe must hope for similar improvement this season, and as Villas-Boas teaches his methods, it looks quite likely.
"Hopefully, this will kick-start our season," Defoe said. "We've got some great players and a great manager so it all looks really good."
Villas-Boas, a master of tactical detail, is the opposite of what the Spurs players are used to, but Defoe is enjoying the education so far. "Training's always been good, they're good ideas that the manager's got," he said. "Every game we approach it differently, how we're going to play, what he wants from the team, the movement off the ball, what we do when we've got the ball and without the ball. Everything's been good."
Of course, Defoe is also enjoying his run in the team. There had been a presumption that the full-time return of Emmanuel Adebayor would mean Defoe's relegation to the role of occasional goal-getter and cup specialist. But there he was on Sunday, leading the line with intelligence and menace, creating chances for himself and for others.
Often written off as only able to shine in a 4-4-2 line-up, Defoe insisted afterwards that he was comfortable with the role. "I've played as a lone striker before, I played as a lone striker a couple of years ago for England," he said. "I've played it before so it's not a problem. It's something that, for me, I've just got to adapt to. I think if we control the game and we've got possession of the ball then it makes it a lot easier, to be honest, and we did that so it was good."
Defoe was well supported by Gylfi Sigurdsson, who directed attacks on the ground where he was so good under Brian McDermott a few years ago. "When you play that role it's important to be patient and make sure that your movement's good, and then when you get the chances you've got to score," Defoe said. "The No 10 behind me, Gylfi today, stays close to me so at times even though it is the lone striker up front at times it is like two up front."
Tottenham have two home games this week, Lazio on Thursday and Queen's Park Rangers on Sunday, and Adebayor may well be brought in for one. But Defoe is confident he knows the role and can keep his place. "I think if your movement's good and you're sharp around the box then it's not difficult," he said. "If the service is good as well in the middle then it's no problem. I'm playing with great players so I know if I move I'll get the ball and it's just down to me to finish."Reuse content