Last season, during a slump that saw their team blow a 13-point lead over Arsenal and ultimately give up third spot, Tottenham fans vented their frustration over Gareth Bale being played out of position by Harry Redknapp.
"Bale plays on the left," was the chant from the stands whenever the club's prize asset operated down the middle or on the right side of midfield. Redknapp would argue he knew exactly what he was doing, but Andre Villas-Boas has no intention of incurring similar wrath as he strives to impose his management style and build a winning side around the Welshman, who surprised many by signing a new four-year contract in June instead of moving to Spain.
Tottenham's squad may look vastly different to the one that finished fourth in May but the constant among all the comings and goings is that Bale remains an essential part of the planning and will maintain the role which, according to Villas-Boas, suits him best and which he will doubtless occupy against Queens Park Rangers this afternoon. "He's more comfortable out wide on the left," said Villas-Boas. "He can either cut inside or go outside. We want to get the best out of him because he's an enormous player for us with tremendous pace and technical ability."
Spurs may lack cohesion under the new manager, but it's early days. They already look a far fitter unit and, after finally getting their season up and running at Reading following two home draws and defeat at Newcastle, Villas-Boas is aware of the importance of putting maximum points on the board today, not just for the supporters but for his own reputation. Against Lazio in the Europa League on Thursday, Spurs played with verve and intensity, without reward. "The Reading game gave us a boost in confidence and put us back on track, but it's time to do the job in front of our home fans," said Villas-Boas.
With many clubs making many summer signings, Villas-Boas is facing a massive challenge to make Spurs Champions' League contenders again as he awaits the arrival of a technical director. Not too much, he says, should be read into early-season form. "The top sides have all dropped points. Most are looking for a pattern and style of play based on the changes they've made. QPR are a bit like us. They have made a lot of outstanding signings but it takes time for everyone to get acquainted. We are trying to evolve from game to game until the players know each other that a bit better. As regards a technical director, all I can say is that there are discussions, though I certainly favour the idea."
One of Tottenham's close-season signings was Clint Dempsey, who made his first start against Lazio since joining from Fulham. The American had a goal disallowed but was one of Spurs' weaker players on the night. Everyone, however, recognises he is a forward of quality and versatility. "Whenever you come in to a new environment you have to adjust," says Dempsey. "But you want to play at the highest level possible."
Tottenham v Queens Park Rangers is today, kick-off 4pmReuse content