Lessons learnt from past misadventures will benefit us.
Andre Villas-Boas has already changed his approach with the media (shame he wants to speak only about football whilst they continue to poke questions about non-event sensationalism). He's more giving and less defensive. He also spoke of there being more warmth at Spurs than there was at Chelsea. I guess there are no stipulations and guidelines that have been outlined as imperative objectives. The more welcoming environment has allowed him to settle in far easier than his first attempt in England and his hunger remains rampant. AVB wants to win, he wants to achieve success and he is meticulous in his approach and preparation. He has a plan and he's being allowed to implement it, at his own pace.
So with all the story arcs this game possesses (the ones to be teased and taunted in the stands and exist as the spine of most of the pre and post match coverage) it's going to be a match that demands a fitting chapter if not a finale. Tottenham up against the team that robbed us of CL football and stuffed us in the cup. AVB up against his former club where he failed to impose himself and his ideals and was left humiliated, replaced by his number two, Roberto de Matteo. The only true defining story arcs exist with each club without influence of external influence. Chelsea, fluid but perhaps not as robust as previous sides are winning their games and Tottenham are progressing at a slow brooding rate, simmering not quite to the boil just yet. Both teams 'a work in progress'. But both with enough to be fairly confident of a sustained challenge at the top end of the league. Both far from being finished articles.
Chelsea have a wealth of creative talent (Hazard, Oscar, Mata) and will line-up not too dissimilar to us with holding midfielders. They've been fluid but not dominant but have been spectacular in moments. They can definitely be got at, but this will depend on how we defend and contain them, especially down Kyle Walker's flank. This match is all about the midfield battle and the tempo we attempt to impose on the game.
We're going to need to be disciplined defensively. We're going to need to dominate the centre of midfield. Close down players, win possession back, neat and tidy passing. Tempo has to be high and has to be pressured. Sandro needs to dominate Oscar. Dembele has to drive forward. The holding players might be defensive in their responsibility and positioning but they hold the key to offensive intent. Push up, push wide and push through the middle. Individual battles will influence who wins the war.
What is most telling of all is Villas-Boas in pre-match mode. Aside from some colourful descriptive work and business speak he can be simplistic eloquent and philosophical.
"The team and players are more important than me"
"This game is not going to decide the future of both teams in the Premier League - after this game there will be 30 more games to play, and both teams will have to have decisive matches in front of them. It counts as three points. It doesn’t win us a trophy"
"To a certain extent I feel this is much more about Tottenham in the sense that this is the team who took this club out of the Champions League, and this is the team who prevented this team from playing in FA Cup Final last year - so in the end we certainly have the ingredients for it to be a spectacular match”
“Taking it to an individual situation is not fair on me - first because it means absolutely nothing on the end of season and in which position you might finish, and because it is not a quest of an individual, it is a quest of a team, and where we want to finish at end of the season"
From the heart. No hyperbole or sensationalism. Just the way it is. I'm not nervous, I'm confident and I'm looking forward to it. I don't care for the statistics of the past, I care only for the next game.