Tottenham: How Robert Vilahamn has mastered ‘the Tottenham way’

Since signing with Tottenham Hotspur in July of 2023, Tottenham manager Robert Vilahamn has already brought a new and exciting brand of football to Hotspur Way. After what has been a rollercoaster of an opening half to their 2023/24 campaign, Spurs closed out 2023 by painting North London in Lilywhite, giving Tottenham fans something to be thrilled about heading into festive period.

Despite commencing their 2023/24 Barclays Women’s Super League campaign in impressive fashion, Spurs faced duplicitous domination at the hands of both Mancunian sides. After being the victim of a seven goal scoring-spree from Gareth Taylor’s Manchester City, matters were made worse when Spurs faced a 4-0 defeat at home to Manchester United the following weekend.

Despite what was a dark fortnight for his Lilywhites, Vilahamn remained certain on the brand of football his side would look to play. He acknowledged that it is ‘not always easy, because the quick fix is to change something. We’re not changing something, we’re going to make sure we develop our identity.’

‘In the long end, we are going to make sure we create this identity where we play really good football and win games.’

When a manager instills a reasoned faith into their side’s ability to win fixtures, it is very common for a team to respond by doing just that. Vilahamn’s fearless management has produced some exceptional performances this campaign, highlighted miraculously in their final fixture of 2023.

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It was a tough run into the Christmas break, with Tottenham set to host Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Despite the task that lay ahead for his side, Vilahamn assured that his side would not alter the brand of football he was so adamantly crafting.

‘The main thing is for me to show the fans that come to the stadium that this team is all about playing the way we want to do it, not trying to focus on the opponent,’ he explained. ‘I want to show our fans the way we want to play and where we are right now and how we want to improve this team. I’m not going to go any other way than my way with this club.’

Ultimately, it was derby day delight for Spurs as they secured a triumphant 1-0 victory against their North London rivals at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Painting the town Lilywhite was enough to catalyse a euphoric sense of rapture amongst the sea of Spurs fans, but the manner in which they did so was far greater cause for celebration. Martha Thomas’s winning finish permitted fans in the stadium an opportunity to play audience to an excellent display of football; a team goal grafted from the last line, as Spurs patiently broke down the Arsenal press to find the back of the net.

Vilahamn described Thomas’s winning strike as ‘how a Tottenham Hotspur team should score a goal,’ with the goal a fine display of what is being built at Hotspur Way – a silver screen preview in to what is affectionately becoming known as ‘Vilahamn-ball’.

It would be notably easy for a team to take their foot off of the gas when posed with a situation similar to the one Tottenham found themselves in against Arsenal. A lead against a league giant would often result in a manager abandoning their style of play, perhaps opting for a conservative approach in search of the three points. Yet Vilahamn’s adamant refusal to abandon his stylistic craft is what makes the development of Tottenham Hotspur so thrilling to observe.

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Tottenham is home to some impressive Barclays Women’s Super League talent, with 20 year-old Grace Clinton an acting example of the progressive success of Vilahamn’s way.

Currently on season loan from Manchester United, Clinton has been quick to become one of the league’s firing talents during her time under Robert Vilahamn. Earning herself two goals and an assist in her nine matches played, Clinton has demonstrated an on-ball maturity so hard to come by in youth talent. After what was has been an impressive start in her first season with Spurs, she earned her first senior call-up to Sarina Wiegman’s England side.

The youngster put her Lionesses call-up down to ‘the manager giving me confidence and giving me minutes which is important.’ Clinton added that ‘the manager is really letting me go and express myself on the pitch, and I’m just doing that.’

Despite her still being under contract with Manchester United, the Spurs boss praised Clinton’s development, saying that ‘she’s one of our own players and I feel like she is showing the world that Tottenham can develop players to national teams.’

‘Tottenham is building a really good environment where you want to be on this journey, and I think Grace Clinton is probably the best proof of that.’

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With the January transfer window fast approaching, whispers are beginning to circulate in regards to the potential expansion of Vilahamn’s armoury. The development of a dynamic stylistic approach, partnered with a manager’s eagerness to install a rich culture, makes for a very attractive destination.

‘When I came here it was not that easy to sign players, I can actually be honest there. This window it’s very easy to sign players, a lot of players want to come to Tottenham.’

Despite remaining in sixth position on the Barclays Women’s Super League table, it is clear that there is still plenty more to see from Tottenham Hotspur. Whether the results be immediate, or a space to watch, Robert Vilahamn is building something that Spurs fans should be increasingly excited to watch unfold.

‘We are showing the first step in the power of this club, and how we can actually make sure this is one of the clubs that takes women’s football to the stage that it should be. The players are very good and they deserve to be at the big stadiums, with an enormous fanbase.’

‘We need to play a certain way, we need to make sure we show the fans that we play good football. This is the first step in this journey.’