Robert Vilahamn: Spurs know that ‘the key is to focus on the performance’ ahead of Aston Villa clash

Robert Vilahamn has, much like Ange Postecoglou, quickly established himself as a hero in North London this season. Having taken the reigns of Tottenham Hotspur’s Women’s Team at the start of the 2023/24 season, the Swedish coach has the Lilywhites sitting just inside the top half of the table – a marked improvement on their relegation dogfight last campaign.

They sit just five points behind Manchester United as they head into their 14th Barclays Women’s Super League match of the season; but perhaps more importantly, Spurs find themselves six points clear of Aston Villa, who they will welcome to Brisbane Road on Sunday.

Robert Vilahamn addressed the media on Thursday afternoon to preview the clash, which comes after a difficult spell of games saw his Spurs side lose twice to Manchester City in the course of just a week – in the Barclays Women’s Super League and then again in the Conti Cup.

Last time out, Spurs sealed their progression to the quarterfinals of the Adobe Women’s FA Cup with a 1-0 win over Charlton Athletic, courtesy of a Kit Graham strike. The quarterfinal draw ensured that the Lilywhites will once again welcome Manchester City to North London, which Vilahamn sees as a positive opportunity.

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‘The thing is, we improve every game and we get better results [against Manchester City]. We need to learn how to beat these teams! If we’re going to win the cup, we need to beat the best teams,’ he told reporters on Thursday.

Speaking on Aston Villa’s perceived poor performances throughout the season, Vilahamn explained that ’this year, they came with high expectations I guess and they had some hard results. Self-confidence creates bad results sometimes but they have a very good coach. We know that we can dictate the game against them and win the game if we reach the levels that we want to.’e

Vilahamn’s side are keen to avoid falling into the same trap as Aston Villa, and he suggests that ‘the main key is to focus on the performance and not the results. I don’t really care if we come fifth place this year. I want to bring players that connect to how we want to play.’

Tottenham Hotspur have developed a fantastic style of football under Vilahamn, who enjoys fast-paced attacking football that is remarkably easy on the eye. It’s certainly getting results, but he accepts that ‘we also need to show the fans that we can defend and get results. I think now we’re getting to a point where we want to focus more on attacking football again and keep the defence.’

It is for that very reason that he is relishing in the high-quality squad depth available to him in North London. ‘We need to use different play types and different scenarios,’ he told reporters.

‘Now we’re getting there to that point, because many of these players haven’t played so long in this league but I like the competition [in the squad]. Today in training, it’s so high quality.’

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Vilahamn took time to praise Celin Bizet and Grace Clinton in particular, insisting that Bizet has been ‘one of the most consistently good players for us. She’s been good for basically 90 minutes in each game.’

Despite the high praise, Vilahamn adds that ‘she’s not surprised me – but I saw last year a player who could be really good but also quite poor in some games. She has tough competition in this team but she’s making it easy for me to play her! She has the potential to be a top winger in this league, she’s very keen to learn so it’s very fun to work with her.’

On Clinton, Vilahamn expressed his joy that she has been selected by Sarina Wiegman to join up with the Lionesses squad to face Austria and Italy in Algeciras. ‘I’m so happy for her,’ he said, ‘because she works every day to get to that point. I hope she gets game time so she can show them how good she can be.’