Tottenham Hotspur currently sit above European champions Chelsea and arch rivals Arsenal on the Premier League ladder—inside the top four thanks in part to the excellent performances this season from striker Jermain Defoe.
The England international has been simply superb to date this year; netting goals seemingly at will for Andre Villas-Boas' side and continuing to justify himself as one of the more underrated strikers in the Premier League.
He is having without doubt the best season of his career at the north London club, and is proving to be an invaluable part of Tottenham's lineup this year.
He rightly deserves all the accolades and praise that has come his way this season, having beaten the stigma that he simply wasn't quite good enough for a top club, but credit must also be given to new Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas.
The way in which the former Chelsea manager has handled and brought the best out of a striker he had never worked with before is testament to both his strong managerial skills as well as the sheer talent that Defoe has in attack.
So what has the Spurs boss done so differently this year that has allowed the striker to thrive and be so good for the north London club?
First of all, we must state the seemingly obvious notion that Villas-Boas has given the 30-year-old opportunities to prove himself once more.
For some unknown reason, age seems to become a factor whenever a player moves from their 20's into their 30's, with managers suddenly cautious about utilizing the player too much. But not in this situation, with Defoe thriving under the plethora of appearances he has been provided.
Defoe has started in 20 of Spurs' 21 Premier League matches; a huge increase on last season where he started in just 11 of the 38 fixtures available.
It is therefore little wonder that he has already met his goal tally of last season and is well on his way to positing up very strong goal scoring and assist-making numbers this year.
But what Villas-Boas has done is more than just give him opportunities. The manager has actually played Defoe as the out and out striker that he can be—rather than using him as a secondary striker or on the wing like Harry Redknapp did at times last season.
In 2011/12, Defoe made 25 appearances for Tottenham—both as a starter and a substitute—and yet in only 18 of those matches was he played as the go-to striker. In all the other matches, he was either used as a secondary striker or as a right winger (per Transfermarkt).
However, in 2012/13 under Villas-Boas, the 30-year-old striker made all 21 appearances this year as the go-to striker. The confidence that Villas-Boas has shown in the ability of Defoe that he will find the back of the net and that he will get goals has proven to be correct, and now both the manager and the striker are reaping the rewards of that confidence.
The manager has Emmanuel Adebayor and Clint Dempsey available to him, and yet, week in and week out, he continues to persist with the Englishman.
Why? Because he believes he can get the job done, and so far, he's been completely right about what Defoe can do this season.
Perhaps one other thing that the former Chelsea boss has done very well at Tottenham since his arrival at White Hart Lane is bring in better players.
This obviously helps the whole team and not just Defoe, but in the case of the England international, he has brought in good players to help get the ball to the former West Ham youngster and in better goal scoring positions than he was accustomed to under Redknapp.
Starting from the back, Tottenham brought in Jan Vertonghen from Ajax and Hugo Lloris from Lyon to better serve their defensive unit. The arrival of those two players would mean better solidity and shape at the back, which in turn means better ball movement through to the midfield.
Speaking of midfield, Spurs picked up highly-rated Belgian international Mousa Dembele and one of the better players from the second half of last season in Gylfi Sigurdsson to better equip their distribution through the middle. Dembele is one of the best midfield maestros in the league at the moment, and his presence has no doubt benefited Defoe greatly.
And then in attack, to complement the 30-year-old, Villas-Boas picked up Adebayor on a permanent deal as well as American star Dempsey—both of whom can work well alongside or in behind Defoe in Tottenham's attack this season.
Throw in the rise of tackling-machine Sandro and the freedom that Gareth Bale has been afforded to operate more centrally, and suddenly, Tottenham have become a team infinitely better than they were last year. Defoe's goal scoring numbers were bound to increase when you have look at the difference in the midfield and defense he has behind him now—the contrast is very apparent.
What's been better for Jermain Defoe this season?
The 30-year-old's goal scoring reign might not last all season and he may very well looked over for Dempsey or Adebayor at some point this year.
But from what we saw from last year to this year, there is little doubt that there has been significant improvement in Defoe's on-field performances and movement, and much of that can be attested to quality management from Andre Villas-Boas.
He has had confidence in the veteran, afforded him the opportunities to shine, and has given him the best possible toolkit in which to operate from.
Give any man those three things and he'll no doubt bring you great reward.
Like third place in the English Premier League.
Have you been impressed with Jermain Defoe so far this season?
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