• Man-management, training and preparation have improved
• Spurs manager believes emotion will settle Sunday's derby
André Villas-Boas thinks being sacked by Chelsea benefited him in the long-term, saying he feels like a "different manager and different person" one year after Roman Ambramovich dismissed him.
Villas-Boas on Friday won his second manager of the month award this season for Tottenham and, despite early scepticism from a large section of supporters, he has guided his new club to third in the Premier League going in to Sunday's north London derby against Arsenal. The Spurs manager had been in charge at Stamford Bridge for eight months when he was relieved of his duties last year, but a victory at White Hart Lane would leave Tottenham seven points clear of their rivals with 10 matches to play.
Despite insisting that "it's not about me", Villas-Boas claimed his departure from Chelsea has stood him in good stead. "The experience has served me well," he said. "You always learn from your mistakes and you try to improve on those mistakes. Your man-management, your preparation for the game and your training sessions, everything is experience. In another way you adapt to the culture of the club where you live in, all of those factors add up to a single person improving from a single experience." He continued: "Everybody learns from experience. I feel like a different manager and a different person."
Asked if he was motivated by finishing above Chelsea this season, Villas-Boas said: "No, because I don't see it that way. Obviously it [would] be excellent because it would mean we have qualified [for the Champions League] but I think the fact that we achieve it as a club means much more to the fans.
"There's still a long way to go and everything can change quickly in this league. Hopefully what we are building can allow us to be in the position to always challenge for the Champions League and always be there at the top. At the moment we are looking good but the margin is minimal to fifth place so everything can change."
Jermain Defoe is in contention to start against Arsenal after returning to training following an ankle injury, although Emmanuel Adebayor may continue in the lone striker's role. Tottenham took the lead at the Emirates Stadium the first time they played this season but Arsenal went on to win following Adebayor's red card. Villas-Boas admitted that the derby will "decided by emotion" but is confident his players will be able to control their temperaments, even Adebayor who has endured a fractious relationship with Arsenal fans after leaving the club in 2009.
"Arsène will shape up his midfield with more creative or attacking or defensive minded, that's the only thing we have to focus on from them," said Villas-Boas. "They will miss [Bacary] Sagna a lot for what he represents. But we have to play this game with lots of emotion. In the end it will be emotion and that will decide the game, not any tactical preparation.
"You expect your players to do their job. In the end anything can happen in the game. Sometimes motivation comes straight away and naturally in a fixture of this dimension.Players recognise where they made mistakes and admit they can be better. We don't need the manager to further put pressure or remind people of that."
Gareth Bale, who completed a Tottenham double by winning the player of the month award, has been in fine recent form, scoring six of Spurs' last seven league goals and being single-handedly responsible for 15 points this season. Despite his prowess, though, Arsène Wenger does not have a specific tactical plan to deal with the Welshman and believes Arsenal do not need to rely solely on one player. Wenger said: "Bale is not the subject of our worry. It would be a complete mistake to focus on any player from Tottenham. There is nobody special that you least like to face, all players have different qualities.
"At the moment I feel we can score from many positions and I prefer that. We have many players who can score. I think we have scored more goals than last year and last year our efficiency was always depending on [Robin] Van Persie and I always worried about the day Van Persie gets injured."