Despite speculation linking him with various moves elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur fans can rest assured that manager Mauricio Pochettino will be focused solely on his side’s push for the Premier League crown. Spurs mustering a title challenge would’ve seemed a pipe dream last summer, but is that what is happening now?
Their form is certainly white hot, winning their last four Premier League games on the bounce amassing an impressive seven wins out of their last ten; that’s 22 points from a possible 30, so this is not flash in the pan. Another statistic this season that I find telling about their spirit and mentality is that their opponents have scored first in 8 of their 25 Premier League games so far, but they have come back to win four and draw two of those games. So, they have gained 14 points in games when they’ve conceded the first goal, which is the highest in the league, ahead of Leicester on 10 from the same situation. The best teams don’t necessarily always take the lead in games, but have the ability and mental strength to come back and win from losing positions; it’s a key element that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Despite falling behind in roughly a third of their Premier League games, they have the meanest defence; conceding just 19 goals, with Arsenal and Manchester United the closest to them on 22. It has long been said that the foundation of any title winning team is a strong defence and the centre-back pairing of Jan Vertonghen and summer signing Toby Alderweireld certainly given them that. They may not be blessed with outstanding full-backs in Danny Rose, Ben Davies and Kyle Walker, but they are a well drilled defensive unit and have behind them one of the best goalkeepers in the league, in Hugo Lloris. The France international is a huge presence between the sticks with fantastic reflexes and alertness that helps that all important spine, essential to any quality side.
Ahead of the strong defence is the promising Eric Dier, who has moved from the back line into a defensive midfield spot to offer protection and allow him to show more of his technical ability. His partner there is Dele Alli, a player who has emerged as one of the outstanding players of this campaign thus far. Handled properly, Spurs and England have a terrific talent on their hands with Alli; his seven goals and five assists, including what in my opinion is the goal of the season up to now, have significantly helped propel Spurs into title contenders.
Erik Lamela has recovered from being labelled an expensive flop to a player of growing importance to his team. Under the guidance of Pochettino, he has this season begun to look the exciting player Spurs thought they had signed after the departure of Gareth Bale and has the ability to win a game on his own. Summer signing Heung Min Son is still settling, but has shown flashes of his attacking ability and could yet be a vital cog in the machine nearer the title run-in with his pace, work rate and eye for goal.
The bulk of Spurs’ creativity goes through Christian Eriksen, a player of exquisite talent, but sometimes lacking in consistency and fining himself on the periphery of games. This year his consistency and ability to impose himself on a game has improved and though his eight Premier League assists display his creativity, his haul of just four goals show where he still needs to improve. But that should in no way detract from the influence he has on their attacking threat. The man they rely on, perhaps too much at the sharp end, is of course Harry Kane. The England striker is not blessed with great technique, dazzling skills or blistering pace, but does have a habit of being in the right place at the right time to score goals and usually holds his nerve from the penalty spot as well. On top of his pretty useful knack of scoring goals, he has an indomitable spirit that can be infectious and likely plays a role in their ability to turn matches around.
After their victory over Watford at the weekend, Pochettino told the media “You can see in their eyes, the feeling, the energy, that they believe. Belief is the most important word. If we believe, anything can happen.” He added “We are in a very good position but we need to keep working and not think too much about the future.”
‘Always the bridesmaid, but never the bride’ is a cliché often used, but Tottenham rarely even became bridesmaids. Serial chokers, is how many regard them, so can they win it? Pochettino would appear to believe they can, but is maintaining the right focus. They have some talented players, with a good spine to their team and are in great form, led by a very good manager; so maybe, just maybe, this could be the season that Tottenham Hotspur actually do it.