Yes laugh all you want, point out all the trophies we haven’t won, make the tired joke that they came third in a two-horse race, but deep down, you know that Tottenham are now deservedly one of the Premier League’s best teams. Some of you will be sickened by this. Some of you will won’t be fussed. But it’s a fact that cannot be denied.
What is still evident though, is that Tottenham is not – yet – a potential title-winning team. There is still something missing before that can happen. Tottenham need to find the last piece of the puzzle.
In the 2015/2016 season Tottenham had the equal best defence in the league, conceding only 35 goals in 38 games. This includes shelling five in that game against Newcastle which no Spurs fan ever admits to remembering.
This season, Spurs have the second best defence, conceding only 0.73 goals per game (0.92 in 15/16).
Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, and Hugo Lloris have all been instrumental in this aspect. Where Tottenham were once considered to be attractive, but flaky, the cracks in the wall have been well and truly earthquake-proofed.
Spurs scored the second most goals in the league last season. They currently sit in the top four this season. Harry Kane is only two goals behind Golden Boot leader’s Diego Costa and Alexis Sanchez. Significantly, if you added up the two-top scorers from any club, Tottenham come out on top with a combined 24 goals knocked in between Kane and Dele Alli.
I need to mention the midfield somewhere – in reality it could fit into attack or defence, because Spurs work incredibly hard in both areas. Players like Dembele, Wanyama, Eriksen etc. are fantastically underrated in terms of all-round impact on the game (defence and attack).
Mauricio Pochettino could manage any team in the world. Spurs fans should be more concerned about the idea of him leaving than almost any one of the players. He has instilled the type of football philosophy which ends in titles, and he has assembled the squad that can do it.
Speaking of squad – some of you might be thinking I’ve missed a few names. Spurs have assembled a squad where, with the exception of a couple of world-class players, you could swap a bench player in and have them do almost as good a job. Let’s take the defence for example. Spurs hardly miss a step when Dier or Kevin Wimmer play in the centre. Kieran Trippier came on for his first league game in ages against Watford, and looked like he’d played every week. Ben Davies is as defensively solid as Danny Rose. Pau Lopez and Michel Vorm could start for a number of Premier League teams.
Admittedly Spurs could still use a decent back-up striker.
Beating the Little Guys √
In the past, Spurs have struggled to beat the minnows, with draws and losses against bottom-10 clubs hindering any run at a title, or even top-4.
This season? Only two draws against teams outside the top 8. No losses against teams outside the top 6. Clinical.
Mental Fortitude X
Not yet. Spurs had a chance to go top in the second half of last season, playing against a lesser team, and didn’t take the opportunity. Spurs had a real chance at a title run last season, and crumbled. Spurs could even have finished above Arsenal in the Premier League for the first time ever. All they needed was a point against an already-relegated Newcastle for god’s sake, and self-imploded. The 2016/17 Champions League shambles can be mentioned here. Any number of examples from the last decade can be mentioned here.
These are not the attributes of a team performing well under pressure. These are not the mental skills of a team who is going to win the league.
Yes, Spurs teams of old would have lost the recent match against Manchester City 5-0 instead of clawing back to 2-2. This is a very good sign. But for Tottenham to ever win the league they need to show more of this, a lot more.
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