The Barclays Premier League never shies away from forcing us into digesting one surprise after the other. And there’s yet to be a season in the recent past that hasn’t done so. Whether you talk of Manchester United finishing 7th or Harry Kane finishing as the League’s top scorer, it never fails to do what other European leagues can’t- entertain, enthrall and surprise.
And as things stand, a club which was deemed as a relegation favorite when the season kicked off tops the pile. A club which was rock bottom of the league at this point last season and had hardly anything going right for it, Leicester have had an astounding season. Their recent sauntering of Manchester City away from home suggests that their abrupt emergence from the bowels of the league isn’t a fluke, it’s a title challenge that the apparent ‘powerhouses’ must have an answer to. And the answer is something the powerhouses haven’t had. The likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, United, and Chelsea have failed to break Leicester’s hegemony over the top spot and their failures are one reason for the Foxes’ defiance. But one club, whose efforts have been under-the-radar, but just as commendable are Tottenham Hotspur.
Often known as a ‘nearly’ club over the past five or six seasons, Spurs have never been the one to amuse, when compared to their top six rivals. A club that is acclimatized to being around the top four, but finishing some mere points shy of their objective, they’ve long had an associated love story with the 5th spot, falling short of their desired 4th place and messing things up when they’d hate to, has been a problem for them. And this just goes to show how unlucky a club Tottenham Hotspur has been.
But this season, Spurs have undergone a complete overhaul, either when it comes to playing style or league position, they’ve proved doubters wrong. Currently sitting pretty at 2nd in the league, Spurs have the highest goal difference and have conceded just 19 goals this season, which actually happens to be the lowest amount of goals any team has leaked. They’re a team which is playing arguably, the best football in the league alongside the likes of Leicester and Arsenal and a team which has a consistent work ethic tag appended to their name too.
2 points off the top spot, Spurs are being touted as title challengers in what has been the most open Premier League title race in recent memory. Spurs have been the story of the season, apart from Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester and weren’t expected to make it to the top four before the season began. Mauricio Pochetinno spent little, but wisely on a side that needed some changes to be made and required elimination of dead wood. But what separates them from the others is their playing style- high pressing, high energy and hard-working.
They’ve got the best balance between defense and attack in the league. The duo of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen has been the Premier League’s best so far and the terrific emergence of Eric Dier has been more than just handy. Dele Alli has been one of their star performers and has provided an impetus of attacking flair and movement. And Harry Kane has been doing the job of scoring whenever he has gotten the opportunity to.
“(Tottenham) the best team we’ve played. Like animals trying to recover the ball as quickly as possible.” said Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores after Spurs’ 1-0 over the Hornets this past week.
Last season was about getting through a period when the players were getting accustomed to Pochetinno’s high pressing playing style. This season has been about finally knowing how it works and adhering to it in every single minute of every single game. They’ve got this knack for running all match long, recovering lost balls and nicking balls off the opposition high up the pitch to launch counter attacks and score goals. Apart from Leicester, there’s no other side in the Premier League who have their own playing style, a system they can adhere to, week in and week out.
Moreover, Spurs have not lost an away game since losing to Manchester United during the opening game of the season. That game too was a one in which they could’ve garnered a point from, if not for Sergio Romero’s resilience. And they’ve not lost a game to any of their top six rivals this season, which is excellent progress considered how they used to concede in buckets against the likes of Liverpool, City, and Chelsea.
And the most amazing difference? The progress they’ve made hasn’t been falling on one shoulder; it’s been a team effort. Gareth Bale and Luka Modric were a part of the Spurs side that did that in 2010 and Harry Kane, along with Christian Eriksen is another example of it from last season. But this time, every single player has chipped in with a stroke of brilliance. And they’ve upped their levels of performances too; Kyle Walker and Danny Rose are examples of it. Harry Kane isn’t the only one who can score; any player on the team sheet can score, be it- Eric Dier, Moussa Dembele or Toby Alderweireld.
They’ve got the ability to dominate games. In the past, it was something that they lacked. They take control of games from the midfield, with both Dier and Dembele controlling the play from deep and the former often dropping in between the center halves for defensive support. Dembele bulldozes past the midfielders of the opposition and Dele Alli brings in the much-needed impetus of panache and energy in the play.
Summing it all up, the opportunity can’t get better than this. Although, Spurs have a monkey on their back which will compel them into messing things up but this Tottenham side is mentally strong too, much like Pochetinno himself. During the 2011-12 season, there was a point when they were giving United and City a challenge for the title, but ended up finishing 4th. At that time, Spurs were more of that one-man-army unit. But this Spurs side isn’t. And it’s time; you took them seriously; damn seriously.