What a season so far and long may it continue. The unpredictability and suspense of each weekend has entertained fans across the globe this season, putting the Premier League on the map as the best league in the world and it is easy to understand why. Whether it be the rapid rise of Leicester City, the demise of Chelsea or the scalpings Manchester City have received at the hands of Leicester, Liverpool and Spurs this season, this will easily go down as one of the greatest Premier League season so far and the best is yet to come we enter the final weeks.
Going into the 2015/2016 season, even with our promising summer signings including; Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer, Kieran Tripper and Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli’s nutmegs against Real Madrid, it is still fair to say Spurs fans were cautious in regards to their expectations for the season. I personally was cursing over Daniel Levy’s decision to not go all out and purchase Saido Berahino and was on the path to being proved right with one defeat and three draws to Manchester United, Stoke, Leicester and Everton respectively in the opening fixtures.
However, what Pochettino has done with our team is nothing short of remarkable, easily identifying the bad eggs within the group and ensuring these are shipped out to suitors accordingly. We now see a young, fierce Spurs team that is tighter than ever before, not just as a collective unit but also at the back where many Spurs team previous have been well renowned for scoring lots of goals and conceding just as many. We saw in 2014/2015 the rapid increase in fitness levels and desire Spurs players showed on the pitch, which defines Pochettino’s reign, however there were still evident inconsistencies within a Spurs side many pundits felt were ‘too weak.’
Many positive moves by Pochettino have contributed to Spurs’ charge this season, but the defining factor is the overall spine of the team. Starting in goal with Hugo Lloris, ever present and ever consistent is a figurehead in the dressing room and well justified as captain. Summer signing Toby Alderweireld has been a revelation at Centre-Back bringing both maturity and calmness to the defence not seen since the days of Ledley King, along with some spectacular diagonal passes, notably assisting Dele Alli’s goal at Everton in January. Combined with Jan Vertonghen, they make a strong case for the best partnership in the league and Alderweireld, with his immovable undercut has personally been my favourite new addition to the Starting XI this season.
Defensive Midfield has been a real sticking point since the departure of Sandro, with Pochettino identifying Etienne Capoue as inadequate and selling him to Watford accordingly. In comes Eric Dier, well loved by Spurs fans for some solid performances at Centre-Back last year and has emerged as an essential this year slotting into the holding midfielder role with ease, offering that all important cushion infront of the back four. He’s even contributed with a few goals himself. To his right, he has been outshone by the individual brilliance of his Twitter sidekick Dele Alli. The rise of the 18 year old mastermind has underpinned Spurs spirit and aggression this season with moments of individual brilliance, his unbelievable volley against Crystal Palace capturing the hearts of Spurs fans and football fans across Europe. His box to box workrate, willingness to throw himself into a tackle, fearless approach and 7 Goals/6 Assists have not gone unnoticed, with Alli already sat on the plane for the Euros this summer.
The resurgence of Mousa Dembele from the shadows to become a pivotal piece of the Spurs jigsaw with his new found consistency adding true steelness to Tottenham. A player with god-gifted talent who by adding more goals to his game could walk into a Bayern Munich or a Barcelona team, is shining like never before. Physically dominating teams week in, week out. He has even chipped in with the odd goal which has been a rarity during his tenure at White Hart Lane. Ensuring Dembele is kept fresh for the remainder of the season, he will be significant in the run-in with his power enough to overrun fatigued midfields.
Leading the line is our all important no.10 and Spurs love child Harry Kane. The heavens long overdue gift Spurs fans have been awaiting since the Berbatov days. However, what Kane is offers is so much more than just his goals. He is arguably the best hold up striker in the league with his ability to drop in deep in order to bring other players into the game. It has been crucial in many of our goals this season and shows his willingness to help the team. Many flagged him as a season wonder, but he received many plaudits for his top attitude during a difficult period at the beginning of the campaign which has seen strikers break in the past. Even when things weren’t going for him, he continued to plug away for his team when finally his luck broke against Manchester City earlier on in the campaign. The rest speaks for itself with 15 goals in the league and 21 in all competitions. The fact this week Alan Shearer stated any team should break the world transfer record for his services speaks volumes and shows how far he has developed since the latter end of 2014. He really is the darling of Tottenham Hotspur and is hopefully for many years to come. Spurs fans receive constant grief from the dirty side of North London about how Kane supported Arsenal as a kid, but there is no doubt in my mind as to what Arsenal fans would give to have Kane leading their line. With such a player in their ranks, they would no doubt be front runner for the title.
Despite the evident spine in Spurs’ team, the starting XI as a collective have been outstanding this season. Erik Lamela has finally begun to justify his £30 million price tag this year with a series of fabulous displays on the right, including his Europa League hat trick and is now tallying at 8 goals this season. The full-back rotations between Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier has led to these players being ever present this season. Their importance was reiterated in the 1-0 win over Watford with Tripper and Davies coming up with fantastic displays: Trippier slotting home his first for Spurs, with Davies almost scoring two himself. This ingenious rotation strategy by Pochettino has displayed the strength and depth in these positions, even with DeAndre Yedlin amidst a relegation battle in the North-East with Sunderland.
Christian Eriksen endured a frustrating start to the campaign, but his magic has shone through in the turn of the year. A truly niche player that Spurs are lucky to have.
Nacer Chadli and Kevin Wimmer will play important roles in Spurs’ position come the end of the season. Chadli has popped up with 3 goals in his last 4 games and Kevin Wimmer has shown maturity since coming in to replace the injured Vertonghen.
The question is can we go all the way this season?
In my eyes this really does depend on the results this Super Sunday. A victory away at City will show we have the bottle to go right to the end, a defeat and Leicester victory will see Leicester go 7 points clear and with their current form and momentum make them difficult to catch.
It is very much still wide open with 13 games to go and Spurs fans were in a similar position during the 11/12 season at the top of the table. This time does feel different and not since the days of Modric, Van Der Vaart and Bale amongst others has there been such optimism and buzz around the club. With so many big teams struggling for consistency, Spurs and Leicester must feel they have an unbelievable chance. The media focus on Leicester will only play to Spurs advantage. If they can continue picking up points and beat the teams around them, we may see the Premier League trophy at White Hart Lane for the first time. However, you could counter argue that Spurs’ congested fixture list in comparison to Leicester may hinder them. Despite this, Pochettino has been excellent with rotation this season and that may prove pinnacle come May.
Personally, as a Spurs fan, I remain reserved with three months still left in the season. However with titles won and lost in the remaining 8 games, if we show our consistency and remain in the hunt until this period, then only God knows what can happen. Regardless of the outcome whether it is 1st or 3rd, I will be extremely proud of Pochettino and this Spurs team for showing the resilience and steel we have always craved. However you really do have to state the obvious here – it’s now or never for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.