Tottenham face arguably the biggest week in their recent history with key games against West Ham and Arsenal – but TEAMtalk columnist Derek Bilton explains why the club could be amongst the challengers for several years to come.
Is it just me or are the stars starting to align at Tottenham?
On the pitch the Lilywhites strolled into the last-16 of the Europa League last week with a facile 3-0 win over a very useful Fiorentina side. And on Sunday the enhanced their title credentials with a spirited 2-1 victory over Swansea.
And off the pitch their proposed move to a £400million new super stadium edged a step closer recently after the club’s plans were approved by the none other than the Mayor of London. The proposed 61,000 stadium will mean Spurs could start commanding the type of match day revenue near neighbours Arsenal do from the 2018-19 season onwards.
The stadium plans still need finalising but on the pitch Tottenham are starting to look like the finished article. Head coach Mauricio Pochettino has built a wonderful side yet almost as importantly, a wonderful side with a young British core that is the envy of any side in the top flight.
Their first team includes brilliant young guns such as Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker, Harry Kane and the irascible Dele Alli. These are players who could lead Tottenham to the title and keep them at the top for years to come.
Not only that, men like Erik Lamela are finally starting to hit their stride. Last summer Spurs’ £30million record signing looked nailed on for a return to Italy after failing to settle. Inter Milan and former club Roma were said to be waiting in the wings but for whatever reason those deals didn’t materialise. Lamela got his head down and is now finally starting to look a player. The Argentine is clearly buzzing to be working with fellow countryman Pochettino and while he is involved in a battle with the useful Heung-Min Son to make that spot on the right flank his own, he seems to be relishing the challenge. And that can only be good for Tottenham.
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Also good for Tottenham is the fact that of their title rivals, only Leicester seem to be showing any real consistency. Manchester City have been hugely erratic and are seven points behind Spurs at time of writing. Rancorous rivals Arsenal had a massive opportunity on Sunday to close the gap at the top but could not beat a makeshift Manchester United side. In truth the Gunners were awful on the day and one wonders whether this particular Arsene Wenger side have the mental fortitude to get over the line. In contrast Spurs found a way against Swansea, and for the fifth time this season they claimed victory after conceding first. That tells you everything you need to know about this team, a team on Sunday with an average age of just 24 years and 103 days. Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri reckons Tottenham are the favourites for the league and I would be inclined to agree at this point.
Make no bones it’s a massive week for Spurs, arguably the biggest in their history. They go to in form West Ham on Wednesday night then face the old enemy from across North London on Saturday lunchtimes. A return of four points or better would surely put them in pole position for the title. It would be a startling achievement for young boss Pochettino, who has been in the Spurs hot seat for just 21 months. He again downplayed their chances in the aftermath of that Swansea win, insisting “nobody speaks of the title in our dressing room”. They may not be talking about it in the dressing room but they certainly are on the terraces. And who can blame them?
For years the quadrant of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have bossed the Premier League but there is a real hope around White Hart Lane that Spurs can finally rid themselves of the ‘nearly men’ tag that has haunted them for decades. Tottenham’s fans have suffered more than most during a title drought that’s lasted more than half a century. But if this brave young side kicks on and finally delivers this season they’ll realise at last that the darkest nights produce the brightest stars.