Harry Kane has urged his Tottenham team-mates to capitalise on the struggles of Manchester United and Chelsea to secure their present position in the Premier League’s top four.
Kane’s well-taken goal, when one-on-one with Southampton goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga at 0-0, inspired Spurs to their latest victory on Saturday when they won 2-0, as United lost 2-1 at home to Norwich, to climb over their expensively-assembled rivals into fourth place.
United, alongside defending champions Chelsea, were among the favourites for the title at the start of the season but their inconsistent form, coupled with Chelsea’s ongoing struggles, unexpectedly means the pursuit of qualification for the Champions League is the most competitive it has been in the modern era.
In addition to Chelsea and United, Manchester City and Arsenal have in recent seasons most frequently completed the top four, but alongside Spurs and Liverpool – who have also had rare, recent successes – Leicester are also maintaining a convincing push for European football’s elite competition.
In the long term, both United and Chelsea are expected to return to positions of strength which means this season likely represents a rare opportunity to succeed for those with smaller budgets, and asked of the importance of taking advantage of their rivals’ struggles, Kane said: “It’s a very big opportunity. A lot of teams are getting unexpected results. We have to keep our heads down and keep working hard.
“There’s a long way to go and a lot of tough games. But we are full of confidence. We had a disappointing result last week but we’ve come straight back with a good three points away from home.
“Now it’s about winning over the Christmas period and really pushing up that league.
“It is, obviously (a psychological boost to reach the top four). We hadn’t won in three games, we’d drawn a couple before.
“It was a ‘must-win’ game for us. The players knew that; 2-0 away from home at Southampton is a very good result.
“(Last week’s 2-1 defeat by) Newcastle was probably the kick up the butt we needed. We had drawn a couple of games. Maybe we were getting a bit complacent. That maybe woke us up a bit.
“We definitely won’t be doing that against Norwich. They have had a good result away from home against United. They will be full of confidence.”
The result left Southampton without a win in six and at risk of joining the battle against relegation to the Championship.
Much of their success in recent seasons has been built on the platform provided by a strong defence, but both Kane’s goal, and Spurs’ second from Dele Alli, came amid poor defending, and demanding his team show greater character, midfielder Victor Wanyama said: “We let them score from nothing.
“If you let the other team score from nothing, it’s going to be difficult for you. We need to get clean sheets and score goals but at the moment it is not working for us.
“We need to work together as a team. At the moment I don’t know what’s going on.
“We have had a lot of changes. The team needs to gel more.
“We just need to fight more and show our character because we have tough games ahead.”