Despite a topsy turvy few months, where injuries have taken their toll on a squad that also lost some talismanic figures in the summer, Tottenham Hotspur are sitting in the top four of the Premier League. This has been mostly down to an impressive team effort, but it’s far more interesting to ascribe that success to some key individuals, so that’s what I’ve done below.
In an effort to ensure everyone has an opportunity to get as angry as possible about my selections, I’ve even put them in order of how good they’ve been. Enjoy.
It’s difficult to overstate the influence the Brazilian midfielder has had on the Spurs side this season, as he has been the player manning the barricades as injury has struck down half of his teammates. Mousa Dembele, Scott Parker, and Jake Livermore have all been absent in midfield, with a makeshift centre back pairing in place ever since Younes Kaboul’s injury in the first week of the season. Amongst all of this Sandro has been the rock in the centre of the team, fighting fires around the pitch and keeping Spurs competitive in every match they’ve played. Now the team is almost injury free, his quality is shining through further, with the Brazilian forming an imposing partnership with Dembele both defensively and going forward.
2. Mousa Dembele
The other titan of Spurs’ new midfield, Mousa Dembele has settled in so quickly at White Hart Lane that he is completely integral to the way the team play already. I’ve not seen many players so comfortable in possession, with Dembele strong enough to hold off any defender, and skilful enough to take it round them if given half a yard. The loss to Everton was the first and only Premier League game Spurs haven’t won when the Belgian has started, and it’s no coincidence that the 25-year-old was off the pitch when the calamitous late collapse occurred.
3. Jermain Defoe
For much of the season, Jermain Defoe has been the only senior striker available to the club, and in previous years that could have been a disaster. But Defoe’s game has evolved, with his movement and ability on the ball now good enough that he can play as a lone striker successfully. The England international is still frustrating, selfish and prone to disappearing entirely from matches, but he has been more or less our only front-man this season, and it is a testament to his performances that Spurs are sitting in fourth in the Premiership, and through to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
4. Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale’s excellence has almost become routine at White Hart Lane, so much so that you might consider he really hasn’t stood out this season. But Bale is the X factor in the Spurs side, and his direct approach is very effective. In the league alone this season, The Welshman has six goals and two assists, and the winger is currently creating a chance every 40.1 minutes. In a year where Spurs have often lacked creativity when key players were injured, Bale has been the man who can get a goal from nowhere, and he is set to have his best season yet at the club.
5. Jan Vertonghen
Spurs seemed to spend half the summer trying to finalise the signing of Jan Vertonghen, with constant disputes over various fees threatening to scupper what seemed to be a done deal. In the end the transfer went through, and it’s been abundantly clear already why the club were so keen to sign the Belgian. Like Sandro in midfield, Vertonghen has been the rock an injury laden defence has relied on, whether at left back or in the centre. With Benoit Assou-Ekotto close to a return, the former Ajax ace should hopefully return permanently to the centre of the back four, where he can be at his most influential. With his leadership qualities clear both on and off the pitch, Spurs could not have found a better replacement for Ledley King, and there is no higher praise than that at White Hart Lane.
Special mentions: Hugo Lloris and Aaron Lennon. Had Hugo Lloris been installed in goal as soon as he arrived, he would probably have made the top five, but his limited appearances nudge him in to the special mentions category. Lloris is one of the few keepers in the Premiership who will regularly win his side points, and could turn out to be one of the finest signings Spurs have made in years. Aaron Lennon is also unlucky to miss out, but his best form has mostly been confined to White Hart Lane, and he needs to take it on the road to really stand out as a key man for Spurs.