In the weeks prior to the beginning of this Premier League season, the prospect of a Tottenham title charge in March would have been literally as unbelievable as, well, a Leicester title charge at any point in the season.
No one doubted that what Mauricio Pochettino was doing in north London was something close to revolutionary. He had invigorated the youth system, had his team playing as a tireless, complete unit and seemed to be having fun doing all of it.
Even as Tottenham struggled with a persistence of defensive issues last season, they were undoubtedly one of the most entertaining and promising sides in the English top flight. If no one expected Tottenham to be contenders this season, few would have been surprised for them to challenge in the coming years.
So how have Tottenham ascended so far about expectations this season? It’s a combination of their own considerable skill and the misfortune of others. With Manchester United and Chelsea both struggling, Tottenham’s rise has been made easier – but there’s still a lot to be said about Tottenham’s vastly improved defence and varied offense.
Let’s take a look at how all those factors have played out in specific matches this season. These are the top five more decisive results for Tottenham’s season so far.
Sunderland 0 – 1 Tottenham
It was not necessarily an encouraging start to Tottenham’s season. A loss away to Manchester United preceded a run of three straight draws. In two of those draws Tottenham took the lead only to concede it, thus instilling in fans the anxiety that the club had yet to overcome some of the defensive frailties of seasons past.
By halftime in Tottenham’s trip away from Sunderland it seemed to be more of the same. Tottenham were being held by one of the least in-form teams in the Premier League – that is until Ryan Mason broke the deadlock with a well worked goal in the 81st minute. That goal secured the first win of Tottenham’s season, and set the tone for what would be an especially dominant September.
Tottenham 4 – 1 Manchester City
That month was capped by a stunning win at home to Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini’s team had started the season in imperious form, shutting out opponents while piling up the goals. A loss to West Ham the week prior seemed like an aberrance, especially after Kevin De Bruyne took the lead for City in the first half at White Hart Lane.
It wasn’t the end, however. Eric Dier equalized before the half was out, and goals from Toby Alderweireld, Harry Kane and Erik Lamela sealed the victory as City fell apart in the second half. After years of falling to embarrassing victories to City, Tottenham’s win still seemed more symbolic than anything else.
Arsenal 1 – 1 Tottenham
The scoreline might not suggest much, but this North London Derby said a lot about Tottenham’s chances this season. Arsenal looked absolutely overrun for much of the match, and prior to Kane’s goal Spurs had plenty of chances to press their advantage.
Unfortunately, Tottenham conceded and had to settle for a draw. Still, the performance left a more lasting impression than the meager one point: it proved that Tottenham could more than stand their own against their rivals.
Watford 1 – 2 Tottenham
In the dense festive Premier League schedule, Tottenham were forced to make some changes just to keep fresh. The most dramatic of those changes came during the club’s trip to Watford in late December. Tom Carroll and Kieran Trippier started, Dier dropped into defence and Tottenham worked hard to nullify an in-form Watford side.
Like the Sunderland match, it seemed as if Tottenham would have to settle for a draw. Only Trippier’s combination with Heung-min Son in the last minute of the match helped Tottenham earn all three points. It was a win that proved the club’s strength in depth and resolution right up through the end of the match.
Crystal Palace 1 – 3 Tottenham
Finally, Tottenham’s recent visit to Crystal Palace not only helped ignite the club’s winning streak but also settled any doubts that there was a lack of desire at the club.
Palace took the lead in the first half and seemed to have it in them to hold out. Pochettino introduced Nacer Chadli and the Belgian took every chance given to him. It was an adjustment that showed once again that Tottenham were willing and capable of making the necessary changes to force the issue.