It’s a brave man who predicts the Premier League winner this season. You’d be as well-served to put the names of the top half a dozen or so teams onto a dart-board, close your eyes and throw, such is the make-up of the league at the moment.
With no-one ‘taking the bull by the horns’ and producing performances consistent enough to streak away from the pack, a la Chelsea last season, things could very well go down to the final couple of games of the season.
But there’s one side who are best equipped to pinch the title from under the noses of their more illustrious opponents, and that team is Tottenham Hotspur (settle down at the back, no sniggering please!)
Manchester City remain the bookies favourites whilst many feel this is set to be Arsenal’s year. And obviously you can’t discount Leicester who, despite the size of the club and resources available, still sit top of the tree and will do well NOT to finish in the top four from this point in.
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But it’s the side from the Lane who have caught the eye of so many over the past few months and they are best-placed out of any of the challengers to triumph.
Spurs are built on a solid defensive foundation. Currently boasting the best back-line in terms of goals conceded in the league, the performances of the defence have no doubt been a pleasant surprise to the Spurs fans.
Having snaffled Toby Alderweireld from the hands of Southampton in the summer, the Belgian has played every minute of every game and formed an excellent partnership with fellow countryman Jan Vertonghen. Behind them, Hugo Lloris remains one of the best ‘keepers in the league whilst the rotation of four solid full-backs gives them both continuity and freshness in defence and attack.
And they’re none-too-shabby upfront either. Only Sergio Ag.. I mean Man City and Leicester have scored more than the North Londoners, Harry Kane leading the way with 13. But they have relief in that area from the midfield too, the likes of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Eric Lamela all contributing important strikes.
Pochettino has done a fantastic job at striking a fine balance between the two aspects of the game, his side being both compact and solid when required but able to display pace and fluidity on the break.
In fact, the manager is another key reason to fancy Spurs for the title. Doubters will point to the Argentinian’s lack of experience in the high-pressure cauldron of a title run-in, but this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. One of the most level-headed and coolest coaches around, the former Southampton boss has the ability to be a calming influence on his young squad when the pressure intensifies. No wonder Chelsea are interested.
Therein lies another key – the age of the squad. With the youngest average age in the Premier League, this group of players have the energy and desire to keep up with both the high demands of Pochettino’s training method’s and the rigours of the schedule.
The squad has a surprising amount of depth and should be able to cope with injury. Only a lay-off from Harry Kane would be a major problem, although even that may be covered with time still left in the transfer window.
The England marksman is clearly a key piece of the jigsaw at White Hart Lane alongside fellow youngster Alli. The two help form a strong spine along with the Belgian central defenders and Lloris, another key factor in their success this campaign. Add in Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and more and they also have an English core which is often vital for Premier League winners.
Currently sitting in fourth just five points off the top, Spurs are in a perfect position to strike on a league that no-one seem’s to want to win. They have key visits to the Etihad, Anfield and Stamford Bridge to negotiate between now and the end of the season, but for a side boasting the best away record in the league they might not prove too bigger stumbling-block, their only defeat on the road coming to Man United on the opening day.
There is also the small matter of the North London derby still to come too, but having won three of the last four at home to their local rivals they can be confident of taking points away from Arsenal.
In fact, the biggest hurdle to Premier League success might be progression in the Europa League. For whatever reason, the combination of Thursday/Sunday games doesn’t seem to sit well with Premier League sides, their games against Man United and Chelsea particularly at risk if they get to the Quarter-finals and beyond.
But these obstacles and more will no doubt be calmly dealt with by Pochettino and his players. There’s a wind of change blowing through the Premier League this season and Tottenham might have put their main-sails up at just the right time to be the first new name on the trophy in over ten years.