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Premier League Dark Horses: Do Tottenham have what it takes to compete at the top?

After eight Premier League games, Tottenham Hotspur sit in second spot, just one point behind leaders Leicester City. But after several years of near-misses, could this be the year they finally get their hands on some silverware? Liam Rowsell assesses their chances for this season. 

How have Tottenham performed so far?

Spurs kick-started their 2020/21 Premier League campaign with the visit of Everton, but after that performance, few would’ve expected them to be where they are now. They fell to a 1-0 defeat that day with a Dominic Calvert-Lewin goal making the difference. Their next Premier League encounter ended in much better fashion though, as four goals from Heung-Min Son helped the side to a 5-2 win over a Southampton side who insisted on playing with a high line and were caught out time and time again.

One week later was the clash with Newcastle, a game in which Spurs dominated from the first minute to the last only to have their slender lead wiped out in the 97th minute courtesy of a very controversial Callum Wilson penalty, but they soon got back to winning ways with that emphatic win at Old Trafford. They humiliated Man United in that game, and the 6-1 scoreline was nothing more than they deserved despite being behind after just two minutes.

With goals at the forefront of their mind, Mourinho’s side found themselves 3-0 up against West Ham after just 16 minutes. However, that game ended up as one to forget as the Hammers scored three after the 82nd minute to complete the comeback of the season and earn a point late on. Since then, Spurs have played three games against teams in the bottom five and each time they have come out on top. Only one goal has separated Tottenham and their opponents on all three occasions, but some credit must be given to them for the way they’ve kept going against sides who have made themselves difficult to break down.

In other competitions, Spurs have also performed reasonably well. They overcame Chelsea on penalties in the Carabao Cup last 16 to book their place in December’s quarter finals and also sit top of their Europa League group. They had to negotiate their way through a gruelling qualification campaign first but did so in fine fashion, winning all three of their games by an aggregate scoreline of 12-4. After three games in the Europa League, Tottenham sit top with six points but are level on points with Antwerp and LASK. Failing to get out of Group J would be a huge disappointment.


Where have Spurs done so well?

Tottenham have an extremely highly talented squad, particularly in attacking departments. The likes of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura, and the summer loan acquisition of Gareth Bale, have really made Tottenham a force to be reckoned with when entering the final third of the pitch. The 38 goals they’ve scored already this season in all competitions indicate just how much harm they can inflict on an opposition, and when a team has that goal-scoring gift, they’ve always got a splendid chance.

Star man Harry Kane has already scored 13 goals in all competitions this season, having scored an average of one goal every 77 minutes (Source: Transfermarkt). Everyone knows about his goal-scoring capabilities, but it’s been his creativity on the ball that has really caught the eye this season. His 10 assists have shown an entirely extra dimension to his game, and the partnership with Heung-Min Son he has formed has got Spurs firing on all cylinders. Add Gareth Bale to the mix and once he has got back to his best, Spurs will have arguably the best front three in the country.

In terms of squad depth, Tottenham have plenty in midfield. New signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg along with the Sissoko, Ndombele, Winks, Lo Celso and more are all accomplished of performing to a high level in the centre of the park. All have certain strengths and weaknesses but Jose Mourinho seems to prefer utilising the attacking influence of Ndombele with Sissoko and Hojbjerg providing a rigid structure just behind. Defensively, Spurs are also pretty sound, having conceded the joint least amount of goals in the Premier League along with Leicester, Man City, Wolves and Aston Villa.

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Where can Tottenham still improve?

Whilst most of Tottenham’s results this season have been positive, there is still a sense they’re not quite the finished article. They have been on the end of some disappointing results, and an inability to see a game out when in front has been evident. They’ve lost points because of this against Newcastle and most notably against West Ham where they really should have been more professional in the closing minutes and the likes of Liverpool, Man City and even Leicester wouldn’t have let that happen.

They also look too easy to frustrate at the moment and when teams sit back behind the ball, they seem to struggle to break them down. They have managed it in their last three Premier League games against weaker opposition, but they have scored all three winning goals in the final twenty minutes. The West Brom game saw Tottenham become increasingly frustrated as the game went on and they were perhaps fortunate that they came away with all three points right at the end. Those performances haven’t been convincing, but the best teams will always find a way of winning, even when things aren’t going their way.

The bigger tests are still to come for Tottenham, as they’ve faced just two of the top eleven so far. The games do significantly increase in difficulty after the international break though as they head into a run of seven very challenging fixtures, all of which are against teams inside the top eleven. Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Leicester and Wolves await and it’s this run that will really determine just where this team is at. Only once they’ve shown an ability to compete in those higher-profile matches, will we able to describe them as real title contenders? tottenham

Do Spurs really have what it takes to win some silverware?

In the past, it has been those matches against the better teams that they’ve struggled in and that can’t continue if they’re to mount a proper challenge at the top. Their emphatic win over Manchester United perhaps showed an improvement in that department, but there is still work to be done for sure. Title winners can always compete with the very best and until Tottenham show they can do this, their wait for silverware will continue.

Indeed, it has been twelve years since Spurs last won a major competition, but that League Cup triumph is their only proper piece of silverware in the 21st Century. Although they’ve come close frequently, including their second place finish in the 2016/17 Premier League, consecutive FA Cup semi-final defeats in 2017 and 2018 and the Champions League final of 2019, they’ve never quite been able to get over the line. A lack of a winning mentality has been a major factor in that which is why the appointment of serial-winner Jose Mourinho is potentially so exciting for Tottenham in the next few years.

In each of the last three seasons, the Premier League Champions have finished with a final points tally of 98 points or more. If Tottenham continue earning points at their current rate, they will finish the season with 80 points, which hasn’t been enough to top the league since the 2010/11 season when Man United became champions. This season’s title race is wide open at the moment with Man City already six points off the top and with Leicester, Southampton and Aston Villa all within the top six, anything could happen this season. Perhaps this season is as good a chance to win silverware as Spurs have had for years.

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