After beating Manchester City, are Spurs title favourites?

October 4, 2016

For Spurs fans, optimism is usually a guarded thing, even when the year ends in a 1. Yet after Sunday's 2-0 victory over Manchester City, there is no longer any reason to be quiet about it; Spurs are genuine title contenders.

Of course, that shouldn't really be news, with the men from White Hart Lane pushing Leicester City right down to the last couple of games last season. True, the late-season loss of form meant the trophy ended up in the Midlands and Arsenal sneaked in to steal second place, but the signs were there.

What made some think this season would be different was the way the big guns reacted to last season's failings by spending heavily in the summer, with some big-name bosses arriving to take charge of rival sides. Everyone knew Leicester's glory year was a one-off while the top sides took a year out, and the heavy defeats they have suffered at Anfield and Old Trafford already this season have borne this out. But with the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all strengthening, the task facing Mauricio Pochettino's men seemed so much harder this time.

The arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City appeared to be one particular problem. Everyone assumed that City would pass all and sundry off the park with brilliant tiki-taka football, and the early season form bore this out, with nine straight wins in all competitions. However, it is arguable that the only strong team faced in that time was neighbours United, and perhaps that derby game told us more about the task Jose Mourinho faces in working out his best team and how to change its style from the plodders of Van Gaal to something more dynamic, a task that may delay any title challenge from Old Trafford for another year.

They may have enjoyed good possession stats, but Guardiola's men are fragile in a way his Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides were not. Celtic showed how relentless pressing could get a result against them, and with superior players to the Scottish champions Spurs went one better and battered City. in the end it was 2-0, but had Eric Lamela scored his second half penalty, the three-goal margin would not have flattered the home side.

Showing that Guardiola's men are vulnerable and offering a blueprint of how to combat them was not all, however. This is a Spurs side with a rock-solid defence like no other in living memory. It has quality and, crucially, strength in depth in all areas. City missed Kevin de Bruyne at White Hart Lane, but the absence of Harry Kane and Moussa Dembele made no difference to the home side.

All this means this could be a great season to hire a private box at White Hart Lane. The new stadium may still be under construction, but Spurs are looking the finished article.

Of course, that doesn't mean it's in the bag. Many sides won't be able to play against City like Pochettino's men did, while Liverpool's own high-pressing and intense attacking game may mask their defensive weaknesses. Manchester United will improve, as may Chelsea, and Arsenal are always lurking around the corner.

All that means this could be one of the most exciting seasons in Premier League history - and even more so if it means Spurs being champions of England for the first time since 1961.  

By Keith Prowse

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