Spurs fans know the chant well: they don’t need to be reminded of it. Any proud fan old enough to remember will tell you of the glory days under Bill Nicholson, during which the club lifted the old First Division trophy in 1961. Yet the younger generation will struggle to find similar successes for Tottenham in the top flight, especially since the vision of Eden Hazard’s infamous goal last May which sent the title Leicester’s way seems destined to haunt Spurs for many years to come.
Revenge however, has a funny way of manifesting itself. Chelsea went into Wednesday night’s match with a chance to set an all-time top flight record in English football, let alone the Premier league. 14 straight victories in a single league season would have been an unprecedented achievement, something the Blues could have been monumentally proud of. For Mauricio Pochettino’s men, it was a chance to finally put to rest their demons of Stamford Bridge last season, while giving themselves a foothold in what was becoming a rather dull title race. Going eight points clear of second place Liverpool through defeating a side that has not lost at White Hart Lane all season would have been a devastating statement made by Antoine Conte’s side.
As it turned out, Spurs were able to inflict revenge onto their London rivals, which was always going to be a heated affair. Two brilliant headers from Dele Alli, a player currently enjoying the scoring form of his life, proved too much for the Blues. Yet what was also demonstrated was the growing impression that Tottenham may finally have all the components of what it takes to go all the way in the Premier League. After showing so much promise last year, Wednesday’s result highlighted one quality that Tottenham lacked last season, maturity. All the pre-match focus concentrated on the ferocity expected again in this fixture, yet signs of frustration could only been seen from the players wearing blue.
In assessing their title bid, it is crucial to note that Tottenham finally have a strong, consistent backbone that they have lacked for so many years, despite always possessing high quality players. Pochettino has Toby Alderweireld Jan Vertonghen to thank for maintaining the best defensive record in the league this season, while Hugo Lloris has also been in fine form. Three players with quality, maturity and leadership skills have proved vital for Spurs so far and will need to keep both centre halves fit if they are to continue their Christmas form. Developing on from last season, Victor Wanyama, alongside the resilient Dembele, has been a powerhouse for the side, providing Tottenham with real stability which allows the likes of Dele Alli to make runs into the box and get on the end of crosses, as he has done in the last three games running. Uniting all these ingredients together with someone who can now surely be considered a world class striker, Harry Kane makes up the spine of a perfectly well balanced side who seem to have learnt and grown from the calamity they experienced at the end of last season.
My one worry for Tottenham is that although they have some depth to their squad, it is not as versatile as that of their title rivals. Janssen has looked poor so far, while the likes of Lamela and Son, however good on their day, are still inconsistent. Indeed, Tottenham have a real chance at winning the league in their final season at White Hart Lane, but they must stay focused and not let it get to their heads as they did a year ago. Only time will tell us if this is possible, but at this point in the season so far, Tottenham already seem to possess more quality and maturity than they did last time around.
By Freddie Alcock.