Tottenham now look serious contenders for the title

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It was a moment of utter significance. Moussa Dembele won the ball in midfield, giving it to Erik Lamela who drove at the Manchester City backline with pace, sliding it through to Christian Eriksen, finishing the decisive chance nonchalantly. If Tottenham didn't believe before, they ought to believe now.

Spurs fans have every right to be cautious, their club has not won a league title since 1961 and remain a team capable of self-destructing, as shown by defeats to Newcastle and Leicester earlier this season. They have moments that cause confusion, even when the odds are in their favour.

This year however, amidst the sudden increase in consistency and decrease of lacklustre displays, Spurs are mixing their impressive defensive solidarity with clinical moments at the other end of the field. The patience with Mauricio Pochettino looks to have paid off as the Argentinian is building a side with a formidable, yet balanced mix of youth, experience and quality.


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Many would have been forgiven to still doubt Spurs before Sunday. People wanted to see how they would cope at the home of such an imperious side like Manchester City.

Could they match City physically? Could they show the fitness and desire to reduce City's amount of comfortable periods on the ball? And when they got their chance to score, could they finish emphatically the way champions would? Well, all of those questions were answered in some style.

The 2-1 win at the Etihad proved not only that Spurs were capable of challenging for the title, but also showed everyone that they are in this title race until the very end. It would be foolish to write Pochettino's men off now, surely. After all, this looks like a different Spurs and one that has the tools to go and win the league in a season with so many twists and turns, it almost defies belief.

"They were in second place before today but I still don't think there was that belief that they could go and win the league," said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. "But when you come to a title rival away from home, perform like that and win … I think they believe they can go on and win it now."

What is perhaps most impressive about this Spurs side is the determination and team-work. Every player in the side looks to be playing for each other, as demonstrated perfectly by Sunday's victory. This is a team that has ball winners and ball players in the middle of the park.

The young English pair of Eric Dier and Dele Alli provide the relentless energy, whereas Dembele and Christian Eriksen perform the flair. It is an impressive balance that has been found. Even the likes of Dembele can chip in with crucial tackles and interceptions when needed, as typified by his challenge on Yaya Toure in the lead up to the winner on Sunday.

"We've seen Yaya Toure run through midfield so often over the years - but don't do that against Spurs," former Liverpool defender Carragher noticed. "They're the best in the league and winning the ball back and they're right onto that back four."

Fellow Sky pundit Thierry Henry believes Tottenham are the only team in 'cruise control' at the moment and it's hard to disagree. Over the last five matches, Spurs have the best form in the league with five wins, scoring the second most goals and joint second least goals conceded. In addition, Pochettino's men boast the best defensive record in the Premier League this season, with only 20 goals conceded from 26 games so far.

What is perhaps even more comforting for Spurs fans is the renaissance of players who had not performed to their potential in the past. Kyle Walker, Danny Rose and Erik Lamela, in particular, come into this category.

Walker and Rose put in an almighty shift to stop the threat of City pair Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero while Lamela produced the pace, vision and skill to set up Eriksen's winner - attributes that he has shown glimpses of but not performed to the consistent high-level that his hefty price tag suggested.

So what could stop Spurs going all the way? Firstly, fixture congestion could be a problem for Pochettino's side. Spurs are still in the Europa League have a tricky tie against Fiorentina on Thursday, as well as an FA Cup fifth round match against Crystal Palace three days later.

Although he will want to see his side go as far as they can in these two competitions, Pochettino will be wary of the strain on his team going into the final weeks of the season. The Premier League is surely the priority yet Spurs fans will want to keep the momentum going in all competitions. It is a demanding task considering the fact that their team don't have the same squad depth as two of their fellow title rivals, Arsenal and Manchester City.

Furthermore, Pochettino may struggle to find goals in his side if the likes of Harry Kane and Eriksen get injured or suspended, as there are limited options in reserve. If an injury to one or even both of Tottenham's star men occur, the role of Son Heung-min and Erik Lamela - two men who have struggled to nail down starting spots this season - could become imperative. Squad depth may be a problem for Spurs but if their main XI stay fit, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with.

With Pochettino at the helm, it seems unlikely now that Tottenham will fall away. This is a side with better balance and quality to what we have seen before.

And as they keep performing beyond expectations, perhaps now it would be wise to take Tottenham's title challenge just a little more seriously.

Jan Vertonghen
Premier League
Manchester City
Moussa Dembele
Tottenham Hotspur

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