by Max Kurek
“It’s not impossible to win the title, it’s not impossible. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible. We’ve got a chance”. That was Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp speaking after his side’s 2-0 defeat of Everton at White Hart Lane. For Redknapp they are words he likely did not plan to be uttering midway through January.
Currently, Spurs sit in an unfamiliar position in the Barclays Premier League table, even on points with Manchester United and just three behind leaders Manchester City.
To the surprise of fans across the league, including their own, Tottenham are playing some of the best football around. Their form has been so consistently good, excluding the first two matches of the season which saw them thumped at the mercy of both Manchester clubs, that the discussion of Spurs as title contenders is now in full swing. It is a question worth asking and one that elicits a variety of responses depending on who you ask.
Ultimately, given their current form, talented squad, and determined manager the label of “title contenders” appears absolutely appropriate for Tottenham. Spurs certainly look like a side capable of winning the league for the first time since 1961.
Several factors make Tottenham dangerous in their quest for the league title. First, they get scoring output from a variety of places. Currently, Spurs have 4 players who have scored at least 7 league goals: Rafael van der Vaart, Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale, and Emmanuel Adebayor. The abundance of in-form goal-scorers has given Harry Redknapp the luxury of being able to field several formations without the worry of losing scoring.
The preferred line-up includes a 4 man midfield, with a strikeforce of van der Vaart slotting in directly behind Adebayor. However, Redknapp also has the option of returning to a more traditional 4-4-2, with Defoe partnering Adebayor and van der Vaart afforded a rest.
Only Liverpool and Manchester City have conceded fewer goals (18 and 16 respectively) than Spurs
The return to form of Defoe has been of particular importance, considering the striker netted only 4 times a year ago. This season, however, Defoe has scored whenever called upon, be it from the bench or when handed a start. With an abundance of goal scorers to go with the craftiness of Luka Modric and the speed of Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, Spurs boast one of the league’s most potent attacks.
Another change in this year’s Spurs side has been the ability to balance such a notorious attack with a very strong defense. The level of play at the back for Tottenham has improved immensely thanks to the emergence of Younes Kaboul and the presence of Ledley King, who this season has already made nearly twice as many appearances as he did a year ago. Only Liverpool and Manchester City have conceded fewer goals (18 and 16 respectively) than Spurs (20). Redknapp’s side have also managed 8 clean sheets.
Additionally, the discipline of the Tottenham back line has been of the highest standards. Spurs have been booked less than any other team in the league this season, and only Wolves, Manchester United, and Swansea have committed fewer fouls.
The final piece of the puzzle for this year’s Spurs side has been the stellar play of Redknapp’s summer signings, despite the opinion of many that Tottenham were extraordinarily quiet in the summer.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Brad Friedel, and Scott Parker have all been key in Spurs’ march up the table. Adebayor, on-loan from title rivals Manchester City, has netted 9 league goals and dished out 7 assists to date this season, leading the squad in both categories. Friedel has started 20 matches for Spurs, conceding just 20 goals and keeping 8 clean sheets. Parker, the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year a season ago, has slotted seamlessly beside Luka Modric in the center of the Tottenham midfield, helping to comprise perhaps the best central midfield partnership in the league.
The entire squad seems to believe that a league title is undoubtedly within reach.
Nobody expects Tottenham to finish first this season. If you asked 10 people who they would predict to win the league it is unlikely that even one would choose Spurs. Manchester City have the strength in depth and the money to get even better; Manchester United have the experience of 19 league titles already under their belt. Then there is Tottenham, a side notorious for underperforming, well known for collapsing down the stretch.
Yet this year feels different in so many ways. The best players have remained, the manager has stayed confident and focused (though not necessarily quiet), and the entire squad seems to believe that a league title is undoubtedly within reach.
Say what you will about Spurs; bring up the tough run of games they have upcoming; denounce their lack of depth; believe that this will all come crashing down when those inevitable injuries to key players come; call them bottlers. But be wary of placing any wagers based on these supposed “facts” because, though they might not be the favorites, Spurs have the talent, mindset, and will to finish at the top of the Barclays Premier League. If you don’t believe me, just ask ‘Appy ‘Arry.