When Jose Mourinho took over for Mauricio Pochettino in November 2019, I was angry. Jose’s arrogance and (lack of) style of play has always held him at the top of my list. What list, you ask? Of people in the sport who I disdain.
That said, it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around where the team currently sits. Top of the table isn’t a location Spurs fans are used to. There’s a lot of season ahead, but being on top at the end of three straight weeks may start to turn our cynical hearts and minds. And now? I’m optimistic about Tottenham.
While watching Amazon’s All or Nothing, my opinion of Jose started to morph. To be clear, I’m still not a huge fan. But damn if he didn’t humanize himself with jokes and an overall demeanor that didn’t make me want to punch him. Low bar, I know.
Sure, his people management skills are severely lacking in one on one situations. Yet somehow he has managed himself past that and instilled a belief in this team.
We’ve seen it before. Pochettino led Spurs to consecutive top four finishes and, ultimately to a Champions League final. That’s great. But the club was plagued by a lack of consistency. While they were getting shock result after shock result in Europe, the floor gave out beneath them in the Premier League.
North London growing Optimistic about Tottenham’s chances
The oddity that we’re facing today is that former issue of consistency. Through 16 games across all competitions, Tottenham has lost only twice. Once to Everton on match week one, and once to Royal Antwerp in the Europa League. To figure out how this run has come about, you have to look at three things.
A strong strike force
First, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have somehow further developed a partnership that has existed for half a decade. They have 18 goals and 13 assists between the two of them. Many of those are setting each other up. This tally has Spurs sitting at 23 goals for the season, which is three shy of Liverpool and two shy of Chelsea.
Beyond these two, Spurs have welcomed Gareth Bale and Carlos Vinicius to North London. Vinicius looks to finally be the one to help get Kane the rest he needs in a grueling campaign. The fact that he already has a handful of assists and goals under his belt means there is a depth up top much more balanced than we’ve seen in years.
Think about that for a moment. Son and Kane. Bale and Vinicius. Then there’s Bergwijn, Lamela, and Lucas Moura. Some of them aren’t getting a ton of time so far, and Lamela is unsurprisingly hurt, but that will allow for some clever lineups as we march steadfast into the festive season.
Stabilizing the back line
Then comes the second piece that has orchestrated Tottenham’s superior goal differential. And that is the fact that a once shaky defense has stabilized. Tottenham are currently the only team in the Premier League with a single digit goals against tally. Eric Dier’s resurgence has filled the void of Jan Vertonghen nicely. His years of playing with Toby Alderweireld have allowed them to easily slot into a partnership in the league.
On the outside of the back line, two newcomers have created a level of competition that has pushed the likes of Ben Davies and Serge Aurier, and all of our collective optimism, to new heights. The carousel at fullback is proving to keep fresh legs, and forcing Davies and Aurier to challenge for playing time. The Welshman is versatile enough to move inside when necessary, while the Ivorian has put in a string of consistent performances like we haven’t seen since his arrival.
Injuries and COVID have forced Jose to shuffle the line maybe a bit more than he’d like. But that has allowed Joe Rodon to prove his worth, guys to stay fresh, and us to forget that Davinson Sanchez pretty much only plays on Thursdays.
Shape is not something a Tottenham team has been able to keep for a couple of years. It hurts to watch at times, as other teams play with 60% or more of possession. However I’m not anywhere near as nervous. The fact that I’m not nervous actually scares me more…
Props to Jose
That headline genuinely hurt to type. But, the fact is, I have to give credit where it’s due. Jose has been given an opportunity not afforded to his predecessor, and he has spun that into gold so far.
Many scoffed at the signing of Joe Hart. Hell, I was one of those people. But he has won the league. He’s clearly brought a further sense of leadership into the locker room. Gareth Bale is the prodigal son returned. Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilón regularly shine. Vinicius is the backup we’ve been looking for.
But of the players Jose was able to bring in for this season, one shines brighter than the rest. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has been an absolute revelation. He works hard in defense, pulls strings in build up play, and well could wear the captain’s armband if Hugo Lloris wasn’t in the squad.
Like his manager on the sideline, Højbjerg is a bastard on the pitch. His passion and grit help to make people around him better. There has not been a minute of Premier League play he has missed. He is first in the league in passes, and sits third in both touches and tackles. Absolute boss.
So that’s that.
I’m cautiously optimistic about Tottenham Hotspur. Their play, front to back, is building a level optimism in North London that Jose Mourinho was brought in to create.
In the midst of an insane fixture list, Spurs have the opportunity to prove they belong. Having beaten Manchester City and Arsenal at home collected a hard-fought 0-0 draw to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, why would you not be optimistic as a Spurs fan? That’s three clean sheets in a row in case you weren’t counting…
Two of their next three league matches are against Liverpool, and Leicester City. Spurs just took advantage of a reeling Gunners team, and must continue to do so against an injured Liverpool, and a Foxes team that ping pongs between winning and losing.
Am I delusional enough to think Spurs will win the league? No. Am I optimistic that Tottenham can make a serious run? Yes. Yes, I am. And that scares the shit out of me.
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