Does Tottenham's 5-0 thrashing of Swansea represent a turning point in their season?
Yes, it was at home against one of the weakest sides in the Premier League, yes Swansea City have just appointed a new foreign manager with no experience of English football, and yes Tottenham Hotspur were clear favourites before the game. But with every win comes a new wave of optimism amongst the Lilywhite fanbase, and with Mauricio Pochettino confidently declaring that Spurs weren’t even at their best as they cast away a desolate Swansea side 5-0, one can only wonder if this rampant victory is a sign of things to come.
Spurs haven’t quite hit the dizzy heights of last season results wise, and their performances have – in places – been abysmal. A decent start to the league campaign has been marred by early exits in both the Champions League, in which they were utterly dismal, and the League Cup, the latter of which could have been a fantastic chance for silverware, seeing as the side they were defeated by – Liverpool – look to have the easiest route into the final, having overcome Leeds United, and with Southampton as their opponents for the semi-finals. Still, there are potentially more significant titles to fight for; the League Cup is hardly at the top of any big club’s agenda at the start of the season.
What’s promising for Spurs is that they’re not out of the title race at this point. Such lofty ambitions are probably laughed at by opposition fans, and perhaps with good reason, but the league title must remain the ultimate ambition for everyone involved at Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs sit 5th, but 3 points off 3rd, though 7 points off title favourites Chelsea, but are at this point having had injuries to key players to the squad: Hugo Lloris, Danny Rose, notably Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane have all missed league games, while Mousa Dembele was first suspended, then injured, and has only just – judging by the Swansea game – found his rhythm again across 90 minutes. If the key players stay fit, as they did for a majority of the previous season, Spurs will only continue to improve, and may end up competing for trophies come the end of the season.]
Moreover, not only are excellent players returning, but good players are proving themselves as great players. The likes of Heung Min-Son, a promising albeit sporadic and enigmatic winger last season, has consistently put in excellent performances this season, and already has more goals this season than he did in the entirety of last – and some of them have been quite wonderful. While Kyle Walker and Danny Rose maybe aren’t – individually – the best full-backs the nation has ever produced, the systems that Mauricio Pochettino has employed has made the whole greater than the sum of its parts regarding the defence. Walker and Rose are quickly becoming – at club level – an almost flawless partnership either side of what is, for my money, the best centre-back partnership in the league in Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. Christian Eriksen is still finding his feet this season, but three goals in his last two games suggests he’s getting there, and while Erik Lamela has been sorely missed, he’s expected to return soon. The first XI looks as good as anyone’s currently, and this is very promising.
But the key thing to take out of the demolition of Swansea is that Spurs quickly found their confidence, and that their attacking intent didn’t sway. This was an issue at some points last season, where they would take a lead at a vital period in the game, and instead of going for the jugular, they would sit back and defend what they had. The North London derby at White Hart Lane illustrated this; the failure to hold on to a 2-1 lead against 10 men, when a victory would have placed the Lilywhites at the top of the league, ultimately proved disastrous. The side did appear to learn from this, securing comprehensive victories against Manchester United and Stoke afterwards last season, so it’s promising to see this vein of form continue. On top of this, the attacking lethargy and remarkably blunt attacking play that has personified some of the football Spurs have played this season was almost entirely absent from White Hart Lane last Saturday, and hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
Of course, as football supporters it’s remarkably easy to get carried away; Swansea were exceptionally weak and gave Hugo Lloris very little to do, which has been a rarity for the Frenchman during his stint at the club. The disappointing European performances have also brought the North-London outfit under much scrutiny recently, and everyone involved with the club will be disappointed that they failed to progress from what appeared a straightforward group. But even so, with such a comprehensive victory, and with two of the club’s most important players signing long-term contracts last week in Jan Vertonghen and Harry Kane, the future at Spurs looks very bright, not just immediately but also in the longer-term.