Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur team currently lead the Premier League table, sitting pretty on 21 points from 10 games. While the manager himself has played down his team’s chances, Spurs do look like genuine title contenders in this strange season. Can the north Londoners actually manage the feat?
Spurs have taken four points from six in games against Manchester City (2-0) and Chelsea (0-0) in the last two weeks, significant results for any side looking to be a contender. Two clean sheets in those games is worth noting too.
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville believes that the Spurs coach has managed to find a style that allows his team to remain defensively resilient whilst still being able to break with deadly speed. The way that centre forward Harry Kane drifts deep while Son Heung-Min and Steven Bergwijn remain close to him is key to how the system works.
Moussa Sissoko and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg as a duo of defensive midfielders also works well, and the pair offer the kind of protection to the back four that Mourinho has prized throughout his coaching career.
The coach has, in typically blunt fashion, tried to minimise his club’s chances of lifting the Premier League crown. After the weekend draw with Chelsea, he told reporters: “We are not even in the race so we are not a horse. We are just a pony. You see the difference – Joe Rodon was at Swansea, [whereas Chelsea’s] Thiago Silva is one of the best centre-backs in the world.”
There is almost certainly a touch of the mind games for which the Portuguese is famous in those words. The Spurs coach is sure to have a pretty clear picture of his team’s capabilities in his mind, and the fact that he is deliberately playing down Spurs’ chances is probably a sign that he knows they are capable.
Significantly, he also made sure that everyone at the post-match press conference knew that he was disappointed with just a point from the clash with Chelsea. A 0-0 draw may not look that inspiring on paper, but the Portuguese will be delighted with the defensive resilience his team showed. He also asserted that he felt Chelsea showed proper respect to his team – a sign that his confidence in his players is growing.
Liverpool are sure to have plenty to say about that, however. While the Reds are currently in second place in the table on goal difference, they have the same number of points as Spurs. Jurgen Klopp’s team are not even the bookies’ first choice for the title, though.
If we take a look at Betway’s odds, then Manchester City, currently way down in 11th place with 15 points, remain favourites for the title at 15/8. Liverpool are priced at 2/1, while Spurs have the same odds as Chelsea – 6/1.
Those odds give perhaps a realistic assessment of Spurs’ actual chances of winning the title, but no one should rule the north London outfit out of things. While free-flowing attacking football has been the hallmark of title winners in recent years, maybe it is time for a comeback for the kind of steely defensive resilience of a Mourinho team?
The Portuguese has not enjoyed the greatest era of his career in recent seasons, but he knows how to win titles. A price of 6/1 surely makes Spurs worth a cheeky punt. Next up for Spurs is a north London derby with Arsenal – win that and even the most cynical fans may start to believe that a title is possible.