On Match of the Day 2, Sunday night, Jason Roberts said with great conviction that Tottenham were, in his opinion, title challengers. At first I thought the occasion had got to the journeyman striker – a debut as a television pundit, in the new MotD studios in Salford, the desperation to make an impression. He was getting carried away. But then I began to wonder, maybe the Blackburn man was on to something...
Whenever talk of a top 4 finish and Champions League qualification comes up, there is always the worry that fourth becomes the limit of our ambitions. If you aim for fourth and fail it’s a disappointing season. Aim for third, second or first and come up short, Champions League is still in the bag. That’s why Tottenham should be looking to progress from top four challenger to a team at least aiming to join the title race, and it’s why us fans can start believing the words of people like Roberts.
Ledley king joined in the title talk in the Evening Standard. Seven wins from eight, including matches against Arsenal, Liverpool, and an on-form Newcastle is a great run, and something I cannot remember Spurs teams achieving ever in my lifetime. Three, four or five wins on the bounce sure, but then came the inevitable collapse. The result against Fulham indicates this team has a stronger backbone than lilywhite sides of the past.
If you aren’t moving forwards you are going backwards, and if you aren’t aiming for the top you’re sliding down to the bottom. Liverpool went from Premier League runners up to a sixth place finish, and all the talk moved from winning titles to top 4 finishes to simply qualifying for Europe. Arsenal have also slipped from the title picture, if they miss out on the Champions League the only way is down. Spurs have a different trajectory - Europe’s elite competition is still a relatively new phenomenon at White Hart Lane - but that should not stop everyone connected to the club from wanting more.
And it’s to our London rivals that we should look. Level on points with a Chelsea team that has stuttering title ambitions and three points ahead of a struggling Arsenal that half of the media still thinks can challenge for top spot, with a game in hand on both, are Spurs in a better position to challenge the Manchester clubs?
Tottenham title talk has a fly in the ointment in the shape of Newcastle . While many expect them to slip up in their next three games against Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea, they remain unbeaten and currently reside in third position. No pundit will believe they will maintain their lofty position, and I doubt if anyone at Newcastle honestly believes they will either, but if Tottenham are title challengers, what are the Geordies? The real deal or just on a lucky run? How they do in the next month could answer that question.
Spurs have shown they have the squad depth to compete on both domestic and continental fronts, even with quality players like Dawson, Kranjcar and Huddlestone ruled out by injury. We face Villa at home, then WBA (a), Bolton (h), Stoke (a) and Sunderland (h), all winnable games, before a match up against Chelsea. If the unbeaten run stretches until then Spurs will be right in the mix for more than just fourth place, and only Manchester City streaking ahead of the rest will stop Harry Redknapp and his men from being involved in a real title race.
Normally I wouldn’t post this article for fear of jeopardising our good run but I believe this team has overcome fits of form and luck and now has a consistency to match its quality. The only attribute that remains unknown is how the team will react if/when this unbeaten run comes to an end, but given the way the team has bounced back from the two Manchester defeats the omens are good that when we do experience our next loss we will bounce back with another unbeaten spell.