The Premier League isn’t shaping up as expected, with neither Manchester City nor Liverpool sitting atop the table or putting in particularly impressive, consistent performances. A cluttered start to the campaign appears to have thrown off several teams, with injuries already taking a toll on many.
However, through the rapids, a few teams emerged afloat after the first phase of the season. Aston Villa flew to sixth with a game in hand, Southampton were cruising in fourth, Leicester City led the way, and Tottenham Hotspur sat just one point back off the top spot.
Spurs have, arguably, been the most impressive since the first game, and now they’re being discussed as legitimate title challengers.
Mourinho doesn’t like it, but Spurs look like contenders
It’s still early days, but Spurs are certainly in consideration for big things this year. According to the football odds from Betfair, Tottenham are the fourth-favourites to win the league at 9/1. The club is also seen as near certainties to get into the top-four at 8/13 and are rated at 16/5 to breach the top-two. Furthermore, Harry Kane is being sized up for the golden boot already, at 10/3 to be the league’s top goalscorer.
While Tottenham’s start hasn’t been without its frailties, such as the Everton loss and the 3-3 draw with West Ham United, the team seems to be learning from the mishaps. Despite the praise and the emphatic performances, though, José Mourinho has been quick to sidestep any hype of a potential title push. As reported by the BBC, before the international break, he responded “I don’t care” to a question about the club’s league-winning aspirations.
The boss is right to push such thinking to one side to allow the players to focus on the next game, and then the next game. That said, the way that Spurs have been going in the early part of the campaign, it’s tough to argue against the club being proper contenders.
There’s a lot of football to be played
One of the most incredible aspects of Tottenham’s rapid start to the season is the fact that they’d already played 15 competitive matches by the middle of November. Going through Europa League qualifying, the first half of the Europa League group stage, eight Premier League matches, and the EFL Cup fourth round, Spurs boasted 11 wins (including a win on penalties), two draws, and two losses.
Defensive consistency has been key, with the new signings of Sergio Reguilon and Matt Doherty proving to be increasingly pivotal to Mourinho’s emphasis on organisation. Both are very much two-way full-backs, being strong in attack and defence, with fellow new addition Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg offering plenty of protection through the middle.
Perhaps the main fear which has derailed the early aspirations of Liverpool and Manchester City is injuries. Spurs have played an unprecedented number of games since the short break between seasons, and eventually, the injuries will start to stack-up. The one player who the team can’t stand to lose, though, is the most injury-prone of them all: Harry Kane.
The star striker is irreplaceable, being the focal point of the attack, the Englishman scored seven goals and set-up another eight in just the first eight games of the season. However, in 2016/17, injuries and recovery held Kane out of 14 games, another four in 2017/18, 17 in 2018/19, and 15 last season. In a season perfectly designed to flare-up injuries, it’d be a huge risk to play Kane more than once per week.
Spurs are looking better with each passing game; the attack has been venomous, the midfield has been hard-working, and the defence conceded the joint-fewest goals through eight games. Consistency will be critical to transform this great start into a title challenge, as will keeping the star striker fit and firing on all cylinders.
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