Move over Leicester, Spurs are the new favourites for title
MAN CITY 1
(Kelechi Iheanacho 74)
(Harry Kane 54-pen, Christian Eriksen 83)
Move over Leicester City — the English Premier League’s fairytale narrative has found a new protagonist.
Finally, Tottenham Hotspur are seizing their moment in the spotlight and proving their mettle as worthy title contenders.
With more than a helping hand, from their local rivals as much as referee Mark Clattenburg, Mauricio Pochettino’s burgeoning crop are now firmly hot on the tail of the previously unassailable Foxes.
English football’s ultimate prize is now theirs for the taking.
All the hard work had been done for them; Arsenal had suckerpunched the current leaders earlier, while Manchester City’s uncharacteristically profligate attack also conspired to ensure the previously daunting five-point gap between first and second in the table was finally cut down to size.
Manuel Pellegrini will invariably view successive defeats for his side at the Etihad Stadium with more than a bone of contention.
Conceding from a penalty awarded from a dubious hand-ball decision may have been unjust, but Spurs are showing why they rightfully remain Leicester’s closest competitors.
Pellegrini’s farewell tour is threatening to devolve into a rehashing of the best bits rather than reaching a glorious finale.
Not even Vincent Kompany’s return to action for the first time since Nov 8 can revive City’s increasingly fading title dream.
They have bounced back from greater margins than the current six-point gulf but, this season, they have become little more than flattrack bullies — incapable of punishing and pummelling those they once bypassed with ease en route to two titles in the space of three seasons.
They are no more capable of taking the fight to Leicester in the remaining months of the campaign than Manchester United are in bridging the sixpoint gap between their city’s nearest and fiercest.
Few fear the sceptre of the Etihad — Claudio Ranieri’s high-fliers certainly didn’t last weekend.
The relentless approach from Pochettino’s charges was similarly unfazed as one of the EPL’s long-standing fortresses was dismantled in a seventh league defeat of the season for their beleaguered hosts.
Not since their Champions Leagueclinching victory over City in 2010 has a Spurs victory been greeted with such euphoria.
Even Pochettino, managerial composure personified, allowed himself to become engulfed by the emotion of the occasion.
As his players traversed to bask in the glow of adulation from their travelling supporters, he joined in, hugging and screaming in elation.
Few could blame him — it was a moment to savour.
In one fell swoop, Christian Eriksen’s late strike had maintained their current momentum and pushed City’s looming threat back into the middle distance.
Spurs still risk finding themselves there with the impending exertions of the Europa League on the horizon, but the omens suggest otherwise.
They are well-stocked to maintain the good fight on multiple fronts.
In defence, Kevin Wimmer has ensured that they remain undeterred by the continued absence of Jan Vertonghen in a way that City could only have aspired during Kompany’s regular bouts on the sidelines.
At the other end, Harry Kane’s status at the fulcrum of their front-line artillery has put the likes of Sergio Aguero to shame.
The next 12 games will show if they can seal the deal.
Holding their nerve is all that is required. Sometimes, that has been easier said than done at White Hart Lane.
I don’t like to talk about the future. It’s more important for us to take things step by step.
— Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, on their title chances
- MAN CITY: Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi, Gael Clichy (Aleksandar Kolarov 75), Fernando (Kelechi Iheanacho 66), Fernandinho, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero
- TOTTENHAM: Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele, Son Heung Min (Tom Carroll 72), Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli (Erik Lamela 81), Harry Kane (Nacer Chadli 89)