Richard Buxton: Jose Mourinho moulding Tottenham into title contenders
Tottenham showing signs of a typical Mourinho team after smash-and-grab win
It seems to be really happening again for Tottenham Hotspur.
Just when they seemed destined to remain the footballing epitome of all mouth and no trousers, they silenced their critics with a late 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion yesterday.
The terrace taunts that routinely dogged them may soon be about to change in tone.
|(Harry Kane 88)|
Last night's smash-and-grab victory underlined why they might finally be waging a genuine assault on the English Premier League title in this most topsy-turvy of seasons.
Countless players in the Lilywhites' camp had been quick to talk up their potential in unseating Liverpool and Manchester City in a throwback to their class of 2015-16 season.
For 88 minutes at the Hawthorns, however, the humiliating end to that campaign as they ultimately finished third in a two-horse race under Mauricio Pochettino appeared more realistic than a glorious reboot, with Mourinho's tenure suffering a fresh ignominy.
Son Heung-min's laboured attempt became the third time Tottenham registered a solitary first-half shot in their 34 top-flight games with the Special One at the helm.
That dubious distinction befell his predecessor a mere four times in 202 matches.
As the Argentinian flutters his eyelashes in the direction of a Manchester United hot seat that Mourinho once occupied, his successor's failings threatened to be placed in sharp focus.
Only Eric Dier's goal-line clearance to deny Callum Robinson's cross-shot salvaged any credibility from a lacklustre opening 45 minutes.
They had to wait a further quarter of an hour for an actual effort on target, with Sergio Reguilon's awkward long-range drive.
Pot-shots became a recurring theme in the second half for Spurs with Mourinho's attempt to align his star-studded attack for a first time failing to produce the desired alchemy as Son and Gareth Bale struggled to impose themselves on Slaven Bilic's side.
Even history did not appear written for Harry Kane against a team whom he had scored seven times in as many previous outings with the Baggies' defence proving stubborn.
Yet what the England international lacked on the ground, he more than made up in aerial prowess with a headed goal. The winner turned out to be Kane's 150th goal in the EPL.
A rare lapse in concentration handed Kane the only real opportunity he required, and had craved, all game.
There is a reason why only a select few have been able to amass the same number of goals as the striker now sits on in fewer top-flight appearances.
Spurs' ascension to the top for a first time since 2014 may have proved short-lived, with Leicester City unseating them following their 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, but Mourinho is better versed than most on what it takes to mount genuine title challenges.
He has never shied away from his old habits; preferring to grind out results rather than risk being exposed by the shiny aesthetic which became Pochettino's ultimate undoing.
If his current charges are serious about seeing through this latest title tilt to the last, Tottenham will need to become a typical Mourinho team - whether they like it or not.