21st April 2016. By Greg Lea.
The Premier League title race is well and truly on. Leicester City's 2-2 draw with West Ham United on Sunday afternoon opened the door for Tottenham Hotspur, who duly took full advantage by thrashing Stoke City 4-0 to move to within five points of the Foxes at the top of the table.
It was an emphatic victory and brilliant showing from Spurs at the Britannia Stadium, particularly as the pressure had been heaped upon them following Leicester's dropped points. The fact that they were able to go away from home and get the win that was necessary underlined their championship credentials; the fact that they did so while playing some sublime football and carving Stoke open at will was even more impressive.
Tottenham were fantastic throughout, clinical in attack and resolute at the back. They created a number of excellent scoring chances, particularly in the second half, and countered with great speed and efficiency without ever leaving themselves exposed or outnumbered in defence. Tottenham were slick, sharp, solid and steely, and again proved that they are the best team in the division on current form.
Harry Kane added another two goals to his tally to move clear in the battle for the Golden Boot; Dele Alli also netted a brace and again displayed his talent with some deft touches and clever flicks; Christian Eriksen played some fabulous passes including a wonderful assist for Alli's second and was a constant thorn in Stoke's side; Erik Lamela was typically hard-working without the ball and dangerous with it; Mousa Dembele prowled the midfield well while Eric Dier anchored it with equal aptitude; full-backs Danny Rose and Kyle Walker provided width and incision with their frequent bursts down the flanks; and Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld were once more terrific in the heart of the backline.
This, though, was further proof that Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham amount to more than the sum of their parts. That is not to say that Spurs have bad players, of course, but that their individuals fit together perfectly and are succeeding as part of a well-coached, well-drilled and coherent collective.
It was also the type of performance that showed why Tottenham can look back at this season with immense pride, regardless of whether or not they go on to win the championship for the first time since 1961. Indeed, while Leicester are deserving of their current placing at the summit of the standings, such an extraordinarily unlikely achievement may never be repeated again; Spurs, conversely, could feasibly be in a similar position in 12 months' time, given Mauricio Pochettino is still only in his second season in charge and has a young squad that is only likely to get better with experience at his disposal.
Jamie Vardy's suspension is a huge blow for Leicester, with many onlookers predicting a slip-up from a group of players who for the most part have never been in this sort of position before. Their five-point margin at the top could be enough for them to drag themselves over the line in the remaining four matches, however, with Tottenham who travel across London to take on Chelsea on Monday night set to fall eight behind if Leicester are able to overcome Swansea City at the King Power Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
A dramatic climax to a wonderful Premier League season awaits, with the traditional powers out of the running and unfancied Leicester and Tottenham the two last teams standing. Even if they are beaten to the finish line by Claudop Ranieri's remarkable Foxes, Spurs must take the positives from what has been a superb campaign and attempt to go one better next time around.
Tottenham Hotspur Poised for EPL Title Race
21st April 2016. By Greg Lea.