For the first time in my life, pundits are hailing Spurs as the best team in the league. If I am being brutally honest, having grown up on a staple diet of Steve Sedgley, Jason Cundy and Nicola Berti, I never thought that this day would come. This is the sort of success that would normally be reserved for a heavily edited game of Football Manager. But this is real life…..you can’t just replay every game until you get the result that you want (Disclaimer: I don't actually do this.....well not much, anyway). And the great thing is that we are not a flash in the pan. We aren’t Leicester City. On the pitch, the players have been delivering week in, week out and have played some of the best football I have ever witnessed. In the boardroom, Daniel Levy has run the club in a way that would make even the Prime Minister of Greece take notice. On the terraces, the fans have been amazing, both at White Hart Lane and in particular, away from home. I am sure that our friends at Arsenal TV would disagree with this point…..but it’s fair to say that they have bigger issues to worry about right now. Am I right, Robbie blud? But all of this would count for nothing without the proverbial glue that holds it all together….and that is our very own Mauricio Pochettino. Since he joined us in 2014, it has been his priority to get involved in every aspect of our great Club and as a result, he is responsible for making Tottenham Hotspur significantly greater than the sum of its parts.
But apparently, this isn’t a view shared by everyone. Over the summer, the majority of the hype around the upcoming season seemed to focus on the battle of the “elite” managers. With Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp all listening to their inner bank balances and deciding to ply their trade in the Premier League, I suppose that this was understandable, to a point. However, what really grinds my gears is the fact that Poch was rarely even mentioned in the same breath as these alleged “Grandmasters”. It very much felt that unless you were a Portugese sociopath, a borderline paedo or the angriest little Italian since Benito Mussolini, you simply weren’t news worthy. The Premier League was becoming less about the football and more like the least arousing episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. It was becoming theatre….and Poch was being punished, purely for being a consummate professional. No matter how you cut the financial data, we are a club that, by all accounts (pardon the pun) belong in 6th place. However, Poch took us to 3rd last season and back into the Champions League, with a net spend of only £5m. He took a team of youngsters and turned them into household names. I can remember a time when you always knew which name you would get on the back of your shirt, because we generally never had more than one top quality player…..who would always leave right after you bought the shirt, meaning you often had to replace it immediately. Well played Daniel Levy, well played. However, now I find myself buying 3 or 4 shirts a season, just to accommodate all of my favourite players! It also leaves me in the slightly creepy situation of being a 33 year old man, who idolizes 22 year old boys….but if it's good enough for Michael Barrymore, I suppose it's good enough for me. Anyway, I digress…..during my life time, Tottenham have always been good but Mauricio Pochettino has finally made them great again. He is like a less rapey, Argentine Donald Trump. But even now, after the season that we have had, I still don’t feel that the media gives him adequate recognition for what he is……and that of course, is magic.
Not only has Poch implemented a rigid philosophy upon the squad (one that has seen us top almost every statistical table in the league this year) but more importantly, he has tinkered around under the bonnet and managed to successfully address the issue of our mentality...or lack thereof. This has clearly taken some time and with the exception of our mini-implosion at St. James Park last year, we no longer appear to be “Spursy”. Take the recent FA Cup Semi-Final defeat to Chelsea for example. I hadn’t been this nervous about a semi since I first watched Brokeback Mountain and with just cause apparently, as we proceeded to lose again at Wembley. In years gone by, this would have de-railed our entire season. However, we responded fantastically by scraping a hard fought 1-0 win at Selhurst Park the following week. We are no longer pushovers. We have kept more clean sheets than any other team in the league and have also scored more goals to boot. In any other season, this would already have been enough to win us the title….which is still not an impossible task!
And if ever there was a game that epitomized this shift in our mentality and the progression of our footballing philosophy, it was the comfortable 2-0 victory over Arsenal on Sunday. We beat our closest rivals, without ever really getting out of 2nd gear. Coupled with Arsenal’s hilarious decline over the last few years, the gulf in class now feels more like a chasm. No Arsenal keeper has made as many saves in a league game as Peter Cech did on Sunday, since 2003. It was undoubtedly the perfect send-off for White Hart Lane, to win the final North London Derby in our historic home without having to break a sweat, whilst also guaranteeing we finish above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years. Just to put that in context, Dele Alli has never lived in a world where Tottenham were superior to Arsenal….until now. Of course, trust Spurs to go unbeaten at home all season and finally having an impenetrable fortress to call our own, only to knock it down almost immediately! But based on that performance, the progression that the players have made over the last year is almost tangible. It is clear they believe that they can win every game….and rightly so. But it is not just the players that have grown. The ease with which Poch now uses Eric Dier to switch our formation from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3, as he did to great effect during the NLD, shows that he has also matured as a coach. And this must be a very scary prospect for the so-called “Grandmasters” that Sky Sports are always pandering to. Nevertheless, I think it’s fair to say that we have now proved beyond doubt that Arsenal are nothing more than a tube station and a café….because based on Sunday’s showing, they don’t look much like a football team. And we owe it all to our very own magic man, Mauricio Pochettino. And rest assured, even if we do fail to catch Chelsea in the final four games and don't get to see A Poch Eclipse Now, I am certain that we will be enjoying A Poch Eclipse Soon.