Spurs 4 West Ham 1
November was meant to be a hellish congested fixture list that would break our young squad. With Chelsea left (in the league) along with a Europa League away day, Spurs have pretty much owned the month. We've pretty much owned every month, glitches included, since the opening day. We lost to Manchester United thanks to an own goal and now 12 games later Kyle Walker is nonchalantly scoring down the other end as Spurs brush off the superlatives and just seek constant improvement.
This is why I adore the team and the work Mauricio Pochettino has done. Even though we can debate how the squad wasn't bolstered enough in key positions in the summer and how this remains a massive risk in terms of injuries and burn-out - the fact is (be it accidental or simply an acceptance) - we've still gone from strength to strength, with no complaints. We've dug deep and rolled with the punches.
It's almost like it doesn't matter. There is no forceful pressure on the coach and team internally. They've set out to graft and Poch has slowly implemented his philosophy over the 13 league games. If it takes another 50 to reach its very peak, so be it. Which is why I refuse to get too carried away.
There is no reason to apply the pressure that so often distracts and distorts expectancy. We remain fledgling yet appear to be maturing like no Spurs side has done for a while. This is a side not designed by a director of football. So why ruin the enjoyment by getting sidetracked with where we need to be and how quickly we need to get there? This obsession with deadlines and missing the boat is a fallacy. If you're good enough you'll achieve what you're good enough to achieve.
I'm a broken record with this logic, but it seems fans are still wrapped up in targeting ambitions that don't necessarily sync with reality. Although judging by how we treat cup games, Poch and his players might be aiming for the Champions League this season.
Never judge a book by it's cover, right? We all thought we'd struggle and yet here we are - without ego or fanfare. We're not even at the half way stage of the opening chapter, yet the words are flowing effortlessly and with each page you can't wait to turn over to the next.
So much of what's been achieved so far was perfectly illustrated in the 4-1 demolition on West Ham.
Spurs have crafted a style that's been hard coded by Poch and his training methodology. You take fundamentals like determination and the desire to win and back it up with physical presence, working hard with and without possession. The players are fit and focused. There's discipline in the football. This can't be underestimated - the mentality and belief instilled could so easily form an unbreakable foundation to build on. They fight for each other and as a supporter they inspire me to want to fight alongside them, figuratively speaking. There's an identifiable connection with them. That's such an important factor. To actually love the players that love wearing the shirt of your club. It's been a while since we have collectively (as a fanbase) pulled together in the same direction without the need for blind faith.
This is when you know there's genuine blueprint.
The fitness levels might yet still continue to spike (January most be used effectively to protect us from any worst case scenarios). The slow start to the season, a prerequisite, to what we are currently enjoying. Slow brooding Tottenham Hotspur. Is burn-out going to soon fall into the same forgotten box that we placed the DM conundrum in after Dier stepped up?
Patience during the game was key. The slow start saw us bide our time, containing and pressing and then shifting gear when the tempo changed, to take control. The quick interchanging in space in and around the area was subtle yet sublime. Be it Son Heung-min and his awareness and vision or Harry Kane's absolute assistance to blew away any London club that stands before him.
Our high pressing, personified for our third goal, was relentless, forcing the Hammers into an error before duly punishing them. Spurs have functioning aggression. Remember when AVB promised us attacking football with similar traits? We now have a team that can counter with purpose and not fall short of its promises.
That fighting spirit, costly with Dele Alli picking up a yellow, but testament to the fact that Spurs are up for a scrap. No soft centre here. Eric Dier walks around like he's going to slap someone and you're quite content with that because he really could slap someone. 'Spurs are Spurs' said Slaven Bilic in the post-match. He knows. We know. Spurs have bottle and they have class. For all of Dier's dirty looks he continues his understated excellence in work ethic. Spurs are not push overs and Poch continues to reinvent the former perception.
The fighting spirit is balanced out with quality. Christian Eriksen only needs a touch or two to create or assist. Kane can get on the end of something or just conjure up an opportunity all for himself. At the back Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen make you forget the misdemeanours of last seasons centre-back reshuffling. When the shape retains strength then we're blessed with moments of creativity. It might not be free flowing and expansive but when it's on point, it's potent.
I think this is one area which will improve more, especially when Son finds his groove in the Prem and gets a healthy amount of games under his belt. He has footballing grey matter. So quick with brain and feet. Add the likes of Lamela into the mix and Spurs can be very busy and productive in the final third. We can do with another forward but again, time has shown us how new outlets can be discovered, simply be allowing the tactics and preparation flourish in the open world of the Premier league away from social media and television punditry. Nacer Chadli is still sidelined. Don't write him off as a viable option to slot in and help out, even if he's proved inconsistent at times.
Individualism still exists, it's just not at Gareth Bale levels of dependency. It doesn't have to be and we're better for it. Kane is smashing it (you'll have seen the stats for his goals in London derbies and his leading tally for 2015 as top goal scorer). Mousa Dembele (like Erik Lamela) is enjoying a renaissance that occasionally (every week) makes me think that the need for a DM in January isn't important. He's beastly in presence and for the first time in a long time, definable in responsibility and role. His influence and bullish bulk is dominant. Again, out of nowhere, he's in there and involved when most of us thought his days were numbered. Poch didn't fancy him, we thought. Now all Mousa fancies are Man of the Match accolades.
Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb will also gently remind me (hopefully) in the coming weeks that we have a pool of midfielders to select from. Much like the opening 13 games has been a sandbox for our players, the remainder of the season will continue to give them all ample opportunity to be part of Poch's best starting eleven (which was probably the one that started against WH).
We also witnessed ruthlessness in front of goal and endeavour to match. We should have had 5 or 6 goals. Spurs had 12 shots on target, struck the woodwork twice and even had the audacity for a scuffed Kane effort. We killed the game and still persisted to push forward. Granted, the visitors were not inventive or organised enough to take hold of the pace of the game and aside from a clearly offside effort that would have counted had it gone in, their only success was punishing a Kyle Walker lapse late on (easily forgiven thanks to his wonderful outside of the foot stroke of a goal).
As for Walker's lapse. Frustrating but excusable. Probably still high off scoring the fourth and blowing a kiss to his kid in the stands. Some (among us) still appear to fleetingly wish to scapegoat him. Walker struggled with injury and form and was prone to positional quirks and errors but then defenders are subjected to criticism far more often (compared to say a misfiring striker, unless said striker is Roberto Soldado). The point is, he's over his troubles and has risen his game to new heights. He's been a top performer this season and deserves the plaudits and we don't need to bring up the past. Mistakes are human traits, on and off the pitch. Football is fundamentally about punishing mistakes. Walker is hardly prone to making them as often as some suggest.
Spurs were comprehensive. Utterly professional with peak measures of concentration.
This was the youngest starting eleven in the Premier League this season, they looked like men and made boys of the opposition. Again, I can't help but cite the usual 'keep feet firmly on the ground' soundbites. Burn out, rotation, injuries, loss of potential form to key players etc etc. I've seen one or two reference Bielsa and how his teams suffered from post-winter slumps. This has been countered by the suggestion that Tottenham's resilience will only improve.
What is key (as ever) is the perception on our progression. We are tagged as potential dark horses for a title push. It's hyperbole for the most part. We're in form and unlike many in the Prem, we've been consistent. Spurs teams of the recent past have swaggered towards contending and much like them we still retain flaws and imperfections. I don't need Jamie Redknapp to remind me of this. What we have to avoid is raising our expectancies to unnecessary levels and attempting to push ahead of schedule.
You might disagree and suggest that 'the time is now' and that we have to consolidate our position in the new year and buy big in key areas. Short-term over the long-term because the short-term could support the longevity we all crave. But the pace of the progress at hand might be the type that the coach and the chairman will allow to grow organically and without the usual injection of desperation and impatience.
People mock the set-up suggesting Poch is the perfect coach for Daniel Levy. A yes man. Someone that will get on with it without kicking up a fuss. I can't help but think that's also the perfect coach for us and the club. He downplayed a title challenge but didn't dismiss it - but honestly, what do I care? What's he meant to say? Don't feed the narrative, right? It's 13 games and all that matters is the team and players are looking good, hungry - regardless of the limitations supposedly anchoring us (post season start).
Spurs have now transitioned. This is a Poch team. There is no longer an inherited mess that requires cleaning up. What happens now is brand new territory that should not be comparable to past attempts. After 20 games, we'll know if this season will be one where we continue our journey of self-discovery or if the flux others are suffering can be taking advantage of.
I'm loving this season. Club equalling record 12 games unbeaten. +13 goal difference. Couple of points from being in the mix. We'll be even better next season. Whatever happens in-between, I'll gladly lap up.