Heroic dose of Tottenham
I've decided to loosen the shackles. Join me in the madness.
As Chelsea's confidence continues to plummet and Leicester reach for the heavens you can't help but think if you're currently up there and displaying traits of resolve, you won't blame yourself for considering the not so impossible possible; 'Can we win the league?'. I'm talking about Spurs. I promise this isn't stand-up comedy. Don't heckle.
Can we? Probably not. We'll continue to draw a fair few games as we march forwards. We are, after-all, only 15 league games into Mauricio Pochettino's brave new world. As far fetched as it seems, contending probably isn't as tricky as it should be thanks to everyone else stuttering with their identity whilst the unfancied swagger to hedonistic heights.
If Tottenham are going to turn the draws into wins and continue to be hard to beat then arguably the areas where we need to improve as part of our development could also pave the way for a monumental push into the upper echelons of a world which has been fantasy for longer than I've been alive. It's not because we're anywhere near being the finished article or head and shoulders above most. We're simply gritty and occasionally brilliant and when we're not - we don't lose. This appears currently to be an acceptable entry point.
Against WBA last weekend, it was pretty. Pretty awful. One of those days when too many of our players were below par. It's hard to tactically dissect a game of this (lack of) quality, but it illustrates the areas that Poch has to fix up. Yet here's the crux; bringing in an injection of fixes in January that could support our momentum (and continued learning curve) might also lead to an actual challenge. Another accidental journey of self-discovery.
We need another striker. It's the worst of sagas. We've wanted a striker for years and we finally found one thanks to Harry Kane's transformation from messy Old Trafford spitter to Arsenal killer. He needs support. He needs to be rotated. We need another option, an outlet that offers an approach that gives the opposing side something new to think about and gives us an rejuvenated impetus (don't belittle adaptability by naming it a Plan B).
Our bench needs to find its place as an effective alternative to our starting eleven. Son Heung-min can be that catalyst (someone to run at defences). He still looks like he needs a few more games under his belt to rediscover his pre-injury pomp and he's a first teamer on form. Erik Lamela is meant to be the one that offers us that something different, but his reinvention has been to personify the Poch press. His hattrick in the 4-1 against Monaco was far more expressive than workman like. He now has to produce it in the league. He has the talent and he's slowly but surely getting there.
Christian Eriksen, starting on the left to accommodate others centrally but remaining influential when attacking space is something recently discussed with the tag-line; 'Can he do more?'. The twenty-three year old can aim for more consistency but whether his position in the team is fixed (in terms of being the nucleus of our creative tempo) or he's part of a more flexible attacking force is something that will become evident over time. Spurs are not reliant on a single individual. What might look ineffective in isolation might be a perfect fit for the eleven on the pitch in terms of balance. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts etc etc (although most of the parts are truly not shabby).
Reliability off the bench isn't as weak as it's been perceived to be. Take the Monaco game as an example.
Tom Carroll and Josh Onomah buzzed. N'jie remains raw but assisted twice and has pace that once refined can cause opposing defenders plenty of problems. Kevin Wimmer is solid and sits on the bench because of the two blokes that start the league games ahead of him. He probably excels in training. This might appear to have little insignificance to us, week in week out, but the dynamics of the squad rely heavily on players retaining their edge, their competitiveness. Knowing someone can take your position will make certain you never take it for granted.
Nabil Bentaleb is quite obviously eager to get back into a rhythm considering he was the Chosen One not so long again before Dier arrived like Zod, all laser eyes and destruction. Nacer Chadli has an opportunity to make himself selectable much like others have broken into the side when not expected to do so because of the ones in there already. Although Chadli has been involved before his injury he has to look to nail his role so that it fits the system rather than the system accommodating him.
The only major concern remains defending crosses into the box - an issue with both our strongest side and our rotated Europa team.
It's actually all about having willing and able bodies in amongst the squad that can keep us fresh. We might just have that. Players pushing for selection rather than settling into a culture of comfort that brings us discomfort when we swap and change.
The biggest test presides with the coach. He was often criticised for not rotating enough last season. We suffered for it. Last season was a cleansing. This season is a rebirth. He trusts the players he has. He didn't trust those that got sold. The Monaco 4-1 win was a refreshing ninety minute reminder that not only do Spurs have returning players but we also have others that appear to be fringe (in terms of lack of first class outings) but capable if called upon.
Spurs have a competitive intensity about them. Even if some are competing for the same position there isn't any petulance (well, apart from that one embarrassing moment with Andros). Even if some of these options look unlikely they're just about us unlikely as Dier bossing the midfield and Kane destroying defences up and down the country.
We shouldn't fast track our transformation but we can add another edge to our game that could see us consolidate our form, if not with a ridiculous title push, at least win more games and have something rock solid to build on next season. All eyes again on Daniel Levy. We're left with ye old Audere est Facere. To Dare is to Do is the official marketed translation. Would be rude not to.
I'm reminded of Bill Hicks talking about heroic doses of mushrooms and in particular his bit about LSD. If you're tripping and you think you might be able to take flight, don't jump off a tall building to test the theory. Try flying from the ground. A little jump up to see if gravity will anchor you down. You know, just in case you can't actually fly, because gravity is a touch more punishing when you face her down and plummet.
Tottenham are on something for sure.