Spurs have yet to take big leap to the top level

Spurs have yet to take big leap to the top level
Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli celebrates scoring. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire. 

In his weekly soccer column, former Cork City striker Graham Cummins wonders if Spurs are the real deal...

NOW will we see if Tottenham Hotspur are really as good as everyone believes they are or will they revert to the ‘bottlers’ they notoriously have been for

Spurs have been in exceptional form recently, winning their last eight games but those were matches where Tottenham weren’t under any intense pressure. The vast majority of people had envisioned the Premier League title race as a foregone conclusion but Chelsea’s recent stumble, losing two out of their last four league games has seen the gap between them and Spurs reduced to just four points.

Tottenham’s title challenged had been written off weeks ago and perhaps that has reflected onto the players as they seem to be playing with a freedom and fluency of a team under no serious pressure.

After Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, a lot more attention and focus has been on Spurs and that they could win the league. As a player, you want that attention because it means you are doing something right. The club on the other hand would probably have liked to have stayed under the radar because they have experienced just what happens when Spurs come under serious pressure.

In 2006, Spurs headed into their final game of the season against West Ham United knowing a win would secure a top-four finish and a place in the Champions League at the expense of North London rivals Arsenal. They failed, losing 2-1, although the club had claimed that several of the first team squad had been ill with food poisoning.

Last season Spurs were Leicester’s only serious contenders for league title but again flattered to deceive and disappointingly could only finish third in the table, finishing below Arsenal again in the league. With the exception of a few additional players, Spurs have the same squad as last season and these coming weeks will tell, will they have learnt from last years’ experience or are they going to fall short again?

The outcome of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final between Chelsea and Spurs could have a huge bearing on the destination of the Premier League title. Chelsea might be fragile at the moment having lost as many games in the league in the last four matches as they did in their previous 22. Spurs are the form team, so I think they are favourites to progress to the final and the question will be can they handle the pressure?

This is the type of pressure they will be under for the remainder of the season and Saturday might show, will they be able to handle it. Spurs need to show Chelsea that they are now the team to fear but I don’t know are they good enough yet.

Supporters and pundits rant and rave about just how good Spurs are as a team, yet this is the same group of players that failed to qualify from their Champions League group and then crashed out of the Europa League against Gent. Spurs have also failed to beat any of the current top eight sides in the Premier League this season away from home, picking up just four points out of a possible 21. This indicates that these players haven’t developed the know-how of how to win difficult games yet.

Players like Dele Alli and Harry Kane are talked about as been world class but until they do it on the big stage (Champions League, international tournaments) and win trophies, then they still have a lot to learn. At just 21 and with 16 league goals this season, there is an argument that Dele Alli is a better player than Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were at his age.

What people are quick to forget, is that when Lampard and Gerrard were 21 they were playing in a much tougher league. The teams now in the league are much weaker than they were before. It may have been the best league in the world before but it certainly isn’t now.

English teams were a serious threat in the Champions League during Lampard and Gerrard’s era but besides Leicester this season no English team can say they excelled in the Champions League. Alli is still very young and I’m sure he will become a world class player but to put him in the same bracket as Lampard and Gerrard at this moment is nonsense.

With all my bashing of Spurs, I do think they deserve credit for keeping the title race alive with some excellent performances over recent weeks. Their manager, Mauricio Pochettino has them playing an exciting high tempo brand of football and whether they will be able to keep hold of the Argentine next season remains to be seen. Pochettino categorically ruled himself out for the Barcelona job after Luis Enrique announced he would be leaving the Catalonian club at the end of the season because of his allegiance with rivals Espanyol.

As I have stated before there is not much loyalty in football and if Barcelona were to pursue Pochettino, just like he did at Southampton, I believe he would jump ship.

Spurs certainly have a tougher remaining fixture list than Chelsea and I think Chelsea will go on to win the title and would that be the worst thing, considering, imagine what ridiculous handshake the Spurs squad would create if they won the league.

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