Etihad evolution makes Spurs title challenger now and beyond

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The last time Tottenham recorded a league double over Manchester City, in the 2009/10 campaign, it secured a seminal moment in their Premier League history; a first ever top-four finish. After repeating the feat some six years later it could propel them to a maiden title.

Mauricio Pochettino’s best efforts to distance his side from the championship are being undone on the field. Every win – it’s seven in a row now in all competitions – edges dreams of a league crown closer to reality.

None more so than the 2-1 victory secured at the Etihad on Valentine’s Day, where the vaunted attacking trinkets available to Manuel Pellegrini were harassed, hustled and blocked to the tune of just four shots on target.

Considering the fun those same players have had against the Lilywhites defence in recent times, scoring 16 goals in four wins prior to this season, it was an impressive rearguard.

Gone are the days when Spurs revert to type on the big stage. Heavy defeats to the Citizens when portrayed as top-four contenders have underpinned their reputation for lacking bottle in the last two seasons, but Pochettino doesn’t suffer cowards.

In Manchester, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose epitomised the character the White Hart Lane club now possess. They tore forward to supplement Spurs attacks and threw their bodies on the line to snuff out City’s.

Kevin Wimmer, a supposed weak link in deputising for the injured Jan Vertonghen, has slotted in confidently alongside Toby Alderweireld, who continues to make the £11.5m Spurs signed him for look a bargain.

This wasn’t the most rampaging attacking performance the north Londoners have produced this term, but that in itself is a positive.

Too often the side has overrun the opposition with the ball at their feet, only to come up short in front of goal and drop points. The Newcastle defeat in December is a prime example.

But at the Etihad it was different. A solid, patient performance in a big game, albeit tilted by the fortuitous award of a penalty in the second half, goes a long way to prove Pochettino’s Spurs are title contenders.

If they are to realise their dreams this season they’ll have to reproduce that display more than once. The club have Arsenal, Liverpool, Man United and Chelsea to play before the end of the campaign, all while managing an FA Cup and Europa League run.

It may be that such a heavy workload becomes too much for the Lilywhites’ young squad, but if this title run does nothing else, they will be regarded as title threats of the future.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.