As far as first halves of the Premier League season go, Spurs under Jose Mourinho have a lot to be optimistic about. They lead the table on the approach to the January transfer window, with a single loss, and the best goal difference in the league. Conceding only nine goals speaks to a new style and organisation that Mourinho has adopted. It’s not even a particularly radical defensive line-up compared to those in past seasons. Jose’s success so far seems to come down to two things: the signing of Pierre Emile Hojberg as a central defensive midfielder and the telepathic chemistry of his two best attackers, Heung-min Son and Harry Kane.
These are really the major differentiators that are letting Spurs play a refreshingly organised and focused playing style. Whether they choose to continue to invest in January or stick with what they have almost doesn’t matter to Spurs fans. So long as the form continues – and the wins over bitter North London rivals – they won’t be complaining. Spurs boast an 11/2 chance of winning the Premier League outright, one of the lowest odds of any team, according to the latest football betting valuations. The confidence the bookies have in them is triggered by a string of victories that, far from gritty 1-0 wins, have been dominant performances over the Premier league’s very best.
Hinging on Hojbjerg
Mourinho respected the Southampton midfielder Hojbjerg long before he became manager of Tottenham. The physical Dane was always something of an enabler on the field. From his days at Bayern to his introduction to the English game, Hojbjerg rarely got on the scoresheet or orchestrated the assists to team-mates but his impact came in being the pivot player sitting behind the attackers. A master of positioning, timing and tackling, Spurs likely wouldn’t be able to pull off the counter-attacking football they apply today with the same success without him. They’d be caught out anytime possession flipped.
With dynamic creative members like Frenchman Tanguy Ndombele and Argentine Giovani Lo Celso liberated from all their defensive duties, the team were able to pick apart teams like Arsenal and Manchester City despite conceding a lot of possession to those opponents. He wouldn’t be caught attempting step-overs or 40 yard passes. It was effective, consistent defending from the middle – no flash and no flair. Mourinho said it best in a recent Goal interview about the Dane; ‘simplicity is genius.’
An All-Timer and a Star Striker
Heung-min Son is one of the Premier League’s most lethal attackers. A combination of pace, agility and technique make him unpredictable – fun to play with and a nightmare against. This is someone who can score from 25 yards on the dribble, as he did against Arsenal, or jinx his way through an 18-yard box. In the twenty or so matches he’s played, Son’s 13 goals and 6 assists is a testament to his work rate and creativity. However, Son alone wouldn’t put Spurs top of the table. It’s his strike partner, and possibly one of Europe’s very best players that make this team work.
Harry Kane is breezing through the season with 14 goals and 13 assists, many of which have been to Son. The duo are closing in on the all-time Premier League record for goal combinations. They currently have 31 and only Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard have more, with 36. Kane’s hold-up play is savvy, streetwise and incredibly effective. If he doesn’t offload to wingers Son or Steven Bergwijn, he draws the foul. Whether they can continue that form into the new year will be critical to going the distance this season.
Tottenham came within touching distance of a Champions League trophy in 2019, and perilously close to a Premier League title back when Leicester City claimed their own historic win. Everyone at the club is aware that performances and wins only go so far. Silverware cements legacies and puts their name in the history books. Captain Harry Kane will know it, as will Jose Mourinho. Neither are strangers to the upper echelons of football, and neither will accept anything less than a league title or a European trophy. It’s been a long time coming, but that wait might finally be coming to an end.