Tottenham prove they are serious Premier League challengers against Man City
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 16/02/16 10:46am
Can Tottenham win the Premier League title? Their 2-1 win over Manchester City proved Mauricio Pochettino's men are serious contenders...
Pochettino is not one for getting carried away but even he could not deny the significance of this victory over Manchester City. "It means a lot more than three points," Tottenham's head coach said after the game. "We are only young and this type of game is very important for the future."
Tottenham's immediate future is as major contenders for their first title since 1961. The victory looked like it might elude them after City substitute Kelechi Iheanacho cancelled out Harry Kane's controversially-awarded penalty, but Christian Eriksen struck the winner seven minutes from time to spark wild celebrations in the away end.
"They were in second place before today but I still don't think there was that belief that they could go and win the league," said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. "But when you come to a title rival away from home, perform like that and win … I think they believe they can go on and win it now."
Spurs certainly have good reason to believe. The win put them within two points of leaders Leicester, and the performance proved their credentials in fitting style. Pochettino's youthful side is built on hard-work, determination and togetherness, and they showed those traits in abundance at the Etihad Stadium.
"We mentioned at half-time how much they run for each other and how much they fight for each other," said Thierry Henry in the Sky Sports studio. "They want to win the league and you can see it."
That approach was typified by the winning goal, when Spurs players swarmed around Yaya Toure and stole possession just inside City's half. In a split second they were on the attack, with Mousa Dembele passing to Erik Lamela, who fed Eriksen to slide a cool finish beyond Joe Hart.
"We've seen Yaya Toure run through midfield so often over the years - but don't do that against Spurs," said Carragher afterwards. "They're the best in the league and winning the ball back and they're right onto that back four."
City simply didn't have an answer to the visitors' energy. Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores described Spurs as "animals" last week, and they showed the same work-rate here, with Premier League tracking data revealing Spurs covered 121km to City's 112km and made 551 high-intensity sprints to City's 494.
It might have been in vain had Spurs buckled after City's equaliser, but their character shone through too. "We delivered our plan perfectly," added Pochettino. "We were very calm at 1-1 and played the way we wanted to play. We have a very young squad against a team with world champions so you have to give full credit to the players."
As is often the case with this Tottenham side, there were impressive performances all over the pitch. Toby Alderweireld and Kevin Wimmer coped admirably with the threat of Sergio Aguero, while Danny Rose and Kyle Walker impressed at full-back and Kane put in a typically industrious shift up front.
Dembele was named man of the match but Carragher felt it could have gone to anyone in a white shirt. "Dembele got man of the match and he looked like Yaya Toure from four or five years ago at times today," he said. "But it wasn't easy to choose because every Spurs player was eight out of 10."
Tottenham now have Europa League and FA Cup fixtures to contend with before a return to Premier League action against Swansea in a fortnight's time. "We need to keep this feeling, keep working hard and keep the right mentality," said Pochettino. "In football always you need to respect the competition and you need to give your best."
Poch: More than three points
Mauricio Pochettino says Tottenham's 2-1 win at Man City means more than just three points.
With Pochettino's guidance, it seems unlikely that Spurs will lose focus. Having flown under the radar for much of the season, their title challenge is now impossible to ignore.