From relegation strugglers to title favourites in less than a season, Leicester City have been the heartwarming story of the season with most of the neutral fans hoping they can clinch the Premier League title.
However, Tottenham Hotspurs have emerged as the villain in the fairytale as they have been close on the Foxes’ heels for the most of the season, and are one of the contenders for the title. This season has been a huge improvement for the North London side and with the chance to win their first league title in almost 55 years, Tottenham’s story this season has been remarkable.
Tottenham are regarded as one of the top teams in the Premier League, but their record over the last five decades has not been satisfactory. Until 2006, Tottenham were not able to break into the top six of the Premier League and 12 teams have won the title since the Spurs last won in 1961. In the 2014-15 season, the Spurs finished fifth - 23 points behind champions Chelsea - and conceded as many goals as relegated Burnley.
However, the side’s improvement in less than 12 months after that has been extraordinary, and not only are they the top scorers in the league (64), they have also conceded the least number of goals (25).
In 1995, Scottish football expert Alan Hansen famously said “you can’t win anything with kids” while describing the young Manchester United side which comprised a bunch of youngsters. However, if Tottenham do win the title this season, they will prove him wrong by becoming the youngest champions in Premier League history.
The Spurs have relied heavily on their young stars and the oldest outfield player in their squad this season is 28-year-old centre-back Jan Vertonghen. With an average age of a little over 24 years, the onus has been on the young players to prove themselves and most of them have passed with flying colours.
The other major factor behind Tottenham’s success has been the strong English core which forms the heart of the team. There has been concern over the number of English players in the Premier League lately, but Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has placed great faith in them, with Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker, Dele Alli and Danny Rose being heavily involved in the title challenge.
It has been yet another brilliant season for Kane as he has already scored 24 goals and is on his way to claim the Golden Boot trophy. Alli has also been a revelation with 10 goals and 9 assists. The understanding between Alli and Kane is the most prolific in Europe’s top five leagues this season, with the midfielder setting up seven of the striker’s goals - a fact that will please England manager Roy Hodgson heading into the summer.
Rose and Walker have been quite efficient in their defensive roles and that is clear from the number of clean sheets they have managed this season. The surprise package in the Spurs’ defence has been the 22-year old Dier who has shown potential as a defender and defensive midfielder. With 5 goals and 13 clean sheets in this season, Dier has been one of the most hard-working players and his England call-up is the proof of his talent.
The team has also flourished under the careful eyes of Pochettino, their Argentine boss who has changed the club’s fortunes. The 44-year old is known for his gruelling training sessions and aggressive brand of football, which benefitted Southampton immensely in the 2013-14 season.
During his time with Tottenham, he has given special attention to the club’s defence (one of the major concerns in the past) and has not been afraid to sell prominent players who were not suited to his style of play. This approach has benefitted the team, and results speak for themselves.
In a recent interview, Pochettino downplayed his team’s title challenge as he said: “It is better not to speak too much, only to show, to work hard. This is the better way to show we are ready to compete and after, we see what happens.”
The biggest achievement of Tottenham in the last couple of seasons has been how they have outdone big-spending clubs. While the club has spent £256m on players over the past five seasons, they have also sold an incredible £293m worth of talent, meaning they have brought in more money than they have spent in that time. This has allowed them to maintain financial stability and are looking to invest in the expansion of White Hart Lane.
It has been a while since English football has produced an unexpected champion and the title clash between Leicester and Tottenham holds special importance to football fans. It is early to predict the winner in this closely contested campaign, but it can safely be said that a revolution is taking place in Tottenham, and this team will be remembered irrespective of whether they win the league or not.