Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tottenham 'Animals' Can Rule in Title Race Semi-Final

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tottenham 'Animals' Can Rule in Title Race Semi-Final

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Evans @tonyevans92a

THE fixtures computer obviously knew something we didn't. Scheduling Arsenal-Leicester and Manchester City-Tottenham for the Premier League's 26th round of games didn't appear to be anything other than an average top-flight weekend. Instead, it's turned into the title race semi-finals. Maybe.

Spurs have a great opportunity. Mauricio Pochettino's side have been improving steadily all season, justifying their top-four ambitions. There has been some scepticism around White Hart Lane that this group of players were quite ready to contend for the title. The belief is growing.

Pochettino's side were impressive on Saturday against Watford. They dominated the game and should have scored more than the single Kieran Trippier goal that gave them victory.

The most remarkable thing about their performance was their sense of purpose in the face of wasted chances. Not so long ago, doubt and nerves would have infected their play. Instead, they dispatched hardworking and organised opponents with a minimum of fuss. That is not the Tottenham way as we have come to know it.

Quique Sanchez Flores recognised that he had seen something special. The Watford manager said Spurs hunted the ball "like animals." Once, Tottenham were liable to resemble whipped puppies when the pressure was turned up. Pochettino's team are a different sort of beast.

When the 43-year-old arrived at Southampton three years ago, his appointment was met with derision. Pochettino had been sacked by Espanyol and was replacing Nigel Adkins, the manager who had taken the Saints to two successive promotions. Adkins was fixated on Premier League survival, though. His Argentine successor had his eyes on the top four more than the bottom three.

That ambition took him to north London and the group of players he has gathered understand the demands of their manager's 'animalistic' approach.

He can be harsh on those who do not live up to his expectations but increasingly the squad are developing an admirable cohesion.

They should go to the Etihad without fear. City have a lame-duck manager and were beaten easily by a Leicester side that play with similar vigour to Spurs. …

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