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Derby win sparks Spurs title talk

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Phil McNulty | 18:09 UK time, Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Emirates

Arsene Wenger's argument, like his team's defence, was all over the place - but the manner in which Tottenham Hotspur ended a 17-year wait for a win at Arsenal defied logic.

Wenger sought a refuge familiar with beaten managers when he said: "If you look at the statistics and numbers it is very difficult to understand how we lost this game."

Not that difficult actually. The most important statistic of all stated that Spurs won 3-2, but in Wenger's defence it was a day that scrambled even the most rational senses.

After 45 minutes, the notion of Harry Redknapp talking up a Spurs title challenge while Wenger groped for reasons behind a collapse that casts a shadow over Arsenal's aspirations would have been laughed out of the Emirates Stadium and all the way down Holloway Road.

As Cesc Fabregas pulled the strings and Arsenal slipped smoothly into a two-goal lead courtesy of Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh, Spurs were subjected to the taunts of The Emirates, including chants of "Are You Tottenham in disguise?"

It turned out that they were - because thanks to a tactical alteration made by Redknapp almost as a last resort and a return of the vulnerability Wenger finds almost impossible to cure, the real Spurs emerged from their shell to mount an astonishing recovery that altered those half-time perceptions so dramatically.

After 68 games without an away win against the so-called "Big Four" - taking the quartet as Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United - Spurs ended this sad sequence in spectacular style.

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Whether it was Arsenal getting too smug in their superiority or Spurs responding to an angry half-time address by Redknapp, the transformation was remarkable as Gareth Bale's brilliantly-taken goal sparked anxiety at the Emirates.

When Fabregas went into some sort of meltdown and handled Rafael van der Vaart's free-kick, allowing the Netherlands star to complete the formalities from the spot, it was up for grabs. And it was Spurs who did the grabbing when Younes Kaboul headed a late winner.

The 17-year wait for victory on enemy territory was over, and judging by the unabashed ecstasy in a small corner of a rapidly-emptying stadium, the wait was worth every second.

So what does this game say about the two sides who fought it out? And what damage, both in a psychological and football sense, has the result inflicted on Arsenal?

After watching Arsenal win at Everton last week, there looked to be foundations behind Wenger's optimism, but the manner in which they cast aside their advantage suggests they are taking on the mantle of a team that simply cannot be trusted. If we were fooled by Arsenal's battling victory at Goodison Park then so, it appears, was Wenger.

Wenger, normally so vociferous an advocate for his team even in defeat, may have said he was rendered "speechless" by the result, but went on to say more than enough to suggest it had left him nursing real concerns about Arsenal.

After claiming tiredness following international duty may have played a part, he dug deeper and admitted: "What is worrying is that we had an opportunity to go top of the league, then when we had to deliver we can't. There are opportunities in a season you want to take. Today we put ourselves in the right position but we failed."

It was a failure that was even more startling given the dominance of the opening half, but Wenger should also have given credit to the way in which Spurs stirred themselves and preyed on the uncertainty that suddenly got underneath Arsenal's skin.

If you had offered Wenger a draw at the interval he would have been disgusted. To suggest Arsenal would lose would have stunned him, and yet that was the conclusion.

At the heart of Arsenal's failings and Spurs success was Laurent Koscielny, a thoroughly unconvincing figure at a princely £10m and certainly not an obvious upgrade on Johan Djourou, who played a key role in the resilience shown at Everton.

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Once Redknapp introduced Jermain Defoe at half-time to give Spurs greater mobility up front, Koscielny was all at sea. He was manouevred out of position constantly by Defoe's movement and crudely crashed into Gareth Bale for the free-kick that led to Kaboul's winner.

Throw in his awful headed miss with the score at 2-2 and this was not a day Koscielny will remember with great fondness.

In this madcap season, Arsenal have time to recover from three home defeats against West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle and now (most painfully of all) Spurs, but the soft underbelly that has undermined them for so long remains an itch Wenger cannot scratch.

Wenger can thumb statistics all he likes and scour the numbers for injustice, but Arsenal did not kill Spurs off and found opponents who now have enough quality to make them pay for their generosity. It was a galling day for Wenger on many levels.

As for Spurs, Redknapp was emboldened enough by victory to insist Spurs can be serious players in the race to win their first title since 1961.

This was a message he delivered to his players in a meeting on Friday, but one they did not appear to take seriously until Redknapp had strong words with them at half-time at Arsenal.

Redknapp is well within his rights to suggest Spurs can be right in the mix. Real character was on show here and this was the sort of victory, one that gets a monkey off their back, that could be a defining moment when it comes to calculating confidence and self-belief.

Spurs have a range of attacking options and variety. They will concede goals, most appallingly when Nasri showed far greater bravery and commitment than keeper Heurelho Gomes to put Arsenal ahead, but they will feel they can score more.

Redknapp pointed out that the Premier League's superpowers have come back to the pack, and he has the strength of squad to take advantage of the new equality in the title race.

And he rubbed salt in Arsenal's wounds by heaping praise on William Gallas, Spurs' captain for the day and a player who will have taken special pleasure from victory.

Gallas looked more accomplished than his expensive replacement Koscielny, and while he was showered in affection by Redknapp he did not get much love from Arsenal - or to be more precise their supporters and Samir Nasri.

Nasri revisited a previous spat between the pair by refusing to shake Gallas's hand before kick-off, a small-minded gesture at odds with Wenger's plea for respect for the defender from Arsenal's fans - which was also studiously ignored.

Gallas was unmoved, and besides had handshakes to spare at the final whistle as the Spurs staff made a point of embracing him. Nasri, removed early, was the loser.

In the background Spurs fans were making up for 17 years of misery, and Redknapp was turning his thoughts to the title after another remarkable day in this unpredictable season.

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Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Why is no one talking about Bolton?

  • Comment number 2.

    22 points from 14 games and you think spurs have a title challenge in them??! a ludicrous suggestion from an eternally sensationalist phil mcnulty. one spectacular result is seemingly a silver lining to a cloud of mediocrity that has marked spurs' premier league campain

    that said if the top teams continue to drop points with a regularity we haven't seen from the big boys in years, then i don't see why spurs can't challenge next season. not this time round, though, i struggle to see them finish above man city, a side to whom, despite their own struggles and infighting, they already inferior to, not even taking into account their likely spending spree in January.

    as for arsenal, 3 home defeats is not good enough but they have enough quality to be right up there come may. but i can't help feeling it'll be the same old story for them. then again the league leaders have lost 4 of 14 games so all is still to play for.

    also it's 'territory' - spelling mistake needs correcting

  • Comment number 3.

    This is the same Tottenham that got beat by Bolton? On current form, Bolton are more likely title contenders, as Tottenham don't seem to know when they're going to turn up. But the ingrediants for Tot' to challenge have been there all season... and we all knew Arsenal can't defend really... this match proved nothing in of itself.

  • Comment number 4.

    With today's results, it's looking like anyone in the current top ten could win this league. Is the standard slipping or are the 'smaller' teams playing catch up?

    Well played to Spurs for a great comeback.

  • Comment number 5.

    Let's calm down please. Today was the most fun I've had since... well, the Inter Milan match, but murmurs about the title are making me nervous. It's good for the team to have ambition but personally I don't want to tempt fate, I would be absolutely over the moon with getting 4th place again. But the match today was brilliant, although to be honest I thought we were lucky to only be 2 goals down at half time. But this Spurs team has belief and a smattering of gamebreakers and every time under Harry I think we've regressed to 'same old Spurs' he pulls off a shock result like this. Great times to be a Tottenham supporter.

    And Bolton have been in terrific form so far this season, a team with some real quality in it such as Jaaskeleinan (spelling?), Lee, Cahill, Davies and Elmander now entering a purple patch. I would imagine a top six finish is emminently achievable for them.

  • Comment number 6.

    The stats will say Spurs created as much as us today....but come on phil really?? Why is there no mention of our scintillating first half performance, i dont think ive seen utd play that well for 45 mins. We created enough that half to be 3-4 up. As for the stats, chamakh got himself in so many great positions then lost the ball, thats a chance, the stats wont say so but it is.....also nasri (who was superb despite you making him out to be awful) if he had left the ball for chamakh towards the end of the first 45 instead of a rare lack of controll it would have been an easy tap in, the stats dont say so but a clear cut chance. Bitter defeat but don't write as if Arsenal were dreadful today, because i was there, and that was NOT the case.

  • Comment number 7.

    Spurs for the title this week, last week it was Arsenal, who next week Phil? Liverpool!

  • Comment number 8.

    1. At 8:39pm on 20 Nov 2010, pitroddieloon wrote:
    Why is no one talking about Bolton?


    Because it's an article about Spurs and Arsenal?

  • Comment number 9.

    I think it all depends on how Redknapp wants to approach the cup competitions. If Spurs get through the Champions League group stages, it'll be interesting to see how Redknapp would manage a potentially tricky away trip in midweek with games either side of that.

    They'd also improve their chances by putting out a weak team in the FA Cup, as although a cup run could give them momentum, two cup runs and a league assault would be a stretch.

    One of the key reasons for Spurs not being absolute contenders I my mind at the moment is their defensive frailty - they often seem like a team that'll beat you by outscoring you in an end-to-end game (as they did today), rather than setting the pace and defending well (as Chelsea and United have done in previous seasons).

    I would have been much more wary of them had they gone to Arsenal, nullified the threats, and come away with a 1-0 victory.

    I don't think that Redknapp has the tactical nous yet (Young Boys away anyone?) to adjust the team consistently for a consistent run at the title, although by his changes today, he's doing pretty well at the moment.

    So, with defensive frailties and the Champions League debut season to think about, I think it'd be more realistic for Redknapp and Spurs to aim for a top four finish in the league, and quarters (or beyond) in Europe. If they push for everything on all fronts, they may suffer a key injury (van der Vaart or Bale) and then run out of steam like Villa did last year.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ridiculous blog - Whoever is sparking Spurs title talk is ridiculous. They've managed to overturn an Arsenal time that is also not capable of winning the title. Yes, they're strong, and better than previous seasons but they're still frail.

    No doubt Tottenham are improving, but I would like to see better from the BBC's chief sports writer

  • Comment number 11.

    Could Spurs win the title? Err... No! Nuff siad about that but well done today for a spirited fight back against an Arsenal team who play like Jeckyl & Hyde.

  • Comment number 12.

    What about Sunderland? Unbeaten against the 'big' teams in the league. If we win tomorrow we will leapfrog Tottenham into 6th.

    When Benty gets back he will form a deadly partnership with Gyan, surely Sunderlands front two are better than Tottenhams?

  • Comment number 13.

    8. At 8:53pm on 20 Nov 2010, Tipperary_Red wrote:
    1. At 8:39pm on 20 Nov 2010, pitroddieloon wrote:
    Why is no one talking about Bolton?


    Because it's an article about Spurs and Arsenal?

    Yes it maybe an article about Spurs and Arsenal, but there is no reason why a relevent question cannot be posed, I for one happen to agree about Bolton, Spurs for the title?? they are below the likes of Bolton yet no-one seems to be showing them any respect, especially from down south!

  • Comment number 14.

    Thank you Phil. Now it can't possibly happen.

  • Comment number 15.

    Do Spurs have a title challenge in them?

    No they don't.

    Now next question....

  • Comment number 16.

    Why is no one talking about Bolton?


    Because it's an article about Spurs and Arsenal?


    why not an article about a side like bolton for a change, heaven knows they've earned themselves a bit of column space and have been better this season than spurs or liverpool. i'd have thought it'd be refreshing and interesting for a side like bolton to sit in 4th place tonight - obviously the smaller teams aren't worthy of mcnulty's time.

    i say this with a hint of facetiousness as i know the NLD is one of the big games in any season - but the point stands that something should be written about the successes of bolton

  • Comment number 17.

    Last week you saw the return of the suspended Laurent Koscielny as part of the "power" that Wenger had to add to his squad. This week he is "at the heart of Arsenal's failings".

  • Comment number 18.

    Is this a remake blog from last week of; Can Arsenal win the title?


  • Comment number 19.

    "i struggle to see them finish above man city, a side to whom, despite their own struggles and infighting, they already inferior to"

    Ahahahaha. Watch the last 3 league games between the two, you glory hunter

  • Comment number 20.

    "surely Sunderlands front two are better than Tottenhams?"

    Unfortunately for you the rest of the team are not better as shown by Sunderland parking the bus at WHL

  • Comment number 21.

    Hahah why is there even a thread mentioning the sheer notion that Spurs could win the league. Get real please. After all the outrageous Bale nonsense i thought we had had our obligitory tottenham delusion for the season, but mere weeks later it has been topped by this absolute rubbish.

    Not only will Tottenham not even get within a mile of the league title, they wont manage a top 4 finish. Spurs have a decent squad in terms of size and ability, but they are all of the same level with the exception of van der vart and maybe bale, but that my friends is not enough to even get you to champions league again. Despite your victory today which even the most die hard spurs fan would admit that flatters you a tad, arsenal are better than you, as they will pick up more wins and lose fewer silly games generally.

    This really is a non-issue, which to be fair to spurs fans is completely media generated for once in forcing Redknapps hand. Ofcourse he will say they may have a chance, cos they do, its the same chance bolton, man city or even stoke have of winning the league, slim to nil.

    If you really wanted to have an article worth its weight Phil you should have wrote about how the standard of football in the premier league has dropped to a level which is almost embarissing. (with the exception of barca and real madrid, is there actually another truely great team in world football? I cannot see one)

    Man united will challenge chelsea for the title again and one of them will win it, as a United fan i hope we win, but to be honest its become a case of who is the least awful side rather than who is the most outstanding.

  • Comment number 22.

    "It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high... so high, in fact, that even failure will have in it an echo of glory!"
    — Bill Nicholson OBE

  • Comment number 23.

    Arsene Wenger lacks composure. I have watched him for a good many years now and noticed that he does not help his team the least bit whenever they have a bad patch during a game. Today, Arsenal were 2-2 with Supurs with time left and everything to play for, and Wenger stood there as usual with head hanging, shoulders rolled over, arms thrown into the air and complained to the 4th official about everyting and anything. I wounder why a coach at this level, with so much experience, gives up so easily? He transmitts negative energy and desparation to his players when he has everything to play for! I wounder how come the 24-7 punditry and analysis of the EPL has not picked up this major weakness of Mr. Wenger. Cool Wenger, keep your cool! You have 20 minutes to win the game - change the game, communicate with your players. That is when they need you most. Coach from the touchline. Don't just look miserable and beaten. Do something, like the great managers - Mourinho, SAF etc!

  • Comment number 24.

    The truth is, Spurs have been building quietly towards a title challenge for the last few years. You can't fault their board in terms of investment, and they have bought excellent young players who are now beginning to mature. All they needed was the right manager to harness that potential, and they now have that with Harry Redknapp.

    You look at the side and yes, there are obvious weaknesses - Gomes is always prone to errors; they can do a lot better than Assou-Ekotto at left back; all their centre-halves are injury-prone and therefore they lack continuity of selection in those positions.

    But the positives far outweigh the negatives. They have a squad of immense depth; four excellent strikers who offer options that probably no other Prem team can lay claim to; an embarrassment of riches in central midfield and the flanks; and, once again, a manager who is undoubtedly the best man manager around in my opinion.

    Spurs could win the title. I don't think they will, but it would not surprise me either.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hahaha one win over a decent team and suddenly they're title contenders?

    Phil, I hear there's a job at the Daily Mail going. You should apply for it, your sensationalist short term memory would be perfect.

  • Comment number 26.

    There is one comment I have to make about this blog.

    And it's a very simple one.

    Even more so when you read it again after reading this comment.

    I mean, how can you not notice?

    Why can the world no longer write in actual paragraphs?

    I mean, we are clever enough that we can understand paragraphs that aren't just one sentence long.

    Before another paragraph gets started.

    It's annoying, isn't it?

    See my point?

  • Comment number 27.

    I think what Redknapp was getting at was Spurs squad have the makings of one that could challenge for the league in the future.

    Not this season but possibly in a couple of years time.

  • Comment number 28.

    To jaydrawmer and was Harry Redknapp who raised the idea of Spurs winning the title not members of the media - but Arsene Wenger also agreed they were one of a clutch of clubs who could challenge for the Premier League.

    So, to the Arsenal fans questioning this, it was actually your manager who said: "There are ten teams who can win it mathematically and Tottenham is one of them."

    Hope that clears things up.

  • Comment number 29.

    Mr Phil McNulty....don't you think you jump to conclusions very quickly..last week you wrote an article similar to this one only major difference being that you replaced tottenham with arsenal...

  • Comment number 30.

    I have read a lot of reports from today's game and I don't think any of you hacks were watching the game I was every spurs fan in the pub I was in said they would have been lucky getting 1 point let alone the 3 they got.
    Spurs didn't dominate after the break they got three goals against the run of play the tactic seemed to be good the ball upfield lean into defenders dive and hope for a free kick which fair play to them got them goals 2 and 3. Quite what cesc was doing I don't know but for you to imply spurs deserved that result is shocking they got incredibly lucky that is all

  • Comment number 31.

    Phil why dont you write an article about how west ham could challenge, as they are still mathematically only 19 points of top spot. You, the media asked the question to Redknapp, and ofcourse hes gona say yes. And Wengers comment is nothing more than a tertiory remark about mathmatical possibility, hardly worthy of this speculation

  • Comment number 32.

    I joined this site just to ridicule your blog. Spurs are lucky to still be in contention for 4th place, they will not win the title. I sometimes question why you are the chief writer when you come out with such rubbish. What next, Bolton will win the title? Get a grip.

  • Comment number 33.

    Hope that clears things up.

    complete cop out mcnulty, at least try and defend your opinions. defending a point by saying there are mathematically 10 teams that can win it is utterly stupid, and contravenes what you actually said in the article.

    "it was Harry Redknapp who raised the idea of Spurs winning the title not members of the media"

    but you've just said you agree with him, you cant just go all PCB and say 'it wasn't me who said it first' when you've quite blatantly levelled the accusation.

    i'd like to know what you actually think in response to the views of the replies to the blog so far because we have some honest and valid points and criticisms

  • Comment number 34.

    why spurs? Why not bolton?they are 4th at the moment and playing some fantastic football. Elamander is awesome.

  • Comment number 35.

    Im a spurs fan and i completely disagree. I think we are mikes away from being able to compete for the title, we're missing goals and clean sheets which is basically the whole point of football! Hopefully next year we'll be in a better position to challenge

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    A bit premature this season definitely for Spurs to win the league.

    However, if they continue improving and adding players of van der Vaart's quality then there's no reason that they can't in subsequent seasons.

    Remember, no one thought Spurs would finish 4th last season either and they managed it; the players seem to have much more belief and that stems from Redknapp in my opinion.

    Redknapp's talk of the title is more mind games to instil a confidence in his players. This year, Spurs can realistically challenge for a top 4 finish, but not the title.

    However, with Chelsea looking less formidable with an ageing team, Arsenal with their perennial frailties, Man Utd with an ageing squad and the impending debt/Ferguson retiring combo, and Man City unsettling their squad every transfer window with outlandish buys, then Spurs may have a chance in 2 seasons time if they keep the nucleus of the squad together and add one or two more quality players.

  • Comment number 38.

    "After watching Arsenal win at Everton last week, there looked to be foundations behind Wenger's optimism, but the manner in which they cast aside their advantage suggests they are taking on the mantle of a team that simply cannot be trusted."

    I think that goes to the heart of why you are getting a bit of a battering here. It looks like you are judging title credentials on the basis on one match (or in Spurs' case, 45 mins). E.g. "Real character was on show here" - but have Spurs shown it at other times this season? - you make no comment.

    It's not surprising people are speculating on will be the subject of the same article next week.

  • Comment number 39.

    Which statistics is Wegner talking about exactly? The ones where they edged us on possession and shots (just). We had more corners, they committed more fouls (dirty, dirty fouls at times, quite disgusting), so he falls on his own point there. If you want to talk about statistics. before the interval, we'd had more shots, but were two down. You can't hide behind statistics as Chelsea showed today with their innumerable efforts on Ben Foster's goal.
    Spurs as title challengers? With a new right back and a tall, yet malleable centre forward alongside Jermain Defoe and it's a possibility. There still has to be a lot of results go our way and even as a diehard fan I'm not considering it at the moment. I'm just hoping we can retain a top four place at the end of the year and that will be hard enough!
    I always think the criticism of your blogs are unfounded, if not annoying, written not in the spirit of debate, but by buffoons who let their fingers type words they would never have the courage to say. You do, however, jump on a story. I know you are merely asking the questions, as and someone who has written a little journalism in his time, it's understandable and that's the style. You can't really blog all opinions and outcomes otherwise you'd have a PhD doctorate and not a succinct blog open for comment, but I believe that to be the only thing that anyone can rightly complain about!
    In all seriousness, the differences between sides are miniscule in the grand scheme of things. The differences that win and lose matches are minute. Just look at Stoke today. 2 pens and an injury time goal and it looks like a rout, Chelsea have 5,000 shots on target, Birmingham 2 and who goes on to win the game. When Spurs went two nil down of course part of me thought 'here we go again', but apart from when Arsenal got the ball outside the box and sideways passed it between players in space, I didn't feel that threatened. Nasri took his goal well, but Gomes didn't do his best in a situation where you would back the keeper. The second goal was a great counter, but Hutton was caught between positions (not entirely his fault regardless of what the pundits will say; it's a nightmare trying to cover two options as a full-back, that's why there are so few really good ones!) I still had hope that Spurs would come back, not only because I'm a cockeyed optimist, nor too that we've done it before many a time this season, but because I didn't feel we were that outclassed and had our own chances ( as I said, Mr Wenger, please read the half time stats for chances and corners!). My point is (would you believe there is one) is that on their day any top level team can beat anyone. Newcastle won down at The Emirates and on all accounts deserved the victory, but were on the wrong end of a 5-1 drubbing today. Which leads me onto Bolton. They've changed their approach around under Owen Coyle and have some great players. No doubt people will tell you that this run they're on will end soon, but why does it have to? Football, as the cliché goes, is a funny old game. The inexplicable happens - Chelsea lose at home to Sunderland, we turn it around to beat Arsenal. At the end of last season who gave Spurs a hope of finishing in the top four when they had to play Arsenal, Chelsea, United and City all within a relatively short space of time? But three wins later they did.
    Now, I’m not turning it round and saying we’re going to win the league (not this year anyway), but there again, why not? Chelsea have slipped up, Arsenal too and City’s inconsistency is a joy to behold (second only to the joy if they were consistently poor!), United were lucky to escape with anything against Villa and Wolves, so you never know. Bolton could break the top four, Liverpool have rediscovered some form (albeit off and on), Newcastle could cause some upsets, Sunderland are on a roll, it could all happen.
    As I said, the differences are really minute; a toe here, a decision there, a whole host of injuries (lovely to see Jermain Defoe back – how did he beat that Koscielny in the air?). It’s a long old season. I say speculate as much as you like Phil and let the boo boys show themselves up for the ignorant bigots they are!

  • Comment number 40.

    I agree there should be a blog about Bolton's successes somewhere, but let's be fair to Phil here; he gets sent to cover one game and has to blog on that. He was always going to be at Arsenal today.

  • Comment number 41.

    Spurs have built their last couple of seasons on excellent defensive records (less away goals scored at White Hart Lane than any other Premier League ground in both the 08/09 and 09/10 seasons) - largely due to the outstanding form of Woodgate, King & Dawson.
    Unfortunately, they have had to cope without all three so far this season, and it has shown in the lack of clean sheets.
    King could be ready to play at any time, Dawson is close to a comeback, and there are also promising reports of a possible return before the end of the year for Woodgate.
    Gallas & Kaboul have done a reasonably good job in recent weeks (I thought they were both excellent today), but you can't achieve any level of consistency if you continually fail to keep clean sheets.
    As a Spurs fan, I really hope the return of Dawson, Woody & King will make us look a far more solid unit again. Until that happens, any talk of a title challenge seems to be a long way wide of the mark.

  • Comment number 42.

    I really don't think so, this is just old Arry being a bit cheeky with the media. Spurs have an OK squad, and he is an OK coach, but they are unpredictable.

    The bigger question is who could win the championship this season? Maybe any one of about eight clubs, because this season there are many more unpredictable results, so by March the top eight could all be within striking distance. Chelsea still have the edge for my money (I am not a Chelsea fan), but even they have problems in their camp.

  • Comment number 43.

    What a ridiculous article, I remember a few seasons back Villa had a good run of form and suggestions that they could win it went around for a month or so, sensationalism indeed. Spurs are a very good footballing side but fourth is about their limit, in my opinion, the Spurs in todays first half, aswell as the Spurs who lost at Wigan the other week, are not Champions, as repeating those sorts of performances week in week out seems to be beyond 18 teams in the league.
    Bolton have been playing pretty well as of late, why can't they be seen as contenders?

  • Comment number 44.

    No, not this year.

  • Comment number 45.

    "Phil McNulty on why Harry Redknapp's men could be serious contenders this season"

    I'll say it Phil because you haven't and you aren't going to.


    At the moment barring misfortune La Liga's top 2 would put 4 past ANY Premier League side.

    But the day people realise this it will be the beginning of the end for your multi-million-making business. And it will hurt your pocket, Sky's, the players', the clubs', the FA. So you are scared to say the truth.

    Therefore you are all going on telling fairytales about how everyone has improved and it's so competitive - who has improved, Blackpool Bolton Birmingham and West Brom who are full of 3rd-rate players nowhere near international calibre and are quite comfortable in the league?

    Or about how great and exciting it is. What do I care if it's exciting and topsy-turvy if I don't see the best players on the pitch. The France Germany leagues are all over the shop much more than here and every year so, doesn't mean a thing if the quality isn't there. The head & shoulders top 3 Chelsea United & Arsenal have got HARDLY ANY players who would start for Real or Barca. Or for any top international side. Have they?

    If you have the cojones come out and say it.

  • Comment number 46.

    Phil - When your team has just come back from a 0-2 deficit and won on their rivals turf for the first time in 17 years then of course as the manager Harry has the right to talk about his team winning the PL!
    When I've had 10 pints I think I can dance better than John Travolta!!!

  • Comment number 47.

    We were doomed the second you wrote a glowing article last week about our chances for the title, Phil ;)

    Still, at least it means the Spurs should lose next week and I can get my schadenfreude fix...

  • Comment number 48.

    Hey Phil...lets get real...Spurs are not title a fan I would love to agree with you....Spurs did not win the match at the emirates...arsenal lost it..which means neither team is going to win the league.....however...the tide is turning...Wenger needs to buy or go....and the champions league...well hope to get the gooners in QF as know will batter them COYS

  • Comment number 49.

    Yeah Phil, next week, when Liverpool bring Spurs down to earth and give them a lesson in under dog football, will you write a blog entitled Hudson for the title? Thought not.

  • Comment number 50.

    What are the author's qualifications as a football writer (and a chief one at that)? I looked him up on Wikipedia but nothing came up.

  • Comment number 51.

    Keane. Defoe. Crouch. Pav.

    VdV. Modric. Lennon. Bale. Kranjcar.

    Jenas. Palacios. Huddlestone. Bentley.

    Hutton. Ekkotto. Gallas. Kaboul. Bassong. King. Woodgate

    Gomez. Cudicini.


    That is some squad.

    Granted, keeping the centre backs fit is a major concern.
    A signing in Jan could well solve that problem then its top 4 for sure.

    As for winning the league? The players are there. But I dont think 'arry's got what it takes this season.

    Next season?
    With the knowledge and experience he will have gained from this season, why not?

  • Comment number 52.

    sorry. Hodgson for the title.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    Completely agree with the 1 comment, what about bolton??
    the table is so tight, it could go so many ways,
    liverpool cant be ruled out either. once they gel as a side they're title contenders.
    players like raul mereiles, christian poulsen and maxi rodriguez were all allowed a chance to shine without our ever faithful captain today, which could work wonders on there confidence amid these tragic times being without our captain. spurs next week will be a challenge, i think whoever wins out of liverpool and tottenham next week both hold a place in the title contenders booth!
    at the time i also thought hodgson's comments about johnson were a bit of a random outburst but i think johnson really proved himself to hodgson today and i'm sure he'll have hodgson's backing after his performance today.
    i just don't want it to be another blue season, city or chelsea i'm hoping will start to feel the pressure and start to slip.

  • Comment number 55.

    7. At 8:52pm on 20 Nov 2010, laughingdevil wrote:

    Spurs for the title this week, last week it was Arsenal, who next week Phil? Liverpool!


    Very, very well said laughingdevil.

    This article is classic knee-jerk stuff.

  • Comment number 56.

    Please write a blog praising Hodgson. That way we'll be rest assured he'll be sacked within a week.

  • Comment number 57.

    Guys, lay off McNulty for christ-sakes. He's not alone in noticing how open the league appears thus far, with the contenders not as obvious as in previous seasons. Today underlines that point, as the top 6 each have significant issues to resolve, none being outstanding teams.

    @Harper0481...well said, Spurs alone amongst the second rung clubs have built and steadily progressed over the last 5 years, though not without hiccups. The team is probably not solid enough to lift the title, but if inconsistency reigns at the top, they have a small but not insignificant chance, given their forward potential.

    Not that controversial really.

  • Comment number 58.

    Can Spurs win the title...? NOT ON YOUR NELLY.

    What has he got..?

  • Comment number 59.


    As long a Spurs play and win the matches consistently including against the top 6 clubs, Spurs to have a chance to win the premier league.
    I still expect Manchester United to win the premier league this season

    If Tottenham do not win the premier league. They will win premier league within the next few years with the squad they got and hopefully before Manchester City!

    Who knows?

  • Comment number 60.

    It seems the very idea of Spurs as title contenders has upset quite a few people.

    Harry Redknapp said this today: "You've got to aim for the top. We're not writing ourselves off. We can beat anybody. This has put us right back in the race again. It's wide open. If my players believe in themselves as much as I do, we can achieve anything.

    "I wouldn't be saying it if we had a bad group of players because I'm a realist. It's difficult to do but not impossible."

    He also said later: "The league is wide open this year. I have said this to the players. There is no reason why you can't win the championship. Why can't you? Who says you can't?"

    Well plenty of people posting here for a start, but Redknapp clearly believes it.

    My words were: "Redknapp is well within his rights to suggest Spurs can be right in the mix. Real character was on show here and this was the sort of victory, one that gets a monkey off their back, that could be a defining moment when it comes to calculating confidence and self-belief."

    I am more than happy to stand by that opinion. Arsenal fans seem particularly upset that Redknapp has had the audacity to put Spurs' name forward as contenders, but why shouldn't he in such a season of fluctuation?

    No-one is saying Spurs will win the league, but they have come from two goals down to win at Arsenal, who plenty regard as serious contenders, so why not their rivals.

    I am not taking sides, but I fully understood where Redknapp was coming from in what is developing into a highly unpredictable season. I also added that Arsenal have plenty of time to recover from their third home defeat of the season.

    If results keep going as they are, the race will be wide open. Redknapp is perfectly within his rights to say Spurs could be in the mix.

  • Comment number 61.

    Part of a manager's job is to motivate the players, and to keep the fans happy. Whether or not Harry thinks the title is realistic means nothing. As a Spurs fan, I doubted they'd win at all today, given the recent history, so the title is not even on my mind...

    ...however, looking at the evidence, is it so far fetched? 6 points behind Chelsea (3 losses in 4 games) and Man Utd (self-admittedly not playing their best). 4 points behind Arsenal (dropping points at home). Same points as Man City (in-fighting) and Bolton (punching above their weight perhaps?).

    Defoe is back, Dawson is in training, even Woodgate is back in training. Just because traditionally the title is Man Utd, Arsenal or Chelsea's, doesn't mean it's a closed book.

    Still, unlikely this season, isn't it.

  • Comment number 62.

    I'm gutted at this result. So disappointed and it's even more painful because we would have been seating on the top of the league by now. But it wasn't to be. In all honestly with this performance, we have no chance of winning the league. Also we need VanPersi fully fit and playing regularly. We created so many chances in the first half that we should have taken. Now don't get me wrong I like Chamakh but he does not shoot at all and we need vanPersi to do the job. Plus defensively, we were weak. I'm not trying to take anything away from Spurs, they deserved it because we failed to take our chances.
    One thing I do not understand is Wenger saying we created so many chances week in week out. Yes we do create chances but do we take them? NO Sir, we do not. For me whether we create 10 or 0 it does not make any difference as long as we are not taking our chances. As much as I hate to do so, I think it's only proper to say Congratulations to Spurs for not giving up and nicking in the win.

  • Comment number 63.

    One very good result but I can't believe anyone, nevermind the chief Football writer is speculating about their title chances.

    Arsenal were as much to do with the turn around at the Emirates today as Spurs were.

    Spurs have been a mixture of good, average and poor in the League and have already shown enough inconsistency to suggest they will be nowhere near Man Utd and Chelsea.

    They squeezed into the top four last season and they will be doing well if they achieve the same feat this time round.

    Their season will involve battling Man City and possibly Liverpool for the 4th spot and the sooner they get knocked out of the CL the better for the good of their domestic campaign.

  • Comment number 64.

    Yes they can, and, if United can't I hope they do.
    They're playing football without fear, and that is a pre-requisite for success. If you compare them with the defensive and fearful way City are set up to play there's a world of difference.

    This is the year for someone else to do it - Chelsea & United are struggling, I wouldn't write off Arsenal (even after today's result) and City need a new mentality (or manager) before they will challenge.

    How about Bolton anyone?

  • Comment number 65.

    Could Spurs win title?

    No , It will never happen Spurs has reach there limit of success and Man City will take there place in the top 4 enjoy this short term victory because it will last very short.

  • Comment number 66.

    An article just for the sake of an article. If any team deserves to be noticed on this Premier League weekend it is definitely Bolton Wanderers, and perhaps Birmingham. Tottenham did something people should expect from a team who have only recently beaten the European champions. Truth is, neither Tottenham nor Bolton are title contenders this season. Nor are Arsenal and Manchester City for that matter. United or Chelsea to win it.

    Stoke City fan.

  • Comment number 67.

    Interesting article Phil and food for thought. Tottenham won't win the title this season, but there's definitely momentum. Injuries haven't helped in defence in the early part of the season. Dawson (spurs player of the season last year) has been missing, and King has played infrequently, hence the lack of clean sheets. In addition, the attack has sorely missed Defoe, last season's top scorer. Midfield is the strong point for Spurs and a cause for optimism. Ferguson would buy Van der Vaart, Huddlestone and Modric in a heartbeat and put them in Manchester's team. Levy is unlikely to sell given Tottenham's strong financial position and the lack of finance at manchester.

    But Bale is the key. In my unbiased position, for the last 12 months the best player in the league. Scored the winner in Spurs wins against both Arsenal and Chelsea last season, the goal of the year at Stoke this season, a hat-trick at the San Siro, and the performance of the year against Inter at white hart lane. Today he destroyed Sagna (a top player) and is only going to get better.

    If he does, and spurs put a few more around him and keep him, and get a few players back from injury, then they'll be 4th this year and could very well challenge next season.

  • Comment number 68.

    @Nibs....i agree up to a point. Forget the fact that PL probably hinders homegrown talent more than it helps, the last 5-6 years when English clubs did very well in the CL masked just how average the rest of the PL was.

    The strength of a league shouldnt be judged by the top 3-4 clubs alone. Yes the big 4 of recent times were very competitive in Europe, but theres too much physicality and not enough skill amongst the rest. in La Liga the mid table teams play the ball on the floor, and are attractive to watch.

    The key change in the PL is that the old top 4 are financially constrained and have not strengthened over the last couple of seasons (United actually look weaker). This is more relevant than improvements made by the rest - Spurs / Man City being the exceptions. That the likes of Sunderland have done well against big teams is very much down to the frailties of Utd and Chelsea, which has encouraged a more positive approach.

    Anyway, its exciting despite its flaws, and yes, no PL side holds a candle to Barca and Real currently.

  • Comment number 69.

    Hard to see any positives for Wenger and Arsenal after this disaster. This is a man who continues to start Denilson in key games, when it's obvious we have the 'wrong' Brazilian (every team needs one).

    There should be another option, besides Song, in the defensive middle. Can't expect Cesc or Nasri to do that labour.

    If Walcott is healthy, he should be be starting. If Van Persie is healthy, should be playing major minutes. Arsenal can score, but not seeing any evidence that we can always score enough to make up for a weak defence.

    Still time to sort all this out before any serious damage to Arsenal's title aspirations.

    Oh, Spurs? Not going anywhere this season, as far as EPL title is concerned.

  • Comment number 70.

    I find it increasingly difficult to take you seriously

    last week we had a blog from you asking can Arsenal win the title?
    even the most loyal Spurs suppporters would tell you that their team has no chance of winning the title this season

  • Comment number 71.

    Sensationalist journalism with a lack of focus on the big picture. It's just an irritating article to read and no real meaning can be taken from it. Well played Spurs for rallying and capitalising on Arsenal's weaknesses. Question marks again surround their ability to defend collectively and confidently. However, with a fit Van Persie or more clinical finishing in general, Arsenal should have put this game to bed before half time - like so many others.

  • Comment number 72.

    Another rubbish article. Phil = Fickle. Do you actually know what your going on about?

    There is so much football left can we not talk about title contenders until nearer the end of the season?

    Bolton 4th - Must be a Champ League spot, surely. what do you reckon phil?
    Well done Birmingham. Despite us losing to spurs at home the result at st andrews did make me smile.

  • Comment number 73.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 74.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 75.

    Sensationalist. Knee-jerk. Reactionary. No change there then. Jog on...

  • Comment number 76.

    When healthy this current Spurs team can challenge anyone. They just dig themselves in holes early and fight out as they did today. If one of their centre halves return soon this will be an even more dangerous team. Bale is the best left side player in the game right now and van der vaart looks as if he has been playing at tottenham for years. I can't recall a player fitting in to a team so fast and providing immediate dividends. Spurs are for real.

  • Comment number 77.

    No...........end of thread!

  • Comment number 78.

    Phil, I think coming back from 2 0 down, while playing away in front of 55000 opposite fans, to a team in third position is an indication of great resilience but I don’t think Spurs are ready for wining the title yet.

    They still haven’t suffered a great deal of injuries nor have they tested the fatigue of the champions’ league yet. Having said that, it has been a very strange season so far and I don’t think we have seen the last shock of the season.

    The one thing I am sure of is that England’s fortune will change significantly if Harry takes over from Capello, he is a great manager, has a massive wealth of knowledge of the game and a fantastic motivator, and his humbleness and humility is just what England needs.

    PS: I am not a Spurs fan.

  • Comment number 79.

    As a spurs fan I wouldn't put money on it, no. However, real football fans know its not just about the current form of a team but the potential of a team. Talk about Bolton all you like they are doing very well but they will drop back eventually. It comes down to consistency over 38 games.

    Spurs are still not fully fit. They had 5 first team members out including 3/4 of defence (unless Hutton takes Corlukas place?). If we can do what we did today at the emirates with half a squad it talks volumes about our potential.

    The hype is there about spurs (and bale) for a reason. Some people refuse to beleive it (largely showing a great lack of respect) so I suppose we can hopefully show them in May.

  • Comment number 80.


    It's articles like this which prove that journalists know nothing about football.

  • Comment number 81.


    also it's 'territory' - spelling mistake needs correcting -

    spurs' premier league campain

    oh GEE ! a bad spelling mistakes campaiGn for you !!! & YOU FORGOT A LOT OF CAPITALS TOO !!!

    they already inferior to - is that really English ? ARE !!!!

  • Comment number 82.

    Phil McNulty has come in for some unfair flak here... he's posing a question, not establishing Tottenham as odds on favourites for the Premier League. Some charge McNulty as being a journalist with no knowledge of football. It's an epic irony on the part of the commenter.

    I don't have much time for the BBC blogs most days, but there's only so much fervent clambering to swing one way of the other that the merits of the real article being fairly balanced become consumed by hysteria.

  • Comment number 83.

    Spurs to the World!!! Enjoy yourselves Spurs fans. Your time is now and future looks bright. This team is only going to get better. Gallas must be on top of the world tonight.

  • Comment number 84.


    As an Arsenal fan I hated how we got talked up a couple of days ago.

    God, every time a club gets a good result it's like 'OMG TITLE FOR THEM!!!'

    Yeah, I agree with Poster #1. What about Bolton?

  • Comment number 85.

    Time to re-emphasise my own view, seeing as some posters appear to mistakenly think I have said Spurs will win the Premier League - which is not what I have said at all.

    Do I think Spurs will win the title? No I don't seeing as so many are asking - but I fully respect Redknapp's right to say they are in with a chance.

    Do I think Arsenal will win the title? No I don't, but again I respect Arsene Wenger's right to say that they will be in the mix, which they will be.

    And the way this season is going, who can predict anything with confidence?

    Surprised Redknapp's remarks have generated so much heat, but certainly created a debate haven't they?

  • Comment number 86.

    Leave out the personal stuff guys - Phil's raising a topic, agree, disagree or debate.

    Sorry, I should have written:

    Not another article about Tottenham from McNulty !

    He writes about what's topical, he writes to challenge and provoke discussion. The fact that he gets such a vitriolic response from some people suggests he's doing a good job.

    No team stands out this season so Phil's right to ask the question and I for one would be more than happy for an English manager with an attacking spirit to lead a team to the Premiership.

    Harry for England!

  • Comment number 87.

    Lol, a lot of very upset Arsenal fans in here. Redknapps absolutely right, if you're are around and about the top of the table and have the sort of swuad that Spurs have, why shouldn't you be considered title contenders?!

    That's not to say Spurs will win the league, i doubt they will, and i doubt Redknapp thinks they will, but the point is that if you don't aspire to it then there's no point being there.

    Half the people on here seem to think Spurs should just stick to trying to break the top 4 every year and not bother moving any further, but what would be the point in that?

  • Comment number 88.

    It all depends where football goes from here really. The big-four have been broken up and I don't think we're going to see mega-teams going unbeaten for a while, unless Chelsea or City really spend some cash. The gap between the top teams and the rest of the league is closing, and Spurs are currently front runners. Let's not forget though, Everton and Villa were on the up a few years ago, but slipped away again.

  • Comment number 89.

    I don't really understand why there is such an uproar over this article. Spurs have 22 points from 14 games, the question of them winning the Premiership is mighty premature. If we beat Liverpool next week, then Birmingham and Chelsea then maybe the question could be raised.

    A more apt question would be, can Arsenal win the Premiership? The answer to that is probably the same as Spurs.

    One thing in Spurs favour is, they are managing to stay near the top four even with such a decimated squad.

  • Comment number 90.

    Could Spurs win title? No.

    Next question?

    Seriously, a whole article on this? Couldn't you find anything better to write? And they say the BBC is bloated... time for a cull of pointless staff, perhaps...

  • Comment number 91.

    We are discussing Harry Redknapp's comment that Spurs can win the league (giving me the chance to state again that it was Redknapp who raised the subject not me!!), so let's ponder this question.

    Do Spurs have as much chance of winning the league as Arsenal? And to the Arsenal fans who have taken the suggestion of Spurs as title contenders so badly, do you feel your team is in a much better position to do this? And if you do, why?

    And Spurs fans, do you feel the balance of power is shifting in north London?

    I'll leave the answers to you. Let's hear your thoughts.

  • Comment number 92.

    It was only a few weeks ago that everyone was saying that Spurs would fall away from the CL places because of their European exertions. A couple of weeks and a few wins later and now they are potential champions?

    I don't think their squad is good enough to win the title.

  • Comment number 93.

    I don't think that Redknapp was suggesting that Spurs could win the title this year, rather that they could be contenders in the future. Spurs are definitely on the up, and have surpassed Liverpool in my eyes. I would agree that Spurs could well challenge for the title given consistency, the important ingredient that Arsenal are also missing. Chelsea's current wobble is an indication that we aren't going to see clubs running away with the league anymore, and, if Spurs perform at their best consistently they could well be up there.

  • Comment number 94.

    A great result today but I've supported Spurs for almost 30 years and I really can't see it. The only thing consistent about Spurs is their inconsistency. It's a nice thought but don't expect anything then you won't be disappointed.

  • Comment number 95.

    You have heard our thoughts Phil. You get the respect you deserve.

  • Comment number 96.

    You guys want to criticize a manager because of his ambition to win the league title. If any manager doesn't, then he should be fired. Arry is doing an excellent job and his focus is where if should be. I bet that less than 2 years ago when he took this job, you would have bet your homes that he would not get the Spurs to champions league. So now that he has set his sight on the prize, I believe he can achieve, but more important is the fact that his players believe.

  • Comment number 97.

    As a long suffering - 40 years - Spurs fan I am obviously delighted at our latest manifestation as a team of fine attack minded players seeming dipped in the magic pool that leads all true Spurs players to dry themselves off and come to the realisation that they are playing for the glory of the game.

    Arsenal were the better team today, but they have some exceptional footballers, were playing at home, are (were) having a very good run, have most of their players back from injury and are playing like a side that have been building for some time now.

    Spurs are still a work in progress, have some outstanding players but not yet a team, are missing their best midfield player and three of england's best centre backs, were playing away and have had a typical roller-coaster start to the season.

    Can we challenge for the title? well given the following:

    Dawson King and Woody return before Xmas
    Tom recovers from his op by Feb
    We buy an in form striker and Scott Parker in Jan
    Gomes stops playing like a girl
    Chelsea and United continue to play poorly
    Arsenal have a few injuries
    Harry learns how to organise us and manage for the challenges of CL and EPL games

    Then... I doubt it

    But what fun fantasising!

  • Comment number 98.

    It's about time Wenger realises that his touchline antics unsettles his players. Roberto Martinez had 2 men sent off during a game one might have fancied his team to grab something from. Ancelotti was losing a game his side had totally dominated. You didn't see either of those coaches going mad like Wenger did, even when 2-1 up! Wenger's regular meltdown on the touchlines does not help the confidence of his players.

  • Comment number 99.

    Hmmmmmmmm Spurs for the league? I really wouldn't put it past them to be honest. Once Dawson comes back, they will be immense. The pathetic team of UTD, the naivity of the arse(nal) and the injuries of the Chelsea mean it really is wide open at this stage. I guess the defence is a problem that wont go away....

    Oh, and this is completely Ancellottis fault btw. If he would have actually snapped up Ozil, Gosling, Sergio Aguero and the like in the summer we would actually have a bit of depth. Theres bringing through the youth, and then there's asking boys to do a mans job.

  • Comment number 100.

    They still haven’t suffered a great deal of injuries nor have they tested the fatigue of the champions’ league yet. Having said that, it has been a very strange season so far and I don’t think we have seen the last shock of the season.


    Hmm, lets see now, King, Woodgate, Dawson, Corluka, Lennon, Huddlestone, Keane, Defoe. Thats even without thinking hard about our injuries this season.

    We wont be winning the title, because we have basically become Newcastle of the first Keegan era. We can score goals for fun which is just as well because we also concede them for fun. A team with only one clean sheet this far into the season is simply in no state to win a title, however much I would love to think so.


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