Yet even if Tottenham fans find it impossible to get their heads around the prospect of winning the title, what is happening at White Hart Lane this season is still notable, however the season unfolds.
It is 31 years since Tottenham had a team that was even seriously challenging for the title at this stage of the season.
That was 1984-85 and at the beginning of March they were just two points off winners Everton, though eventually Spurs finished third. Which is why everyone is reluctant to mention the title. The mantra repeated throughout the club is “it’s too early to talk about that”.
Yet on Thursday night Italian journalists were seriously impressed as they swatted aside one of Serie A’s strongest sides in Fiorentina. They left ground talking in excited tones about Dele Alli. Fiorentina manager Paulo Sousa declared Tottenham to be among the best five clubs in Europe and, although Mauricio Pochettino played that down, Spurs are beginning to make an impression beyond London.
David Pleat, Tottenham manager from 1987-89, who still works as a consultant at the club, inherited the core of the 1985 team and produced one of the most entertaining teams in Tottenham history, with Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles, Chris Waddle and Clive Allen. He sees comparisons between the eras.
“When you’re watching this team, they play basically a 4-5-1, with a goal-scorer on his own up front and it reminds me of the 1987 team, with Harry Kane instead of Clive Allen,” said Pleat. “I don’t think there is electric pace in it but it’s the speed of movement of the passing which is bringing such success.”
Everyone at Tottenham, including Pochettino, would pay tribute to John McDermott and the work of the academy staff, who have nurtured a core of youngsters fuelling this title challenge, including Kane, Ryan Mason, Tom Carroll, Danny Rose (who joined at 16 from Leeds) and Nabil Bentaleb (who joined at 16 from Dunkirk), with Harry Winks now breaking through.
That has been supplemented by the less-fashionable policy of buying British. Alli has clearly been the outstanding success but Eric Dier “ British, yet raised in Portugal “ Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies have been smart purchases. It is almost as if the wheeler-dealer transfer-deadline days associated with owner Daniel Levy are receding.
Tottenham's record across all competitions in 2016:— Spurs Stat Man (@SpursStatMan) February 28, 2016
“We are a very young team, the youngest squad in the Premier League,” said Pochettino. “We have achieved a good base and good teams have to show maturity and character. We have shown this and now we have to keep working the same way. We are all working in the same direction. And we are trying to keep this young team’s feet on the ground.”
Captain Hugo Lloris, at 29, is the man entrusted with providing a lead on the pitch and keeping the young charges on course and he senses that there is even more to come from this youthful team. “We’ve shown a great mentality this season and I think we are strong: we know it,” said Lloris. “But this season still has a long way to go and we must show our strength and talent as well in every remaining game. We have a very young squad but we’re very hungry.
“There are some players here, because they are so young, that we don’t know their limit, so we try to push them as high as possible every day. We put pressure on ourselves every day. We cannot know what to expect in the next few months but, as long as we keep this mentality, we can reach something at the end of the season.”
The title? Lloris knows the mantra. “It’s too early to talk about the title. There are a lot of games ahead. There are some important games, like West Ham away, the derby against Arsenal, there are still some complicated games like Liverpool away, Manchester United at home.
“The only good feeling is that we are close to the top and we will try to do everything to stay as high as possible and why not finish higher “ but it’s too early to talk about the title.”
Lloris is right. After Swansea, a true test will come with a last ever visit to Upton Park on Wednesday and a title showdown in the shape of a north London derby against Arsenal next Saturday. But Tottenham cannot pretend they are not contenders; all around the world people are starting to take note.
Original source: Is this Spurs' year?