Tottenham’s win over Arsenal on Sunday was an illustration of how far this team has come under Mauricio Pochettino. The next step, however, is to turn their progress into something more tangible.
Spurs will finish ahead of their local rivals in the Premier League for the first time in 22 years and there is no doubt that there has been a power shift in north London.
Pochettino’s Tottenham – quick, powerful, skilful and great to watch – are fashionable now. Top players will have taken notice, and no longer can Arsenal expect to beat Spurs to the better signings.
Were it not for an extraordinary run from Chelsea, who have benefited from playing fewer games, Tottenham would be champions – and deserving ones, too.
As it is they will probably fall short, but they have persevered anyway and won 10 of their last 11 games – form that would normally be enough to get you the title.
They are not better than Chelsea, as last month’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to the Blues showed, but there is very little in it and if they played 10 times I think it would end up pretty even.
Reasons for optimism
Tottenham are a team on the up. They have become more consistent this season, Christian Eriksen has just got better and better, and there a host of other reasons for optimism.
Their squad is mostly young, is very ambitious and is playing with confidence in themselves and each other. It is greater than the sum of its parts.
The club has dealt with the off-field business of tying players to long contracts quietly and efficiently, they have a modern training facility, and have a new stadium to look forward to.
Only the best buys will do
They can improve in the summer, and I’m sure Pochettino will consider an upgrade on Vincent Janssen, who has failed to live up to his billing as a stand-in for Harry Kane.
Kane may not need much pushing but it is always good to have someone else challenging for a place to eradicate any complacency and allow Spurs’s top scorer to be rested sometimes.
Top teams need to be able to replace first-team players with another of the same quality.
Tottenham are so good now that that will mean going for the cream of the crop.
A slight issue on the horizon is the move to Wembley next season, while White Hart Lane is redeveloped.
Their Wembley record is not good and their current home is a difficult place for opposing teams to play.
But I think the fact that they are moving all home games to Wembley will mean Spurs players adopt a different mentality and start treating it like home.
Players tempted by other clubs
The upshot is that Tottenham now need to start winning trophies.
The Premier League should remain their priority but they also need to do better in the Champions League.
If they fail to win silverware next year it will go down as a disappointment.
And while Pochettino’s most important players, such as Kane and Alli, are probably young enough that money isn’t their top priority, repeated campaigns of falling short could see some players tempted by bigger salaries at more historically successful clubs.