Friday 4 December 2020 12:20 pm

Trevor Steven: Born again Tottenham are genuine Premier League title contenders

As Tottenham prepare to host Arsenal this weekend, the north London rivals could hardly be in more contrasting form.

Spurs sit top of the Premier League after 10 games, 13 places above their neigbhbours, so the momentum is firmly with them.

And I put that down to three main factors: Harry Kane, Gareth Bale and Jose Mourinho.

Even by his standards, Kane has been exceptional so far this season. 

As usual, he is scoring goals and assisting others, but he is also defending and even clearing off the line. 

Tottenham’s captain has been like Superman and I think that has inspired his team-mates.

The fact that Bale has returned and is getting fitter again is also important. 

His arrival itself is a lift for the club as a whole. 

But the fact that Bale can step into three different positions means you have three players busting a gut simply to stay in the team.

Mourinho, meanwhile, has not looked this content for years. 

This job represented potentially a last bite of the cherry at this level, having seen his spells at Chelsea and Manchester United end badly.

But fair play to Mourinho. He has surprised a few people and reminded a few more of his qualities. 

Yes, Tottenham have a really good squad. But he has got everyone playing to their capabilities, and that’s not always easy.

Spurs find right midfield balance

I’ve been impressed by the midfield balance between Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele.  

Hojbjerg has adapted really quickly and risen to the challenge of playing in a better team since his summer move from Southampton.

Physically imposing and no-nonsense, he does the simple things well — the N’Golo Kante role.

But Ndombele has been the really fascinating one to watch this term.

In his first campaign he looked finished, a write-off. 

But now he is assured, wants the ball and with that low centre of gravity can do things other midfielders can’t. 

Ndombele personifies a Tottenham team who look born again this season.

Harry Redknapp raised a few eyebrows when he said Spurs could challenge for the title this year but he was right.

They have a world leading training facility and stadium, and a manager and players who have won the Champions League.

The only thing they may lack is belief, but they have every reason to start believing.

Is Arteta too wedded to one style?

Down the Seven Sisters Road at Arsenal, it has been a very different story. 

Since winning the FA Cup and then the Community Shield, they look to have forgotten how to win matches. 

It just hurt Mikel Arteta that his predecessor Unai Emery had a better record at this stage of the last campaign.

But Arteta is now facing a number of questions. Can he put the team back together? Has he got the players?

It’s fine having a preferred style of play, like his mentor Pep Guardiola. But Pep has generally had the right personnel to implement it. 

If you don’t have the players for a given system then you have a problem, and it looks like that might be Arteta’s.

Arsenal could see the north London derby as the perfect chance to reset their season. 

If they upset the odds it will only underline what a crazy league this can be.

But if it goes with form then Arteta will find the questions only get louder. 

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