Christopher Chang: Are Spurs contenders or pretenders?


The English Premier League's race for the promised land of Champions League football is well and truly on. The Manchester clubs will almost certainly occupy two of four coveted spots, but guessing who will complete the quota is refreshingly difficult.

The likelihood is that two London clubs will earn qualification to UEFA's top competition. Worryingly for Chelsea and Arsenal, they could be excluded. It is still very early days, but Tottenham are the city's form team right now. Ten wins in eleven matches is impressive, but the manner of the victories support the theory that Spurs have finally added steel to their passing game.

Tottenham fans know more than most it would be foolish to get swept up in the euphoria currently building at White Hart Lane. Skepticism and anxiety are traits that burden the staunchest of Spurs fans, thanks to years of false promise and underachieving.

But since a debut season in the Champions League last year, there is a different complexion to London's footballing landscape. Rejecting bids from Chelsea for Luka Modric in the summer set the tone for the 2011-2012 season. Spurs are playing with such swagger and style that Harry Redknapp was prompted to suggest they could have a chance of challenging for the title.

They won't win it, but finishing third is not entirely beyond their means. Redknapp has reinforced in positions that most need attention; Brad Friedel has replaced the unpredictable Gomes in goal, Scott Parker has beefed up a midfield that was lacking in grit, and Emmanuel Adebayor has sharpened up a blunt strikeforce.

The spine of the side holds together a swashbuckling mix of pace and creativity. Modric is often the source of the latter, and Gareth Bale - who wore coloured boots against Bolton on the weekend with "RIP Gary Speed" stitched into them - is providing scintillating service down the left-hand side. In his last five Premier League appearances, he has scored four and assisted three goals.

Spurs could have scored ten against Bolton had it not been for 'keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen's fingertips, toes, and anything else he cared to throw at the Tottenham assaults. They have torn teams to shreds in the past few weeks, while displaying a new-found resolve through the combative Parker.

Redknapp claims this is the best squad of players he has ever managed. "We have balance, skill and youth. The perfect blend. Yep, it's got to be the best," he said. Spurs are arguably playing their best football since the heydays of the 60s, when Bill Nicholson's 'push and run' team stacked the trophy cabinets.

Chelsea and Arsenal will fight their way into contention soon. Whether Redknapp's team can sustain such form (and keep key players free from injury) will determine how seriously they can challenge near the top. Chelsea are vulnerable and this is Tottenham's best chance of finishing about the van Persie-inspired Gunners.

The fans from the white side of North London will inevitably wait for an implosion at some point. For now, they will enjoy the team so willfully embracing the club motto "Audere est facere" - to dare is to do - and the entertainment unfolding before them.

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