Tottenham Hotspur still on track: Unfair to say Spurs are same old spiritless side

Greg Lea writes if one is inclined to see the same old Spurs in their 1-0 defeat to West Ham, they should rethink that position – Tottenham have already proved their nerve this season.

When the final whistle was blown at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday night, it seemed as if Premier League leaders Leicester City had dropped two points in the race for the title.

24 hours later and Claudio Ranieri’s side’s 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion appeared much more like a point gained.

Arsenal and Manchester City had the opportunity to close the gap on the surprise table-toppers on Wednesday but failed to take advantage.

For Tottenham Hotspur, there was the chance to overtake Leicester and move to the summit of the Premier League standings for the first time ever outside of the month of August. Their failure to do so – West Ham United ran out deserved 1-0 winners in the pair's meeting at Upton Park – has seen many question whether Mauricio Pochettino's men have the experience and knowhow to claim the club's first league championship in 55 years now that the pressure has been ratcheted up a notch or two.

Read more: Whisper it, but Tottenham Hotspur players are definitely talking Premier League title, writes Steve Luckings

While losing any encounter is a disappointment for a side chasing the highest domestic honours, a trip to West Ham was always going to be tricky. Slaven Bilic’s side have not lost at home since August and will be eyeing a Uefa Champions League spot after moving to within a single point of fourth-placed Manchester City with just over a quarter of the campaign remaining.

Results elsewhere also went in Tottenham’s favour this midweek: Arsenal remain three points behind their neighbours and a one-game swing in their favour is still all that it would take to overhaul Leicester.

Even more pertinently, writing off Tottenham at this stage would represent a fundamental misreading of the qualities that have lifted them to their current lofty position.

A club that used to be mocked for its flakiness and incapacity to perform whenever the going got tough has been transformed under Pochettino.

No team has conceded fewer goals than Tottenham’s 22 this term. 17 points have been gained from losing positions – another statistic that no Premier League side can better – and defeat has been suffered on only four occasions in the top flight in 2015/16.

The only time Tottenham have failed to win the game immediately following a loss was way back in August, when a rather unfortunate 1-0 reverse at Manchester United on the opening day preceded a 2-2 home draw with Stoke City.

Their previous defeat to Leicester in January came before a run of six consecutive wins leading into Wednesday’s clash with West Ham, a stretch that included a superb 2-1 triumph over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

All of which would seem to suggest resilience and character, spirit and mental fortitude. To dismiss every bad result as ‘typical Tottenham’ is therefore not only inaccurate but also unfair to a team that has shown hunger and togetherness over the last few months and a manager who has done so much to alter public perceptions and the club’s collective mentality.

Tottenham have already demonstrated an ability to bounce back this season and could easily do so again after Wednesday’s setback at Upton Park. Arsenal await on Saturday before the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie against Borussia Dortmund next Thursday, with Manchester United and Liverpool among their domestic opponents in the coming weeks.

If they stutter in any of those three big Premier League matches – or, in fact, against anyone else in the run-in – some will accuse Tottenham of lacking backbone and steel. To do so, though, would involve overlooking many of the characteristics that have put them in a position to challenge for the title in the first place.

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