LONDON • It was not a vintage display on Sunday, but their 2-0 Premier League win over Arsenal in the north London derby offered more proof Tottenham have matured into title contenders.
After 11 games, the league leaders, ahead of Liverpool on goal difference, have 24 points in what has been their best start since 2011. What is more, it feels as if more is to come from the side.
A crowd of 2,000 Spurs fans was in attendance for the first time in nine months to enjoy their side inflict another blow on the Gunners, who dropped to 15th place in what is their worst start since the 1981-82 season.
Unbeaten in 10 league games, the hosts have now taken seven points from Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal over the past three games – a run of fixtures many thought would expose them as impostors in the title race.
The visitors enjoyed 69 per cent of the ball but it was sterile possession as Son Heung-min and Harry Kane combined for the pair’s first-half goals, enabling Spurs to park the bus after the interval.
Hailing the team’s progression after failing to qualify for the Champions League last term, manager Jose Mourinho said: “We grew up. I can imagine lots of people can imagine three matches in a row against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, would be a moment for us to drop points and go back to normality.
“But we didn’t go back to normality. We are there. If you do three points, four points from those games it is not the end of the world, it is normal. We have taken seven points.
“We didn’t concede one goal against phenomenal teams, of course, we are in a good moment and the team is in a good place mentally but nothing changes.
“Of course, we are very happy. We controlled the game by being defensively solid.”
The deadly strike duo of Kane and Son again grabbed the spotlight. They have combined for 11 league goals in 11 games this season and already have eight and 10 league goals respectively.
They have also contributed assists or scored 31 Premier League goals in tandem, second behind former Chelsea pair Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard (36).
Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have been involved in 31 league goals, five behind the record of Chelsea’s Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.
But Mourinho was more impressed with their work rate when Spurs were out of possession.
“They are working like animals, with all due respect to animals, I love animals,” the Portuguese coach said. “They worked amazingly hard when the team didn’t have the ball.
“Harry was clearing balls in the box. Son, in the first 60 minutes as a winger working a lot on (Hector) Bellerin, then as a second striker working a lot on the centre-backs.
“They have a very good sense of the balance that they need and they also do incredible tactical work for the team when the team doesn’t have the ball.”
Kane, who at 27 is a year younger than Son, felt they were reaching career peaks, saying: “We’re both at an age now where we’re coming into our prime in terms of understanding the game and understanding each other.
“When I’m passing him through and he’s cutting inside and whipping them into the top bins, it is an easy game for me.”
Spurs’ form has given their fans hope that they can finally end their trophy drought dating back to the 2008 League Cup, while they last won the league in 1961.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS