Thursday 12 December 2019

Bragging rights no longer the sum of Spurs' ambitions

Harry Kane celebrates with Dele Alli after scoring for Tottenham at Wembley. Photo: PA
Harry Kane celebrates with Dele Alli after scoring for Tottenham at Wembley. Photo: PA

Jeremy Wilson

The Premier League gap between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal had just been extended to a potentially irretrievable seven points when a further reminder of the shifting north London power balance became evident.

While Mauricio Pochettino was standing at one side of the Wembley corridor discussing how his players would travel without fear today to face Juventus in Turin tomorrow, Arsene Wenger was left to preview a Europa League trip to Ostersund - a club who have spent only two seasons in Sweden's top flight.

Tottenham, by contrast, are increasingly well placed to finish in the top four for a third straight year and, having already beaten Real Madrid, look perfectly poised for another shot at a member of European football's aristocracy.

As well as twice previously winning the European Cup and reaching two out of the past three finals, Juventus are on a run of six Serie A titles.


A defence including Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli have also conceded only once in their past 15 matches.

"It's better that I don't tell them that," said Pochettino. "That will be my psychology. It's a great team - one of the best in Europe and they have a lot of experienced players who know what it is to compete in the Champions League.

"We don't have that, but our belief, our confidence and our form are good. We will be ready to be very competitive."

On the evidence of this most emphatic of 1-0 wins, against an Arsenal team described by Pochettino as "our sworn enemy", he is right.

Tottenham were outstanding and, while Harry Kane again scored the crucial goal, it was his wider work-rate that most impressed.

Led by Kane, and supported by Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, Tottenham's intensity and tempo were suffocating.

It provided a stark contrast to the collective pressing of Arsenal's new front trio of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil.

"After United, Liverpool and now Arsenal, it has been one of the best periods since I've been at Tottenham," said Pochettino.

Also striking was how Pochettino and his players again played down the significance of their rivalry with Arsenal and repeatedly stressed that their ambition extended far beyond local bragging rights.

"We don't care if Arsenal are behind us - we are winning because we are building something special," said Pochettino.

"Some performances and some results make us trust in the way we play. My idea against Juventus is to keep playing the same, to try and be a little bit braver, but being clever because their level is one of the best."

Mousa Dembele said that Tottenham now felt "100pc" like a top-four club. "We're not scared to play any team," he said.

"We're not thinking about who is the best club in the world, in London or even in England, we just want to win something."

Toby Alderweireld's future at Spurs could be in dbout after he was left out of their squad for Turin.

Alderweireld missed more than three months with a hamstring injury before making his comeback against Newport County in the FA Cup last week.

The Belgian declared himself fit Saturday's match but was not included in Pochettino's match-day squad.


Alderweireld is unlikely to be happy at being left out of the squad for the Juventus game and it remains to be seen whether the decision impacts on his contract talks. His current deal features a £25m release clause that could be activated in the summer of 2019, as long as a transfer was completed at least 14 days before the closure of the window.

That means Spurs may have to consider selling Alderweireld, 28, at the end of this season if terms cannot be agreed.

Manchester City and Chelsea are among the clubs, along with Real Madrid, who are monitoring the situation.

© Daily Telegraph, London.

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