Exciting young Tottenham team must now prove they can handle pressure

icon premb27 February ~ Spurs have exceeded all expectations this season. The attacking football, sound defence and the consistent application and belief of the youngest team in the Premier League have been a total delight and taken us into the rarefied atmosphere of second in the table. Now they face the biggest challenge – maintaining that momentum under intense pressure. With London derbies to come away to West Ham and home to Arsenal, Tottenham must beat Swansea tomorrow.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino’s ability to organise and motivate has transformed Tottenham Hotspur from a bunch of underachievers and promising youngsters into a dynamic, purposeful combination where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. His diffident media persona contrasts with his manner in the dressing room where he is close to his players and ruthlessly determined. The intensity of the players' commitment is almost scary.

The talk is of rotation to offset tiredness caused by the pressing style but Pochettino keeps a settled spine, where Toby Alderweireld has been outstanding at centre-half with Hugo Lloris in goal and Eric Dier sweeping up in front of the back four not far behind. Kevin Wimmer’s seamless integration into the league’s best defence deserves more attention.

Harry Kane’s movement and ability to create space has led to opportunities for Christian Eriksen and the precocious Dele Alli as well as his goals. Mousa Dembele is the only notable absentee and he will be missed. In terms of the extent to which he lifts the team’s performance, he is as influential as any midfielder in the league.

Swansea are well advised to disrupt the flow as Crystal Palace did last Sunday. Wide players are key in preventing our full-backs from advancing and breaking quickly on the counter. Pin down the centre-backs too to cut out attacks at source.

Forgive me if you detect an element of surprise rather than assurance in all this, but I’ve been going since 1967 and this is not the Tottenham I know and love. The best defence in the league, consistency, playing as a team, all unknown territory.

Pochettino’s Spurs have pulled off the most unlikely trick of all in bringing the supporters and the team much closer together. These players give everything. Being a Spurs player means something to them. It is a heart-warming experience that lifts the spirits and restores the faith of supporters jaded by the club’s dismissive attitudes towards fans plus high prices and an absence of team development. There’s also a sense that we in at the beginning of something special. However the season turns out, watching Pochettino’s Spurs has been an absolute pleasure. Alan Fisher

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