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From crisis to contention – Tottenham’s unforeseen league challenge

It’s been over 60 years since Tottenham Hotspur last won the league title in the English top flight.

Following last season’s frustrating eighth-place finish and Harry Kane’s mega-money move to Bayern Munich in the summer, Spurs’ agony seemed destined to continue. 

But 12 rounds into the 2023/24 Premier League campaign, the Londoners rank highly in the cluster of teams fighting for the title. 

And it feels like bookmakers are underestimating their renaissance under the new manager. 

Tottenham winning the league at 25/1 is a textbook definition of a value bet knowing they’re lagging just two points behind the table’s summit, and scouring would probably increase your chances of finding even better odds.

Australian sensation

Under-fire chairman Daniel Levy was under scrutiny after a nasty fallout with the last permanent manager, Antonio Conte, aware another poor judgement call could cost the north London outfit dearly.

Julian Nagelsmann and his back-up option, Arne Slot, had no interest in taking the job, forcing Tottenham to turn to a third-choice target, Ange Postecoglou.

Not even the most optimistic club fans could’ve imagined the former Celtic manager would lead Spurs to their best ten-game Premier League start in the new millennium (W8, D2). 

In doing so, Postecoglou has become the first manager in the Premier League history to amass 26 points in his first ten games in charge.

More importantly, Tottenham’s recruitment campaign has proved a resounding success for the first time in a long while.

Injury Crisis

James Maddison, Micky van de Ven and Destiny Udogie enjoyed a superb start in the Lilywhites jersey, making an impressive impact from the get-go.

That’s when a disaster struck. One after another, numerous first-team stars have begun to struggle with injuries, depleting Postecoglou’s options. 

The crisis culminated with a 4-1 home defeat to Chelsea before Tottenham became only the eighth team in the Premier League era to lose a game after leading in the 90th minute.

Wolverhampton Wanderers pulled off a stunning stoppage-time comeback to beat Spurs 2-1 and demote them to fourth in the standings on the stroke of the November international break.

But with table-topping Manchester City boasting a slender two-point lead, Postecoglou’s side can still dream of finding themselves at the podium come May 2024.

Next four matches are crucial

Without Cristian Romero, Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic, Richarlison, Maddison and Van de Ven, Tottenham will play Aston Villa at home on Sunday.

High-profile contests against Manchester City, West Ham United and Newcastle United come next, though Postecoglou will welcome the former duo back from suspension by then.

However, Maddison and Van de Ven have been at the thick of Spurs’ formidable early form under the Australian manager. And replacing them won’t be a routine undertaking. 

It could be a season-defining achievement if Tottenham can prove their worth in the four ominously-looking fixtures awaiting them in the next fortnight. 

Postecoglou will probably be without his playmaker and best centre-back until January. Therefore, Spurs’ form for the remainder of the calendar year could either make or break their title dreams.

What can be done?

Due diligence paid off in the summer, and Tottenham can only hope to replicate the same scouting prowess in the winter.

According to the Evening Standard, Barcelona could raid Spurs for Giovani Lo Celso in January after losing wonderkid Gavi to a long-term injury. 

Since the Argentine has been on the fringes in London, his potential departure won’t necessarily harm Postecoglou’s plans. In fact, it could be an opportunity.

Cashing in on Lo Celso would strengthen Tottenham’s war chest and enable them to find a player more suitable for the Australian’s set-up. 

Squad depth wins the titles, and if this injury crisis has taught us something, it’s that Spurs could use more quality players on the bench. 

Postecoglou’s honeymoon period is over, but fans can dare to dream big.

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