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TOTTENHAM FOCUS: Are Spurs good enough to win the Premier League title?

When Christian Eriksen slotted the ball past Joe Hart to put Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 ahead of Manchester City two weeks ago, one thing became clear: This team can win the Premier League.

In what has been the most fantastical Premier League season to date, the serial fifth-place finishers have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the last third of the season. 

Their defeat of City at the Emirates was a representation of a side breaking the shackles of their monetary and maturity inferiority. It was an incredible match to watch, Tottenham weren't outplayed. They weren't lucky to win. They matched the wealth, the power, and the depth of City and defeated them with all their strength and might.

Spurs boast one of the youngest squads in the league – their average starting age against City was 24.1 years of age - but that hasn't and will not inhibit them as they strive to win their very first Premier League title.

This Spurs success can be simplified to a formula of sheer determination, hard work and a sense of camaraderie, that is as important as it is rare. This is by no means an attempt to label Tottenham as a side who relies on graft to win matches.

They can play football too.

They can rely on the counter attack when needed. But most importantly, like all champions, they have shown a resilience to be able to win matches when they have been below best.

Mauricio Pochettino has continued to display his burgeoning reputation of being able to get the best out of his younger players. In his first season in English football with Southampton in in 2013/14, he led the Saints to a record eighth-place finish and helped launch the careers of such players as Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw, who moved at the end of the season to Liverpool and Manchester United respectively.

It would be hard to answer the question of how Pochettino manages to get the best out of his talented youth unless you belong in the inner sanctum of White Hart Lane but nevertheless, the Argentine continues to battle the conventions of playing the inexperienced and and it is really beginning to pay dividends through their results.

Ever since he arrived in North London, Pochettino has pushed the boundaries. Last season, after Spanish international flop Robert Soldado failed to live up to his £26million transfer fee, Pochettino replaced him with 21-year-old academy graduate, Harry Kane. And for all football fans, well except for the red half of North London, we were grateful he did.

The Englishman was an incredible revelation, running riot in front of goal with his clinical finishing and establishment as England's, in my eyes, starting forward at Euro2016. Kane finished the 2014/15 season with 21 league goals (31 in all competitions), second only to City star Sergio Aguero.

2014/15 was not only Kane's year. When Gareth Bale was sold for a reported £85million in 2013, then-manager Andre Villas-Boas splashed out and bought several players, most of which were initially unsuccessful. Soldado and Brazilian Paulinho were shipped out and it seemed that the remnants of Villas-Boas' lavish spending were going to follow suit.

However, a resurrection occurred last season. Players of potential, like Christian Eriksen, flourished and former questioned performers, like Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela, found their niche in a system that Pochettino has become renowned for installing.

Pochettino's patience, passing and pace in attack and high pressure and persistence in defence, the 4-2-3-1 system, not so different to that of Spain and Bayern Munich.

With the system in place for a second season, it has helped accentuate the abilities of the players within the Spurs squad.

They have bought into Pochettino's demands and the result has been a well-structured and disciplined unit that has also been able to display their skill and creativity. 

Working from back to front, it all starts with the experienced Hugo Lloris. Considered one of the best keepers in the world, Lloris has nine clean sheets so far this season and his ability to distribute with his quality foot skills enables Tottenham to start their attack from defence.

The back four is filled with youth and stability. Two words that are not usually associated with a side's defence.

The starting defenders against City were; Kyle Walker (25), Kevin Wimmer (23), Toby Alderweireld (26) and Danny Rose (25). They handled the attacking onslaught of Aguero, David Silva and Raheem Sterling with sternness and smarts.

A notable feature of their defence this season has been their depth, with Kieran Trippier (25) and Ben Davies (22) in continuous rotation with both Walker and Rose in the full-back positions. The Austrian stopper Wimmer has stepped in for injured vice-captain Jan Vertonghen in the club's past four Premier League matches. Tottenham have won all four.

The midfield has blossomed through the contributions of two players that will certainly be in Roy Hodgson's plans for the European Championships in France.

After making the switch from Sporting Lisbon in 2014/15, Eric Dier has come into his own since moving from the defence into the holding midfield role this season. The 22-year-old has been crucial in breaking up the opponents' attack with his strong tackling and impressive game awareness. Dier's keenness to get on the ball and initiate Tottenham's attack has been key to him starting all but one match so far.

Dier's compatriot Dele Alli has become the Harry Kane of the 2015/16 season. The 19-year-old's exploits have taken the Premier League by storm, with his silky dribbling, crisp passing and ability to score absolute wonder goals, including a goal of the season contender against Crystal Palace, as seen below.

Pochettino has been vindicated for his trust and confidence in this young pair of players and believes they are the future for the Three Lions.

"England's midfield is set thanks to the pairing of Dier and Alli," Pochettino told ESPN.

The midfield and attack also contains an immense amount of depth with the ever-impressive Eriksen (24), Korean international Son Heung-min (23) and Chadli (26) along with other youngsters and former loan castaways, Tom Carroll (23) and Ryan Mason (24). Even the lambasted Lamela (23) has shown an increased consistency in his play.

These players are rotational in the system. They have the ability to hold, attack or play out wide. This has made it incredibly hard for opponents to plan and defend against Tottenham when they go forward.

So will the youth policy of Mauricio Pochettino defy the odds and the critics to help Spurs claim the Premier League title?

It hinders on a few situations and how they play out.

The first is the health of Harry Kane. Spurs have tried to sign a striker to increase their depth up front and have shown that desire by notably pursuing West Bromwich Albion striker Saido Berahino. However their failure to sign a back up has left them fragile if Kane goes down with an injury or suspension. Kane needs to remain fit for the rest of the season, if this does not happen, Spurs will not win the Premier League.

The second is the obvious one. Spurs must win the majority, if not all, of their remaining Premier League matches. They are in great form and are currently on a five-game winning streak, however Pochettino knows they must not be complacent. 

"We have many games ahead now in the league and to be a team who can fight for the title at the end of the season we need to win every game," the Spurs head coach told Fox Sports Italy.

"We have a key period ahead and I said our supporters are allowed to dream, but we are not. We have to keep working hard and show we deserve to stay in this position."

Pochettino is right. They have many games till the end of the season, not just in the Premier League but also in the Europa League, for it is unfortunate for their domestic title hopes that they advanced into the last 16 after defeating Fiorentina on Thursday night.

The Argentine would do best to solely focus on the Premier League. Winning Europe's second best competition will not equate in the slightest to the capturing of Spurs' first English title since 1960-61.

With 12 matches remaining in the League, including a match against their arch rivals Arsenal, plus fixtures against Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and West Ham United, it will be extremely difficult but not impossible. They have shown they do not fear anyone and the confidence instilled by their manager will help the players at the business end of the season.

The abundance of talented youth at Tottenham holds the club in good stead for the future. But how long will it last?

Will they remain a selling club? A club where its best players are poached from the richer, more powerful clubs in the world, just like what happened with Gareth Bale? Or will this season lay the foundation for future success and future title challenges?

I remain pessimistic of future endeavours for clubs like Spurs to ascend to the upper echelon in the UK. History has shown that they will ultimately succumb to the financial power evident throughout football.

The deplorable play of common heavyweights; Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool this season, will probably never happen again. These clubs won't allow it to.

This is their chance, the best chance and may be the only ever chance to claim the title. Like their rivals and current Premier League leaders Leicester City, they may never have another opportunity like this. However, I believe Tottenham is as good if not better than their closest rivals Leicester, Arsenal and City and they must realize the enormity of this opportunity and grasp it with both hands.

Who doesn't love an underdog story?

I certainly do and as a football neutral, if Tottenham or Leicester win the title, not only will their play on the field be heralded but along with it, the values of solidarity, camaraderie and hard-work which are somewhat forgotten in a modern game that is dominated by the wealth and power of a select few.

By Andrew Maclean

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