Can Tottenham pull a surprise in the title race?
Background image: Hzh, CC BY-SA 4.0
Matchday 24 was probably the most unpredictable in the Premier League so far this season. League leaders Liverpool unexpectedly dropped points against Leicester in a 1-1 draw at Anfield, they've dropped more points since. Manchester City lost for the fourth time in nine league matches falling 2-1 to less fancied Newcastle United. This is despite the fact that Rafael Benitéz's men have struggled for form this season. The other Manchester giant could only manage a draw against Burnley at Old Trafford while Chelsea was pummeled 4-0 by Bournemouth.
Only Arsenal and Tottenham got all three points among the top six sides. With Arsenal not in contention for the title, it was Tottenham who benefited most from the results. The Lillywhites moved to within two points of second-placed City and seven behind Liverpool at the top. Playing ahead of both Liverpool and City in the next round offered Mauricio Pochettino's men the chance to close the gap even more. That's exactly what they did.
When the Matchday 25 games on Saturday were concluded, the North London side had leapfrogged Manchester City to second place on the table and come within four points of the Merseysiders. Although with Man City's win against Arsenal, Tottenham moved back to third place, it's now clear the Lillywhites should be taken seriously in their unlikely title bid. They're only five points off top spot.
All the North London side needs to pull up a huge surprise in the title race is further capitulation from the top two teams. Pep Guardiola's men have been most guilty of that this term. And if anything, the surprise loss to Newcastle proves they will do it again. The biggest question though is: Can Liverpool capitulate so badly?
"They've got a squad capable of winning the title!"
"I know for a fact that Pochettino didn't want anyone!"
Harry Redknapp is adamant that Tottenham were right not to sign anyone in the last two windows... https://t.co/Xxxtr8OyB1
Jurgen Klopp went to the transfer market with a mission to kill in the last year or so. The goal was simple: Get the best to do the job at whatever cost. And the best were brought to Anfield to strengthen the weak links in the squad. Virgil van Dijk is easily the best defender in the league at the moment. Allison Becker is on course for the golden glove in his first Premier League season.
From the goalkeeping position to the defence, midfield, and attack, the Reds can boast of having one of the best team in the Premier League and in the whole of Europe. And the results are a visible proof of that. Anfield is also a fortress, Liverpool is the only team in the Premier League that has not tasted defeat at home this season.
Away form in the league has also been impressive, with only one loss all campaign. And the fact that it came at the defending champions’ backyard means there's no shame in that and certainly nothing to worry about. Put side by side they stand a better chance of finishing the league strongly, in comparison to Spurs. And the gap could be too much to bridge for the Londoners.
There are several reasons for that. Firstly, Harry Kane's injury is a huge disadvantage to the side. The Englishman is scheduled to be out until March. And when he does return, he may not hit the ground running straight away. With 14 league goals in 22 matches, his role in the team's success cannot be minimised. And so it's not far fetched to say he will be missed. Then there is the issue of the two teams ahead being superior in quality and experience.
Impressively though, Heung-Min Son has returned from the Asian Cup to play a pivotal role in the team's victories in the last two games. Two strikes in two, both winning goals secured all available points. But there is still a long way to go. Surprises happen every day in football. So ruling out Tottenham from the title race at this point will be premature. But it’s Liverpool that holds all the cards right now. It’s the Merseysiders that can allow either of Man City or Tottenham back in with a chance of lifting the trophy at the end of the campaign. They’ve been that good.