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Here’s why it’s time to start taking Tottenham’s title bid seriously

by Aidan Elder | February 15, 2016

September 2015

“Oh look. Spurs tonked Manchester City. And they’re fifth in the league. They probably think they’re genuine league contenders now. Awwwww … bless.”

December 2015

“Oh look. Spurs have gone nine games unbeaten in all competitions. And they’re fifth in the league. They probably think they’re still genuine league contenders now. That’s cute.”

February 2016

“Oh look. Spurs are second in the league. Well that’s clearly a false position and it’s only a matter of time before the giants like Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chel……. Wait – could this actually happen?”

If you’re anything like the hipster cynics that make up the Paddy Power Gud Writers Team, then the above brain burps may well have crossed your mind at various points during the season.

It still seems vaguely laughable, but with a dozen games of the campaign remaining, a team that have made second half of the season collapses as much a part of their identity as shouting at Arsenal fans actually have a good chance of claiming their first league title since before the Yanks even considered faking the moon landings.

The Leicester fairytale has hogged the limelight for much of the season but if we step back from the whirlwind of Blue WKD and pundits hastily deleting all those predictions about them getting relegated, Spurs have snuck up on the outside. If the fantastic Foxes can’t get back things on track after defeat to Arsenal, Spurs could be the team capitalise. SPURS!! Shut the front door.

In just his second season, Mauricio Pochettino may be on the verge of doing something incredible – proving that Spurs can actually appoint a decent foreign manager. And winning the league. Not only have Spurs got up to second place, but they’ve done it by putting together some decent stats. With 15 games to go:

  • They’ve only lost three games, the joint lowest figure in the league
  • That’s two less defeats than Arsenal and four less than City
  • They’ve the best goal difference in the league by seven goals

Does is make any differnce?

‘But goal difference as an indicator of actual performance – that’s about as reliable as making stock market investments by analyzing duck faeces?’ you might well be thinking right about now. You could be right because having the league’s best goal difference guarantees you nothing other than stats nerds will be having a virtual circle jerk about your team.

Well that view may turn out to be accurate, but it’s a useful feather to have in your club beanie hat because 74% of all Premier Leagues have been won by the team with the best goal difference. Current relegation mud-wrestlers and reigning league champions, Chelsea won the title without having the best goal difference last season, but that was the first time in six seasons that it happened.

List of Premier League winners and goal records

Only once in the history of the Premier League has a team who weren’t the top goalscorers or the owners of the best defence or best goal difference won the title. That was Arsenal in 1997/98. Other than that, there is a strong correlation between those two accolades and success. 16 Premier Leagues have been won by the team who scored the most goals and eight have been won by the team with the best defensive record.

What’s perhaps more encouraging is that the goal difference stat is based on solid foundations. Rather than being a flattering stat due to thumping a few minnows like Sunderland (4-1), Bournemouth (5-1) and Manchester City (4-1), it’s down to a mix between a solid defence and efficient attack. Spurs have – you might want to sit down for this – the best defence in the league having only conceded 20 goals in their 26 games to date. That’s mind-blowing when you think this is a club that kept Heurelho Gomes in gainful and lucrative employment for six years.

White on target

At the other end of the pitch, they rank as the league’s second highest scorers. Their tally of 47 is just one shy of the 48 top scorers Leicester and Manchester City have managed. The goals of Harry Kane, general wizardry of Dele Alli and strong supporting cast which includes a surprisingly not awful Eric Lamela have combined to play some of the league’s best football.

The game against City was meant to be a true test of their substance. They passed it with if not style, then certainly the right mix of generous refereeing decisions and industry to win tight games. With that obstacle cleared, now the next major hurdle is early March’s North London bunfight followed by a tricky April schedule. Exactly how tricky will depend on how flaky a few of the league’s flakiest teams will be at that stage of the season. The Artist Also Known As Jazz Appreciation Month has them travelling to Anfield, the Britannia Stadium and Stamford Bridge while Manchester United come to the Lane in the middle of all that. Nothing too frightening in there, but it will require bottle that recent editions of Spurs haven’t been famed for.

At , Spurs are second favourites to win the league. For all of City’s resources and Arsenal’s attacking talent, Pochettino has brought a steel to his team that has put them right in the mix. Some fans may be happy with avoiding the insult of enduring St. Totteringham’s day for the first time since 1995 and being top London club at . But if this season is to produce a hugely unexpected league champion, Spurs might be the value bet to do it white out of the blue.

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