Tottenham have powered to the top of the Premier League following an impressive opening day victory over title hopefuls Liverpool, and a 5-1 demolition of Hull City at the KC stadium last night.
The squad has not changed much since last season's shambolic opening two months, that saw the club finish October in the relegation zone. Coach Juande Ramos was pushed out of the door and replaced by current boss Harry Redknapp.
So what is different this season? And what will be vital to continue the early momentum gained by Tottenham's squad?
1. The World Cup
Tottenham have a large contingent of international players who will be looking to South Africa in 2010. English players such as Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Jonathan Woodgate, Aaron Lennon, Jermaine Jenas, and Tom Huddlestone are all in contention for a place on the plane with Fabio Capello and company.
Other internationals who will strive to maintain good form—some aiming to help their national teams qualify for the tournament—include Gomes, Assou-Ekotto, Hutton, Corluka, Modric, Palacios, Pavlyuchenko and Keane.
That is almost the entire matchday squad!
2. A Settled Side
The press and pundits frequently accused former coach Juande Ramos of not knowing his best eleven. They can't say the same of Redknapp, who snubbed the expensive David Bentley, Tom Huddlestone, and Giovani Dos Santos for the whole of last season, in favour of the in-form Lennon, Palacios, and Modric.
Redknapp, with the exception of the injury-plagued Ledley King, has started the same team in consecutive games this season. Neither Crouch, nor Pavlyuchenko has had a look in yet. Rightly so. Defoe and Keane have created or scored five of the seven goals that Tottenham have plundered to date!
3. Manchester City
The frenzied speculation and transfer activity that has enveloped Eastlands has taken much of the focus, and pressure, away from the previously heavy shoulders of Tottenham's players.
Manchester City are expected to finish fourth. Tottenham, they say, should finish anywhere between fifth and tenth, fighting for these third-tier positions with the likes of Aston Villa, Everton and Sunderland.
During last night's stunning victory at Hull, there was more invention, creation and freedom during 90 minutes than the same set of players showed for the majority of last season on their travels.
4. Wilson Palacios
Many baulked at the £12 million transfer fee that Redknapp paid Wigan Athletic in January 2009 to sign the Honduras midfielder; not many are doubting his judgement now.
Palacios has been at the heart of most of Tottenham's best displays since, culminating in a fine goal last night. He tore down the middle of the field for 60 yards to score
Palacios has brawn and brains. He breaks play up, he tackles, he sees passes and then executes them. He is reliable. He is honest.
Tottenham have always had exotic, luxurious players who show glimpses of brilliance. Palacios shows his quality week in, week out...without fail. Come rain, come shine!
The odd, comical Gomes mishap aside (needlessly bringing down Glen Johnson last Sunday to let them equalise), Tottenham are conceding fewer goals per game than the team was under Ramos.
There are fewer lapses in concentration, fewer goals conceded from set plays, fewer rash challenges in danger areas of the pitch, and fewer individual mistakes.
There is no obvious weakness in the team, highlighted by the fine recent form of the previously derided left full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto, whose stunning opening goal against Liverpool helped him an earn an improved, extended contract.
Things are looking good for Tottenham. There are plenty of goals in the team, a good work ethic, a sensible manager, and a healthy optimism filling the boots of the players and the spirit of the supporters.
Fourth should be the goal. Let the season unfold...
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