Why 2016 Is the Year Tottenham Will Hold Their Nerve and Claim Title Glory

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Why 2016 Is the Year Tottenham Will Hold Their Nerve and Claim Title Glory
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Harry Kane and Kyle Walker celebrate the striker's goal in Tottenham Hotspur's 2-2 draw with Arsenal. They will hope for an even bigger reason to celebrate come the end of the season.

Head coach Mauricio Pochettino was understandably quick to refocus his side's attentions back to the Premier League after Thursday's 3-0 UEFA Europa League defeat by Borussia Dortmund. The second-place side are, after all, still very much in the thick of an enthralling title race.

"We turn our attentions to [Aston] Villa now and it's a very big game for us," he said, per Tottenham's official Twitter. "We need to show we deserve to stay where we are in the table."

Disappointing as the north Londoners were in Germany, there is still ample reason to believe they can hold their nerve and claim title glory in 2016.

Pochettino, the February manager of the month, and his team have earned the right for their overall efforts to be framed optimistically.

Indeed, their strong overall form is what made the European loss to Dortmund such a galling experience for staff and fans alike. This was a below-par performance and strategical misjudgement not in keeping with the majority of their campaign (even allowing for the obvious quality of the Bundesliga outfit).

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Robert Huth's header was the difference between Tottenham and Leicester City in January. The Lilywhites will hope those three points do not hand the Foxes the title at their expense.

With nine league matches remaining, they sit in second place, three points ahead of capital rivals Arsenal and just five behind leaders Leicester City.

The Foxes' own title tilt has thus far shown little sign of stumbling. They edged a close contest with Spurs in January and have bounced back from defeat against fellow championship rivals Arsenal, winning two and drawing one.

In a season as competitive as this one is proving, it seems inevitable the battle for the crown will go deep into the final run-in. Form is on Leicester's side, so far as the current top two are concerned. But the same arguments of fatigue and a lack of experience in a top-flight title race being attached to Spurs' credentials could be just as much levied against Claudio Ranieri's men.

Tottenham's attempts to up the pressure on Leicester and try to provoke that theory begin with Sunday's trip to Aston Villa and the visit of Bournemouth the following weekend.

"We’ve had a couple of disappointing results so these next two games in the Premier League are very important, this is an opportunity to bounce back and get to winning ways," striker Harry Kane said to Tottenham's official website. "We have these two games before the international break, then we can really go for it in the last seven."

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press
Dele Alli was among the scorers as Spurs beat Aston Villa 3-1 in November. They cannot afford to underestimate them on Sunday.

Villa and the Cherries are not be taken lightly. Spurs beat them both earlier this season, but Remi Garde's bottom-placed team could easily become a trap-game while last season's Championship winners have improved since October.

Nonetheless, after losing at West Ham United and recording an admirable but disappointment-tinged point in the north London derby, the (likely) comparative lack of intensity may be just what Spurs need. A two-game spell toas Kane saidset them up for the final stretch.

Pochettino was reaching somewhat when he listed "good experience" as one of the positives of the Dortmund loss, per the English club's official website. Yet there is something to be said for what Spurs have learned from the big games so far this season. Good and bad experiences inform the results that have directed the aforementioned broad brush strokes of the larger title picture.

Among those remaining fixtures, Spurs still have to visit Liverpool, Stoke City and Chelsea. Manchester United and Southampton come to White Hart Lane.

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It is a daunting schedule, one Tottenham will do extremely well to come out of as champions. But bar the letdown in their last-ever meeting with West Ham at Upton Park, they have repeatedly proved their big-game aptitude.

Fatigue could yet dull it again. But as seen in the way they fought back from a goal down against Arsenal, they have guts in abundance.

Aiding the ability of those who have shown this fighting spirit for large periods since last summer should be the timely return to fitness of Jan Vertonghen and Clinton Njie.

Vertonghen's cool presence will take some of the pressure off Toby Alderweireld's shoulders in defence. Kevin Wimmer has deputised well overall but does not offer the experience in marshalling those around them that the vice-captain does.

Njie was enjoying his best game yet for Tottenham against Monaco in December when he got injured. His already evident pace and attacking instincts were finally beginning to coalesce with Pochettino's aggressive strategical demands.

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Despite Tottenham's fitness concerns, they do have Clinton Njie (pictured) and Jan Vertonghen to come back, two players who should provide a welcome boost to the team.

Being able to call on such a weapon again could reinvigorate the attack at a time of year when opposition defences will not want to be confronted with such speed. Njie is a potential difference-maker in the tight, nervy contests that surely await.

You could argue against several of these points by citing Spurs' difficulties in March, interpreting the selection missteps and injury/fitness issues as a commendable 2015-16 now beginning to flag.

But the fact is that everything is still to be decided.

Tottenham are in a position in early spring they have not been in for many years. If a football club cannot be optimistic in a situation like this, then what is the point of trying to begin with?

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