If you were to tell Spurs’ fans that they would be in sole possession of fourth place and just 3 points off second place after one third of the season – they would have been ecstatic. When you factor in the injury challenges – the loss of their best player Modric and defensive injuries – Spurs have to feel even better about where they stand.
The international break has also arrived at the at a perfect time time for Spurs. Their form has started to slip a bit, due to mounting injuries. Luka Modric has played just four league games and Aaron Lennon has been out for the last two. Both are expected to be back when the international break concludes in a couple weeks. Spurs have also been suffering with injuries in the back. Bassong was the latest to go down with a hamstring. But although Woodgate and Dawson have recovered a few weeks more of training will allow them to improve their fitness and their sharpness. The pairing of King of Woodgate looked a bit off the pace against Sunderland and the break should allow Harry to reassess his back line.
The more balanced Premier league have also aided Spurs in their efforts to break into the top 4, as top sides are dropping more points. Liverpool looks increasingly fragile and looks the most likely to drop out of the top four. Man City can beat anybody, but draws in the last five games show they can also mail it in at any time. Arsenal are looking legit with Van Persie leading the line, but if he were to get injured the Gunners have no one to replace him and despite their impressive play they remain thin. One can’t imagine Manchester United dropping out of the top four, but they are not the invincible United they were in the past and an injury to Rooney would leave them scrambling. Chelsea look set to run away with the title and that won’t bother Spurs who will hope United and Arsenal will be left demoralized and unmotivated, putting those two a slip or two away from a real battle.
However, the general view in the British press is that Spurs don’t really have a chance, some even suggesting that a loss to Sunderland would have put Harry in hot water. Much of this negativity is part of an inherent bias toward Spurs, but a lot of this negativity is due to Spurs’ performance against the big four. Apart from the win on opening day of the season against Liverpool, Spurs lost 3-1 to Manchester United, 3-0 to Chelsea, and 3-0 to Arsenal. Spurs deserved to lose those games, but to be fair, the only one of those three that was a real rout was the Arsenal game. All three games were played without Modric and down 2-1 against United Spurs hit the bar, and should have had a penalty against Chelsea down 1-0. So none of the bounces went Spurs way in those games. But regardless the media puts way too much emphasis on these games, as big “tests” of a club’s “ambition.” If being a top side required beating the top sides then Manchester United last year would not have won the title, while Spurs on the other hand would not have been far off.
But where Tottenham have been poor over the last few years has been against the bottom half of the table. Yet this year Spurs had victories over Hull, West Ham, Birmingham, Burnley, Portsmouth, and Sunderland. A draw against Bolton and a defeat to Stoke. So against non-top 4 sides Spurs are 6-1-1 and against top four sides 1-0-3. If Spurs continue to win the games they are supposed to win they will be there in contention at the end.
In short, Spurs will come back in late November in fourth place and their two best attacking players back from injury. There is definitely reason to hope.