Thirteen matches, one loss, twenty-four points. Tottenham Hotspur are experiencing its best start to the Premier League since the start of the decade when Harry Redknapp still roamed the sidelines. After Sunday's 4-1 dismantling of West Ham at White Hart Lane, Spurs are sitting in fifth place, just four behind league-leading Leicester City (let that sink in a second), and boasting one of the best defensive records in the Premier League while inching up the offensive standings.
Harry Kane has found his form, Dele Alli and Eric Dier have become one of the best midfield tandems in the league, and Spurs are seemingly scoring goals for fun. Not to jinx anything, but Spurs are pretty good. The question now becomes: how far can they go?
Look back to the start of the season and most pundits predicted a close race between Chelsea and Manchester City for the title, with Manchester United and Arsenal likely jockeying for third. Liverpool were the trendy dark horse to gate-crash the top four. Spurs? After last season, Tottenham were more or less an afterthought.
And why not? After an up-and-down season buoyed by the emergence of Kane but marred by midfield miscues and defensive problems, Spurs seemed to have more issues than solutions, and Mauricio Pochettino's rebuilding project looked to be a long one. Today, Spurs along with Leicester are the surprise teams of the league, with both on blistering runs of form. The difference between the two is nobody really believes Leicester can maintain this form throughout the long season. Spurs, by contrast, are starting to turn some heads.
What makes Spurs' run so interesting and downright "un-Spursy" is that they have achieved it without many outright poor performances against teams they were supposed to beat. Away draws against Swansea, Leicester, and Arsenal are nothing to scoff at. The opening day loss at Old Trafford is understandable. The only match that really feels like "dropped points" is the 2-2 home draw to Stoke, but only within the context of the calamitous last 20 minutes of the match.
Even so, Spurs are a derpy Kyle Walker own-goal away from being undefeated in the league. Leicester's hot start and Chelsea's disastrous run of form may be the stories of the young Premier League season, but Spurs are quietly riding their youth movement to the cusp of Champions League qualification and are starting to make people sit up and take notice, even if they're not yet on board the train.
The top of the league is in flux. There is no one dominant team. Could Spurs even [stage whisper] make a run for the title?
Mauricio Pochettino says no, at least in terms of practicality if not ambition. In post-match quotes as reported by the Independent, he tried to put the brakes on suggestions that Spurs are headed for the top this year.
"For us to try to win the title, we need more, step by step," he said. "In football we cannot stop, ever. There is always something to improve in football, to try to play much better in the next game. We need to keep working hard and keep our feet on the ground."
That's not precisely a ringing endorsement, but neither is it laughing off the question. And to be fair, the question should remain open. Spurs are playing like one of the best teams in the league. They're a club that are beating opponents by fair margins. "Lads, it's Tottenham" is taking on a whole new meaning.
Michael Caley tweeted his title projections based on his model after today's match, and it shows Spurs with a mere 4% likelihood of taking home the Premier League title. Small? Certainly. A tall ask? Absolutely. But be honest: did any Tottenham fans expect Spurs to even be on this chart this season?
EPL title projection. The cut-off is arbitrary so if I say it's 4% then it's 4%. And this is what that looks like. pic.twitter.com/CKwyPki36o— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) November 22, 2015
Next weekend Spurs host a Chelsea team that, despite a disastrous start to the season, are still better than Tottenham on paper. It's perhaps the biggest test yet of Spurs' legitimacy as a nascent league contender. A result of any kind is further evidence that this Spurs team has not only hit its stride, it's a team with title ambitions. And a loss is no longer a disaster.
But let's slow our roll – it's too soon to start hoping for a title run. As good as Spurs are right now, only a third of the season has passed. There's enough evidence to make some suppositions as to whom the power players will be this season, but not enough to make any definitive statements. Chelsea could still right the ship. Liverpool could Klopp its way to becoming a power player. Leicester could continue its staggering run of form. There's still enough time for Spurs to "pull a Spurs" either through injury or hashtag-narrative. We've seen it happen before. Winning the title is hard, and a lot would have to go Spurs' way in order for it to get above that 4% Lloyd Christmas-worthy statistic.
But even if the title may be beyond this current team's grasp, that self-same narrative has shifted enough so that a top-four finish is no longer a pipe dream, but a legitimate and achievable goal. Maybe even alongside a best-ever Premier League finish. It's now something that could happen. Hope, after all, is a thing with feathers, and there are plenty of feathers on a cockerel. With Sunday's win over West Ham, this is a Tottenham team that can no longer be ignored. And when was the last time Spurs fans have been able to say that?