Tottenham standout Mousa Dembélé has heaped high praise on his team following their 0-0 draw against Chelsea at White Hart Lane on Sunday. In a hard fought match, which saw Spurs better their West London rival in terms of chances and run of play, Tottenham's players felt slighted with the final result. A point against the defending champions is nothing to scoff at, but the disappointment in the Tottenham locker room speaks volumes towards the character and disposition of the team.
"I think everybody can see our mentality and the way we are playing is different," said Dembele. "I don't want to say it, but we just feel we are now men. We are more confident and we are more of a group. That is something we have worked for a long time on. So we are really happy with how it's going."
"Before, maybe we might have been happy to draw with Chelsea, now we are disappointed. We have grown so much in so many different departments and we know we could have beaten Chelsea. There is such a positive vibe in the group. It is very important now to continue that good vibe.
While Spurs are certainly a young squad, players such as Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen, and Mousa Dembélé have been here for both the heights of the Gareth Bale era and the doldrums of AVB and Tim Sherwood. If one includes another longstanding Spurs player, Danny Rose, into this core group, then Spurs are starting five players who have been at the club through thick and thin. When someone like Dembélé speaks to a change of mentality within the side, when it is evident that the team fears no one, and that this is not just lip service, then its time to take notice.
"I think we are accomplished enough to say we can win any game. If we have the same mentality we have now, of course. Obviously we want to end up first, but I don't try to think that far ahead. The next game is important and then after that every week will be a challenge."
That scary, nay terrifying, feeling inside that tells supporters that Spurs are for real — well its ok to have them. They are neither misplaced, nor sentiments of the blindly faithful. Whether it was City or West Ham, Arsenal or Chelsea, the team has put in a shift when the competition is most fierce. One can speak towards a change in character, but without the results to back it up, statements like these can be hollow words. All of this in spite of a crowded fixture list, that included multiple grueling Europa League to Premier League two day turnarounds.
While the mindset of Tottenham's squad might be redesigned, Dembélé's belief in himself has never wavered. Going on his fourth year with the team, the Belgium midfielder has never looked better in lilywhite.
"I always had a lot of confidence in myself," said Dembele. "Now I am happy I am playing and the team is doing well. For me, I never doubted I would stay at the club. I never thought about leaving.
"Of course, people will speculate when you are not playing. But I've always felt this is my club and I just want to prove myself to the team, supporters and everyone that I can play here. I never wanted to run away. I am not the sort of player who runs away. I always show myself and I always felt I could do something here."
There is an plethora of wonderful stories coming out of Spurs Lodge this campaign, but Mousa's resurgence is among the most satisfying. It was never any secret that Dembélé was a supremely talented footballer. Silky smooth and strong, he glides across the field like blade on ice. Yet in his time at Tottenham, he has been played all over the place. The knock on him has always been goal production, but his seemingly limitless potential has consistently kept him on the field, no matter his form. That changed in Pochettino's first year, where swaths of the season passed without him getting a sniff of the pitch. Rumors of a transfer to Sunderland this past summer, with a suggested 15 million pound price tag, only muddied his future with Spurs. But what happened after has been glorious. The man put his head down, worked his tail off, and won a starting eleven spot in a team abundant with talent. One of the great success stories of the past few years, Mousa Dembélé embodies everything that is right with Tottenham's recent success.