After Tottenham beat Premier League leaders Manchester City to move within a point of them at the top of the table, manager Mauricio Pochettino challenged his players to show the consistency necessary for another tilt at the title.
Last season the London side were in contention until the last four matches but failed to win any of them and even lost the runners-up place to neighbours Arsenal.
Much of the football they played in ending City’s 100 percent record on Sunday suggested they have the quality to be right up there again.
The question Pochettino immediately posed was how often they could reproduce it.
“If we can play the way we played today, why not be consistent the whole season?” he said at the after-match news conference. “Today was a good example of what we want to follow.
“If we play with the passion we showed today, we have the quality to fight with the big teams. We’ve played some good games (in the past) but this time we worked very hard and all the players were fantastic.”
The performance was so impressive from start to finish that the Argentine, whose own reputation continues to grow, said he had shared the pleasure of a delighted home crowd.
“It was a fantastic game, both teams share the same philosophy and I enjoyed it from the touchline,” he said.
Pochettino was even prepared to forgive a minor disagreement between Erik Lamela and Son Heung-Min over who took the penalty kick that Claudio Bravo saved after Lamela grabbed the ball first.
“It’s who feels best to shoot,” he said. “That’s always better than nobody wanting to.”
Pep Guardiola, an old rival of Pochettino’s from their respective time with Barcelona and neighbours Espanyol, was generous in defeat.
“They were the better team,” he said. “In many aspects they were one step in front of us. When the opponent is better you have to accept it and learn from that.”
Having lost the pressure of a 100 percent record in the league while maintaining their position at the top may even help City when they resume in two weeks’ time after the international break with home games against Everton and Southampton.
Guardiola has always said that they are a work in progress after a disappointing campaign last season and Sunday’s events at White Hart Lane will only have confirmed that belief. (Editing by Clare Fallon)