Apart from a majestic curled effort from Son Heung-min and a superb goal on the counter-attack by Harry Kane, it was not pretty as Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal 2-0 to return to the top of the Premier League on Sunday. But after collecting seven points from a run of fixtures many thought would expose Tottenham as impostors in the title race, few of the club’s faithful will care.
After 11 games Tottenham have 24 points, their best start since 2011, and what is more, it feels as if there is much more to come from a side that could even afford to leave Gareth Bale as an unused substitute on Sunday.
Son’s superb curler after 13 minutes, from Kane’s assist, and Kane’s thumping finish off the bar, from Son’s assist, just before halftime gave Tottenham control and for the entire second half they just parked a white bus in front of Arsenal.
“Of course we are very happy. We controlled the game by being defensively solid,” said Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho, whose side had only 31% possession. Not the kind of words normally welcomed by a club whose motto is “To Dare is To Do”.
But Tottenham, after beating Manchester City 2-0 with a very similar display, grinding out a 0-0 draw at Chelsea, and beating Arsenal are showing the kind of pragmatism that wins silverware, if not admirers.
Mourinho has taken Tottenham back to basics. Defensive solidity, midfield combativity and attacking efficiency. And it is working, even if Mourinho is too long in the tooth to start talking about title prospects.
“We have played City, Chelsea, Arsenal — if you do three points, four points from those games it is not the end of the world, it is normal. We have taken seven points,” Mourinho said.
“We didn’t concede one goal against phenomenal teams, of course we are in a good moment and the team is in a good place mentally, but nothing changes. The problem with the Premier League is that next it is Crystal Palace and there is no guarantee we win.”
While the deadly duo of Kane and Son will grab the spotlight — they have combined for 11 league goals in 11 games this season — Mourinho picked out Danish holding midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, signed from Southampton, as a key to his side’s solidity.
“Pierre is very intelligent, he reads the game very well, he understands the game very well. He is going to be a coach one day, for sure. He is a pain, always asking questions why we do this and that,” Mourinho said.
“On the pitch he reads the situation very, physically he is very strong and technically he is much better than people think. Simplicity is genius. And the guy is so simple in everything he does with the ball and I think he is a phenomenal player.”