Currently top of the English Premier League form table is Tottenham who have made a formidable climb in the new year up to second behind Chelsea.
This comes after a difficult October and November which saw them win just two Premier League games in total. So what are the reasons for their upturn in results and do they still have a realistic chance of winning the title?
In my opinion there are three glaring factors which have stimulated Spurs into the title-chasing force that they are in 2017.
Notable injured absentees
This factor heavily impacted Tottenham’s form. The club were without key players such as Toby Alderweireld, Harry Kane and Mousa Dembele for much of those two months prior to the festive period.
While the impact of losing Alderweireld wasn’t so major as Tottenham continued to let in very few goals, losing Kane for so long was undoubtedly a huge handicap.
There are certain positions where Tottenham possess good strength in depth, but this cannot be said for strikers at White Hard Lane.
Vincent Janssen hardly grasped his opportunity with both hands, in fact he is still yet to score a goal from open play and Spurs certainly missed Kane’s ruthlessness in front of goal. Since his return from injury Kane has scored an impressive 11 goals in 12 league games.
Key players losing form.
During Tottenham’s winless run, the likes of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min weren’t playing to their full potential and this was particularly hampering with Kane also out injured.
With Janssen not scoring, Tottenham needed a greater contribution from their midfield players and it simply wasn’t there.
However, over the Christmas period Eriksen and Alli rediscovered their goalscoring touch, with Alli in particular on a hot streak of form having scored 8 goals in his last 6 league games, including a match winning double against league leaders Chelsea.
The side second in the EPL will know that even with Kane fit and firing, he can’t bare the entirety of the burden for scoring goals. Therefore it is vital that goals continue to come from midfield in order for Spurs to retain their fine form.
Change in formation
The 4-2-3-1 formation served Tottenham so well last season but with things not going so well this season, Mauricio Pochettino decided to take a leaf out of Chelsea’s book and change to 3-4-3.
The change has proven incredibly effective, with the new formation giving the full-backs Danny Rose and Kyle Walker a greater license to go forward in their new wing-back roles.
Furthermore it gives the two attacking midfielders, Eriksen and Alli greater freedom in behind Kane. Also, having the option of three at the back gives Spurs greater flexibility.
Indeed during the recent 2-2 draw against Manchester City, they changed their formation at half-time when three at the back wasn’t working so well.
There’s no doubt that Pochiettino’s squad now look like the side that took the Premier League by storm last season, arguably even better, playing with the same swagger and fluency that saw them finish 3rd.
The title however still looks a long way off as despite the White Hart Lane club convincingly beating Chelsea to end their 13-match winning run, there aren’t many teams in the Premier League who are capable of playing the way Tottenham did against Chelsea, or at least not for the full 90 minutes.
It is difficult to see Antonio Conte’s Blues dropping too many more points from now until the end of the season. But while the title may be out of reach, prospects of a top four finish with Champions League football and an FA Cup run are very much on and this would still represent a fantastic season.