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Teething problems at Chelsea and upheaval at Arsenal have allowed Harry Redknapp to push Spurs above their rivals, but sustainability depends on their reaction to January dangers

ANALYSIS
By Jay Jaffa

Never has the word ‘capitalise’ felt so apt. Tottenham have the opportunity against Everton to build an even larger lead over their London rivals and as the fixture postponed due to the summer riots is finally to be fulfilled, Harry Redknapp will be aiming to continue the mayhem his side have wreaked in this increasingly dramatic season.

It was not supposed to be this straightforward. The Luka Modric transfer saga of the summer and a couple of Mancunian humiliations had Spurs fans gasping for air before the Premier League had even rolled into September.

Yet, here we are: 19 games played and Tottenham sit comfortably in third place. A win over Everton would leave Spurs closer to the top of the table than fourth - which, aside from a fourth-placed finish in 2009/10, is a remarkable rise given their indifferent history in the Premier League.

The north London outfit are five points ahead of Chelsea and six ahead of their arch-rivals Arsenal at the halfway mark of the season. But is it as simple as congratulating Redknapp and his side or has there been assistance from elsewhere? It’s somewhere in between.

HOW SPURS LEAPFROGGED THEIR RIVALS UNDER REDKNAPP
28 December, 2008
Current table
Pos

P
PTS
Pos

P
PTS
2
Chelsea 20
42 3 Tottenham 19 42
4
Arsenal 20 35 4 Chelsea 20 37
16
Tottenham 20 20
5 Arsenal
20 36

London's finest? Thus far, Tottenham have made a compelling case.

The pre-season narrative told of Modric's potential move to Chelsea and the distraction it caused Redknapp's preparations for the campaign ahead. However, following the staunch rebuke aimed by chairman Daniel Levy to Roman Abramovich and a run that amassed 31 points from a possible 33, Tottenham scaled the table.

Nonetheless, it may have been forgotten that their London rivals suffered similar upheaval over the summer. Arsenal have had to rebuild following the summer sales of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas while Chelsea have had to contend with the difficulty of welcoming the inexperienced Andre Villas-Boas to the unforgiving Premier League.

The revolution at both clubs has certainly caused problems on and off the pitch, whereas the continuity established at White Hart Lane has fundamentally been the root of their success.

Amazingly, Tottenham have won more games in their first 19 games than ever before. Except, to the humor of many a rival fan, the 1960/61 double winning season – the last time the club won the top division – 51 years ago.

Compare that to Chelsea's double-winning season two years ago and Arsenal's in 2004/05 and you begin to understand how big a landmark it will be should Spurs sustain their form.

The club have been on an upward curve ever since Redknapp took the reins. Qualification for the Champions League in 2009/10 was the beginning of the journey but more so a seminal moment for the club in the top flight. Spurs had finally made their way to the top table and did so via gripping wins over both Arsenal and Chelsea.

But it was a tale of two teams last season as Redknapp's reckless abandon entertained the masses in Europe. However, league form suffered and hopes of a second Champions League campaign dissolved.

Focus was not lost over a difficult summer. The measured summer spending on Brad Friedel, Scott Parker, Emmanuel Adebayor and the emergence of Kyle Walker have ensured the ascendency has continued under Redknapp's direction.

Crucially the top brass insisted on the retention of Modric and Gareth Bale – a major juxtaposition to the days of flogging Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick to Manchester United.


Stability the key | Spurs held on to their stars while Arsenal and Chelsea had upheavals

This has left a talented squad that certainly befits their third place position. Tottenham are nine points better off than this stage last season, showing that it is not only the faltering steps of their rivals but also their own on-pitch improvements.

Gone, it seems, are the days of dropping points to the likes of Wigan – that particular ailment appears to afflict Anfield now.

To suggest this fine form could last would be bold. There are obvious dangers lurking and January could be a definitive month. Sandro, Parker, Aaron Lennon and William Gallas have recently been sidelined, reminding fans that the side are only a couple of key injuries away from disaster.

We're a third of the way into January but the transfer window has barely been nudged ajar. Although Redknapp has downplayed potential transfer activity, based on his track record it would be wise to disregard those comments until February arrives. The Spurs boss will be deeply aware of the opportunity he has and it will not be a shock if reinforcements arrive.

What of Redknapp though? His court battle with HMRC is due to continue on January 23 and is scheduled to last two weeks. Not only could Levy be reluctant to sanction signings, he may have to employ his contingency plan should the worst case scenario become reality. Regardless, this is a moot point for now, as focus remains on the next Premier League encounter against Everton.

David Moyes insisted on Tuesday that Spurs were superior following a period of acceleration that has seen the north London side successfully gatecrash the top four – a situation not wholly unfamiliar to Everton.

Were it not for a play-off defeat to Villarreal in 2005, Moyes may have built on their fourth-place finish and established Everton among the elite. Missed opportunities and financial restrictions have deprived the Toffees and maybe now they are feeling the effects of such austerity.

However, for all the ifs and buts, the statistics paint a truer picture of what to expect from Tottenham, a team that have traditionally struggled against Everton. In the last decade they have won just eight of 19 league matches and the coming fixture coincides nicely with the 2-1 loss at Goodison Park almost exactly a year ago.

Cast a glance to both managers and you will see that Redknapp has only won three times in 16 top-flight confrontations with Moyes.

But as Everton continue to limp through this campaign, it is worth remembering that they are facing a trip to a team that some fans would argue is better than any Tottenham team since Bill Nicholson's double winners of '61.

Perhaps it is their football that has propelled the club above their London rivals. Inconsistency surrounds Villas-Boas' Chelsea and the rebuilding involved in the next installment of Arsene Wenger's trophy hunt has seen points dropped too regularly. Tottenham, meanwhile, have maintained simplicity in their approach.

The core has remained stable and Redknapp has displayed the credentials yearned for by the FA whilst the familiar propensity for Tottenham to shoot themselves in the foot appears to have vanished.

For Spurs to sustain their position on top of the London pile, it would take the effort of a great side, and that, to the fear of many, is what they are in danger of maturing into.

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