Bale and hearty
Are Spurs genuine title contenders? On current form you have to say so, says Jeff Stelling.
Last Updated: 29/12/11 1:57pm
Spurs looked the real deal at Norwich in midweek.
Strong and slick, they could have won by five or six at Carrow Road - a ground that is generally considered a tough place to go and get a result.
Gareth Bale and Luka Modric would get into any Premier League team right now and Scott Parker isn't far off; Rafael van der Vaart showed some exquisite touches too - one first-half pass to Emmanuel Adebayor was a thing of joy.
At their best Spurs threaten from all over the pitch; Kyle Walker is in terrific form as is fellow full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto, a player who has improved beyond measure in the last 18 months.
So the question is this: are Spurs genuine title contenders?
As things stand they are definitely in the shake-up and if they remain so for the next couple of months then who knows?
Right now they are seven points behind leaders Manchester City with a game in hand; the minimum they must achieve from that position is a Champions League place.
Come January 22, when Spurs travel to the Etihad Stadium, it is not inconceivable that the teams will be playing for top spot.
Tottenham's next four Premier League fixtures appear kinder than most - starting with Swansea on Saturday - and while Spurs haven't always done it against the smaller teams, the momentum has been largely with them since their Europa League exit.
Bale's form is intrinsically linked to that surge. Ask any Premier League fullback who they'd least like to play against at the moment, and I'm convinced they'd all say 'Gareth Bale'.
The lad has got everything; he's a magnificent, powerful athlete, who is as fast as they come and he has terrific ability too. Bale is the ultimate nightmare to mark because he can pop up anywhere on the pitch, yet you can't afford to give him any space.
He is irreplaceable - Spurs are nothing like the same team without him - and if I were a Tottenham fan, I'd have my head in my hands every time he goes down with a knock.
All of which leads me to my chief concern about Spurs - their strength in depth (or lack of it), particularly up front.
We saw an indication of it on Tuesday, when the bench looked comparatively weak. They desperately need to get Ledley King, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe back on the pitch as soon as possible.
Quality strikers don't grow on trees and I imagine that Harry Redknapp would jump at the chance to sign one during the transfer window even if (or particularly if) it meant throwing Roman Pavlyuchenko into the deal as a makeweight.
Yet with the sort of injuries Spurs have got, they probably need a more-rounded attacking player than an out-and-out striker right now. Someone like Junior Hoilett might fit the bill, even if he is relatively unproven. I can picture the Blackburn winger slotting into the Spurs set up pretty much straight away.
Either way, I hope Harry is given money to spend.
Time and time again he has proved what a versatile manager he is and he fully deserves every plaudit that comes his way.
Harry hates that 'wheeler-dealer' tag and rightly so because tactically he's as astute as anybody around; he knows how to get the best out of players and can spot a good 'un too.
I think most England fans would like to see him in charge of the national side right now (apart from Spurs supporters that is) but whether it happens in the future or not, the speculation won't distract Harry.
Not so long ago Chelsea simply had to turn up to beat Spurs but the balance of power is shifting. The way it is, I can't see Chelsea finishing above Spurs this season.
Chelsea played well at White Hart Lane last week after the first half hour - better than I thought they were capable of, to be honest, because there appear to be too many unsettled players in their ranks.
The chief imponderables rumble on - will Didier Drogba sign a new contract, will Fernando Torres still be there after the transfer window - and now there is talk of Andre Villas-Boas being given a huge transfer budget in the New Year.
Although the club has denied it, I don't find it encouraging from a Chelsea point of view because the last thing they want to do at this stage of the season is spend £140m, or thereabouts, on players who may turn out to be stop gaps!
We all know that it is best not to shop in January if you can help it. Chelsea could do with bringing in a player or two - and it looks like Gary Cahill is on his way to the Bridge - but wholesale changes are in themselves unsettling.
Stability is just what's needed at Hartlepool too, so it's good to have Neale Cooper back on board as boss.
'Tatty' is a top man and a good friend of mine, but more importantly he's an exceptionally popular figure after effectively taking the club to the League One play-offs in his previous spell in charge.
I know he'll be well-pleased to be back in the game so I hope he and the chairman can take the club forward.
They say 'never go back' but with a bit of luck that won't apply to Neale!