Grinding out wins might be enough for gritty Tottenham to secure a top-four spot

 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

It feels unlikely that Tottenham will click into an ominous gear this season as they did from late February last year, but they can still make this campaign a success.

A 2-0 win over West Ham moved Spurs into the top four for the first time this year and if they continue to show the fight of their second-half display, Antonio Conte’s side are capable of still being in the Champions League places come May.

The victory over the Hammers - which plunged David Moyes’ side into further relegation peril and continued the Scot’s dismal record against the so-called ‘big six’ - was far from a classic but Spurs were deserved winners following a stark improvement after the interval.

The excellent Emerson Royal and substitute Heung-min Son scored with cool finishes, and Spurs were committed defensively, limiting West Ham to one chance of real note, Jarrod Bowen’s effort which was straight at Fraser Forster.

Spurs leapfrogged Newcastle, albeit having played a game more, and can take further heart from the fact that they were in a worse position at this point of last season but still finished fourth after a run of 10 wins from their final 14 games.

That kind of surge feels unlikely this time around - Spurs have more injuries and the FA Cup and Champions League to worry about, for starters - but it might not be necessary for a top-four finish given the competition.

Spurs are, as it stands, battling against a Magpies side who appear to be struggling with fatigue and the weight of expectation, a resurgent Liverpool, who may have left themselves too much to do, and a trio of overachievers in Fulham, Brighton and Brentford.

Chelsea appear unlikely to come back into the top-four picture, particularly if Spurs beat their rivals at home next weekend.

While the top three are surely unreachable, fourth-place is very much there for the taking and for all their frustrating inconsistency, Spurs have the squad and qualities to pip their rivals to the post again.

They will not have to be perfect but they will have to defend with the commitment they showed against the Hammers, and in their last home game against Manchester City, and hope Son, Harry Kane, Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski can keep firing.

Son provided another potential turning point in his difficult season with a trademark finish - his fourth goal from the bench in two sub appearances, despite having scored just one League goal in 20 starts - from Kane’s pass, while Richarlison was lively and Kulusevski menacing after the interval.

West Ham admittedly offered little in north London but came into the game cautiously looking up the table following draws with Newcastle and Chelsea in their last two games.

Spurs, by contrast, were back in the doldrums after defeats to Leicester and AC Milan, and again without Conte, who was watching from Italy on doctor’s orders as he continues to recover from gallbladder surgery.

The hosts were also missing a host of players and Conte/Stellini named a defensive-looking side with Emerson and Ben Davies at wing-back, and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp shielding the back three.

Spurs could, and probably should, have been more adventurous from the off, and they only came alive in first-half stoppage-time with chances for Richarlison and Cristian Romero.

But characteristically they improved after half-time and in the circumstances the result was a good one, with Conte and Stellini’s big selection decisions justified.

Spurs still have plenty of concerns across the pitch - specifically midfield creativity and defensive consistency and the form of their front players, not to mention Conte’s health - but they are also capable of grinding out gritty wins, as they have now shown against West Ham and City.

In the race for the top four, that might be enough.