Mauricio Pochettino referred to it as an “amazing energy” and a “union” and Tottenham Hotspur will go into the final north London derby against Arsenal at White Hart Lane cresting an extraordinary run of home form and momentum.
There is serendipity. Spurs play their penultimate match at the old stadium – the club finally announced after a board meeting on Friday that they will take up the option of going to Wembley for a season - with Arsenal struggling to make the top four and close to the confirmation that for the first time in 22 years they will finish below their rivals.
That previous state of affairs has coined a phrase “St Totteringham’s Day”, the annual Arsenal celebration when it is mathematically impossible for Spurs to end the season above them and it has been confirmed in every campaign that Arsene Wenger has been at the club. Until now. With Arsenal 14 points behind it is (almost) over.
Pochettino professed ignorance – the Spurs manager even said he was unaware of the phrase (“I really don’t care about that celebration. My English is so bad I don’t read or listen too much,” he declared) – but that is part of a wider argument that he has hammered home that the club needs to think big.
And thinking big is global not local and not fretting about besting your neighbours but winning the league. “You cannot say the weight of one year has the weight of 20,” Wenger said pointedly, and understandably, but there is a growing sense of a power shift.
Thinking big is also about moving into the new 61,000-seat (1,000 bigger than Arsenal’s Emirates) stadium which is emerging, a huge footprint, alongside the old White Hart Lane, Spurs’ home for 118 years, and while Wenger claimed it would take two years for a club to “recreate a kind of history to feel comfortable and to feel like you play at home” there was urgency from Pochettino who dismissed the notion that he might prefer to stay at the Lane as it is - such is his side’s formidable form there.
“No, no, no, no,” he said for the avoidance of doubt. “It is important to sort everything and try to move as soon as possible to Wembley and then to move again to the new stadium. The evolution you cannot stop. It is so exciting to go to play at Wembley next season and then to move to the new stadium but we cannot now regret about White Hart Lane.”
Until they do leave – and with Manchester United the final visitors on May 14, meaning there could not be two better opponents to see off the old ground – there is an astonishing record to maintain that has established Spurs as Chelsea’s only challengers and helped reduce that lead at the top to just four points with five matches to play. Never mind ending St Totteringham’s Day if Spurs could leave White Hart Lane with their first league title since 1960-61 that would an unprecedented farewell.
There is that farewell factor. There appears to be a special power to teams whose time at their old stadium is ending as West Ham United found at Upton Park last season and Pochettino himself experienced when he was a player at Espanyol and they left their ground of 74 years, the Sarria, in 1996-97 and beat Barcelona in the last-ever Catalan derby there in one of the greatest days in the club’s modern history.
And so Spurs go into Sunday’s game on a run of 15 wins in a row at the Lane – 12 in the league, three in the FA Cup – having scored 49 goals, conceding just nine, and ending Chelsea’s winning streak in January.
The sense of history; the sense of every game being a landmark; a final one against a particular opponent has been felt.
“We are playing from the beginning of the season as if it’s the last game at White Hart Lane – the atmosphere, the players, the fans, everyone behaved with amazing energy. You can feel that,” Pochettino enthused.
“Our fans are so excited, and our players too. I think that feeling, that energy - that our fans translate to the team - is amazing. And it is key, to push you and help you to give your best.”
It has been, he said, a “union” between players and supporters.
“I think the team plays exciting football,” Pochettino added. “The fans are completely involved with the team, they feel very close to the team. And I think we can build that relationship; that is great for the club. I think it’s fantastic. That collaboration…I think that is a fantastic union, that can only benefit the club.”
Pochettino added: “It’s true that emotion will be involved, more than maybe in other games. But it’s a good thing that the team learns a lot, they know that football is emotion; you play with emotion…
“You cannot ignore that it is a derby, and all that means, for us, for the fans. We are not only playing a derby, we are playing for another big thing, that is to be alive and be on the race until the end of the season, trying to win the Premier League.”
Although Danny Rose has returned to training from a knee injury he is not expected to be fit for the derby while Spurs will assess Mousa Dembele’s ankle. Arsenal rate Laurent Koscielny as “60:40” to play because of his knee problem. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit.