Mauricio Pochettino wrote in his matchday programme notes that “anything was still possible” for Tottenham this season.
And after seeing his side comprehensively demolish a bottom half team with plenty to spare for the second consecutive Saturday you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who has watched them over the last few months to argue with him.
Put simply, they are the best team in the country, defending with fire and attacking with flair. They may not win the title, and probably won’t with Chelsea’s lead, although cut to four points ahead of their meeting with Manchester United tomorrow, still probably enough. But make no mistake this is a team on the rise. This Spurs side aren’t so Spursy anymore.
The crowd know it too. Pochettino spoke in the week of his admiration for Fergie’s famous ‘Class of 92’ and his very own ‘Class of 17’ have a feeling of those great Manchester United sides, certainly at home anyway. This win, courtesy of goals from Mousa Dembele, Heung-min Son, Harry Kane and Vincent Janssen, makes it 12 straight on their own patch, a first in club history.
So often it appeared Sir Alex’s opponents were beaten well before the first whistle at Old Trafford. And having watched Stoke, Millwall and Watford be unceremoniously put to the sword at White Hart Lane in recent weeks there was an unmistakable feeling in the opening exchanges here that the home faithful knew what was to follow even before it unfolded in front of them.
Despite the somewhat sleepy atmosphere, Tottenham started firmly on the front foot, the returning Kane, making his first start in five weeks, firing an early shot that needed Steve Cook’s outstretched leg to divert it over the bar before getting the better of Cook at the near post moments later only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
The home crowd, now buoyed by their side’s electric start to the game, was baying for the first goal and it came after just 12 minutes from the most unlikely of sources. Pochettino has been effusive in his praise of Dembele this season, recently including him in a distinguished list of five footballing “geniuses” he has worked with down the years. But while he may be, in his manager’s eyes, on a par with Ronaldinho and Diego Maradona he doesn’t find the net with the same relentless regularity of such esteemed company. Not that you would know it from the finish, an unerring drive after a Toby Alderweireld flick on from a Christian Eriksen corner, leaving Artur Boruc in the visiting goal no chance from 12 yards, the Belgian’s opening goal of the season and a first in 15 months.
Son is a whole lot more prolific in front of goal and it was he who doubled Spurs’ lead moments later. Eric Dier won the ball back in the final third for Kane to flick into Son’s path who composed himself before rifling past Boruc into the corner to continue a golden run of eight in his last seven games and equal Cha Bum-kun’s record for most goals in a European season. Son, who looked destined to leave just a matter of months ago, must now be one of the first names on Pochettino’s teamsheet and gave the Cherries a torrid time throughout.
Speaking of the Cherries, who hitherto had not as much as a kick in the Tottenham half, began to grow into the game with Cook, via a header narrowly over Hugo Lloris’ crossbar, and the always lively Junior Stanislas threatening a way back into it. Jack Wilshere, whose every touch was roundly booed, was full of endeavour but as so frustratingly often couldn’t couple it with the actual quality needed to make the difference. Eriksen, another to earn a good word or two from Pochettino of late, was in the thick of everything Tottenham were doing well twice going close after linking up well with Son and Kane before Son again tested Boruc with a rasping shot.
If Bournemouth thought the half-time break would dampen Spurs’ thirst for goals they got their emphatic answer just two minutes after, Kane marking his return with the goal his play richly deserved bullying Simon Francis off the ball and dispatching the ball past Boruc. Eddie Howe’s men will be sick of the sight of the England man – that strike, his 20th of the season, was his sixth in three games against them.
The game was over but no one told Kane who, showing not even a hint of rust, twice went close to adding to that tally only to be denied by Boruc once again. It says everything you need to know about the contest that despite conceding four the Pole was the Cherries’ best by a stretch. Wilshere’s miserable afternoon was ended soon after, the on-loan Arsenal man limping off with what appeared to be an ankle knock, but not before he was sent on his way by 35,000 overjoyed onlookers who could scarcely believe their day could get any better. It so nearly did with Pochettino’s fab four of Kane, Eriksen, Son and Dele Alli all going close to adding a fourth to no avail as Bournemouth, who have now shipped three or more on a frankly unbelievable 12 occasions this season, meekly surrendered in the afternoon sun.
Tottenham’s work was done with Pochettino even seeing fit to withdraw Kane, Alli and Eriksen before the end with replacement Janssen getting in on the act with virtually the last kick of the match. The ball is once again in Chelsea’s court in the title race. But this not so Spursy Spurs side are going nowhere.