If they awarded league titles for strut, Tottenham would have had the Premier League sewn up by Christmas. When they are in the mood, there is no team in the country as puffily confident, as ridiculously self-assured. Here they did not so much destroy Bournemouth as destroy the very idea that Bournemouth might ever beat them.
It was close to the perfect afternoon: four goals, a clean sheet, no injuries. The win was wrapped up in the space of 20 minutes, and even the luckless Vincent Janssen got a little luck, scoring his first Premier League goal from open play. But these games, home fixtures against limited opposition, are where Tottenham eat and drink. And this was the last of them.
The gap to Chelsea is four points, but now things start to get tough. Four away games against Crystal Palace, West Ham, Leicester and Hull. Two home games against Manchester United and Arsenal. The likelihood is that in order to win their first title since 1961, they will need to win all six.
“Four points is a lot,” Mauricio Pochettino said afterwards. “Now, the pressure is on Chelsea to try to win at Old Trafford. If they don’t get the points, it will be fantastic, but they are still the favourites.”
We are approaching the point in the season where Pochettino teams have often flagged, and where they crashed and burned last season, winning only two points in their last four games. This time, however, Spurs are a year older, a year shrewder, and Pochettino insisted that they were in better shape.
“We have learned a lot,” he said. “That was a very bad period at the end of last season. We spent a lot of energy fighting against Leicester, but also against West Bromwich, against Chelsea, against the media, against the people. We were fighting against everyone, and we spent a lot of energy.
“It was good to hear Claudio Ranieri [on Sky’s Monday Night Football] before Crystal Palace v Arsenal, recognising that the world was for them, trying to help Leicester. The team that all the world tried to kill was Tottenham. Impossible to understand why. But now you recognise why the situation was so, so difficult for us.”
Even if we should probably take Pochettino’s account of events with a pinch of salt - Tottenham were loudly applauded for their skill and style last season - then it was a useful insight into how he is fortifying his squad this time around. Chelsea may ultimately be just too good. The gap may already too wide. But Pochettino is determined that they will have to earn their title rather than being handed it.
Bournemouth, on the other hand, seemed almost to acquiesce in their inability to lay a finger on their opponents, like a journeyman boxer hired to give the champ some punching practice. “We’ve got the ball,” their fans gamely chanted during their brief spells of possession. It could have been embarrassing for them, but they deserve credit for sticking to the task and maintaining some semblance of a contest. Their situation is unchanged: their next four fixtures against Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Stoke and Burnley will decide their fate, not this.
“Tottenham are are the team we aspire to be,” Eddie Howe purred. “They keep the ball so well.”
Games like these are often broken open by a single moment of brilliance or a single elementary error. Here, it was the latter, as Simon Francis wrongly ushered the ball out for what he thought was a goal-kick. From the corner, Mousa Dembélé scored from seven yards, and despite having started a little sleepily, Tottenham were away.
Two minutes later, Jack Wilshere gave the ball away in midfield - how the Tottenham fans enjoyed that - and Harry Kane flicked the ball on to Son Heung-min. His low finish from a tight angle was followed, as is now customary, with a choreographed celebration with Dele Alli, a jaunty Morecambe and Wise-ish dance number this time.
Kane settled matters definitively early in the second half: losing the ball in the penalty area, winning it back again, and shooting low past Artur Boruc. It was his 20th league goal of the season, a mark he has now reached three years running. This puts him in a much more exclusive club than you might think: Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nistelrooy and now Harry Edward Kane from Walthamstow. Whatever he goes on to achieve, Kane is no longer a potential Tottenham great. He is already there.
And so for the remaining 40 minutes, this was the sort of game that Tottenham fans could luxuriate in like a warm bubble bath: a safe space where nothing bad and everything good could happen. Eric Dier juggled the ball in the penalty area before shooting. Bournemouth finally had a shot on target, and everyone cheered. Wilshere, on loan from Arsenal, hobbled off with an ankle injury, to cruel taunts of: “Jack Wilshere, it’s happened again.”
Only one thing could improve Tottenham’s afternoon, and in injury time, Janssen provided it. He still needed two goes from four yards out, but after taking 23 Premier League games to score a goal that was not a penalty, he at least retained the good sense to avoid celebrating too wildly.
The hard work starts here, then. Even if their grip on second place is almost secure, and Arsenal are now 17 points behind them, Tottenham must strive for more. “Nothing is enough,” Pochettino explained. “Always play better. That was our challenge from the beginning of the season: to improve our mentality, to improve our belief.”
And so Chelsea go to Old Trafford with all the pressure on them; anything less than a win, and Tottenham really will start believing. Their next opponents? Chelsea, at Wembley next weekend. This season really is building to a magnificent finish.
There was genuine elation around White Hart Lane when that goal went in for Janssen. Things haven't worked out for him since his move last year, but his team-mates, manager and the Spurs supporters were chuffed to see him finally score a league goal from open play. And it capped off yet another display of complete dominance from the hosts. Over to you Chelsea.
Tottenham have now won 12 Premier League home games in a row, their best winning streak at White Hart Lane since October 1987 (14). pic.twitter.com/7ybfnzYh3o
— Spurs Stat Man (@SpursStatMan) April 15, 2017
And that is that. Seven wins in a row for Pochettino's side.
Janssen makes it 4-0 to Spurs. "Vincent Janssen, he scores when he wants," the Spurs fans sing, which is quite funny.
— Jonathan Liew (@jonathanliew) April 15, 2017
Time on ball (at full time)
Average touch positions (full time)
A goal from Vincent Janssen for Spurs makes the score 4-0.
Still Son comes forward for the home side, bursting down the left before his cutback is turned behind for the umpteenth Spurs corner. They continue with the short corners, neatly working the ball to Janssen AND HE SCORES HIS FIRST PREMIER LEAGUE GOAL FROM OPEN PLAY!!!! The Dutchman's first shot was blocked on the line, but he stuck the rebound home and the crowd roar.
There will be three minutes of added time as Bournemouth try and fail to work a route into the Spurs penalty area.
If Mousa Dembele and Lys Mousset got married, the Spurs midfielder could - feasibly - be called Mousa Mousset.
(This game is done.)
And a final Spurs change as Vincent Janssen comes on for Eriksen.
Just five minutes remain of this match and still Spurs are pressing with high intensity all over the pitch.
Moussa Sissoko comes on for Alli.
Here come Bournemouth as Daniels and Fraser link up nicely down the left. Walker is dragged out of position and Daniels finds himself in the rare position of bearing down on Lloris's goal. That's as exciting as the move gets though, because his shot is woeful and flies out for a throw.
Almost a fourth (I feel I've said that before) as Eriksen's cross comes off Arter and flies just past Boruc's upright.
Moments later, Son plays a neat one-two with Dembele before his shot is deflected behind.
That's all from Kane today as he receives a standing ovation on his return from injury. He will be replaced by Victor Wanyama.
Spurs piling on the pressure
The hosts have attempted 20 shots so far, with 12 of them hitting the target.
A final change for Bournemout as Afobe heads off for Lys Mousset.
Oh, Davies had a shot for Spurs by the way. There have been A LOT of shots from the home side. Possession is 72% v 28% so far.
Time on ball (60 - 75 min)
A big* moment in this match as Daniels hits a long-range strike straight down Lloris' throat.
"We've had a shot, we've had a shot," chant the travelling supporters. It's been that sort of match for them.
It's hard to pick out a star player for Spurs today. The defence has been largely untroubled, while also managing to establish numerous attacks. At the other end, the likes of Eriksen, Son and Kane have been highly impressive, although focusing on them does a disservice to Dier and Dembele in the middle of the park. It really has been complete dominance.
A second change for Bournemouth (after Lewis Cook replaced the injured Wilshere) as Ryan Fraser comes on for Stanislas.
Meanwhile, Spurs continue their residency in the top third of the pitch and Son's shot is saved moments before Fraser is booked for a reckless tackle on Davies.
Despite their complete and utter dominance today, Pochettino is bellowing at his Spurs players for more. Eriksen sees his shot beaten away by Boruc before Son smashes his effort straight into Daniels' face.
A rare moment of something resembling excitement for the travelling fans as Stanislas stretches Davies high down the right wing, before cutting inside but his shot is blocked before Lloris has to put his coffee down.
It's been a mismatch at White Hart Lane so far
Spurs are dominating this game, firing in a total of 15 shots compared to one from Bournemouth so far.
Wave after wave of Spurs attacks continue. Kane, after a sublime first-touch lay-off, again finds Boruc's midriff with his strike, before Alli is unable to get a shot away after bursting into the Bournemouth penalty area.
Got to feel for Wilshere, especially given the lack of sympathy he received.
Time on ball (45 - 60 min)
Eriksen will have another crack here with Spurs awarded a free kick 25 yards just to the left of goal. Up he steps... and thuds it straight into the wall.
Huge cheers rumble around White Hart Lane as Wilshere is forced off with an ankle injury and hobbles his way down the tunnel. The Arsenal loanee hurt himself while attempting to tackle Kane and his match has ended prematurely.
I'm actually struggling to keep up to date with every Spurs chance here. It is relentless.
Bournemouth are just giving the ball away so cheaply. Again they lose out in their own half, which allows Son to bring the ball forward. He opts to pass to Kane rather than having a dig himself and the striker's shot is again saved by Boruc.
It should be four! Eriksen picks up a loose ball and plays in Kane who only has Boruc to beat. He really should score, but his effort is weak and too near to the keeper, who grabs on and doesn't let go.
He's a bit special.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 15, 2017
Harry Kane makes it 3-0 and puts Spurs firmly in the driving seat now.
That didn't take long and Harry Kane has 20 goals for the third consecutive season! Alli dinks a neat little ball in to Kane who has his back to goal about 15 yards out. He shows impressive strength and footwork to put Francis on his backside with a rapid turn before slotting past a helpless Boruc.
Bournemouth start these second 45 minutes... and promptly lose the ball.
Ready to resume
The players are out and it's time for the second half.
Well that was as comprehensive as it gets and Bournemouth will be relieved not to be further adrift. Although this suggests Poch wants a lot more:
#thfc Pochettino looked pretty angry and was shaking his head as he headed down the tunnel. Think he senses complacency & drop in intensity.
— Ben Pearce (@BenPearceSpurs) April 15, 2017
Time on ball (first half)
Bournemouth were unadventurous in the first 45
Bournemouth managed just a solitary, off-target shot in the first half.
The whistle goes with Kane and Eriksen high up the pitch again. A welcome relief for Bournemouth.
Average touch positions (half time)
I should never have doubted it. Silly handshakes did indeed take place between Son & Alli and Son & Kane. I can't decide how I feel about this.
This looks like bad news for Bournemouth as Adam Smith goes down with a foot/ankle injury after landing awkwardly from an attempted defensive header. He punches the floor in frustration, but looks like he's going to try and carry on.
The shots keep on coming. Eriksen - again - is provider from the left, rolling his foot over the ball to gain time to look up and picking out Son on the edge of the box. His shot is a six out of 10 though and Boruc holds on low down.
I imagine this hasn't been much fun if you're a Bournemouth fan.
Almost a third! Son does well to get the ball under control after a sharp pass from Davies. The Korean drops in Eriksen, whose thunderous shot flies inches over the bar with Boruc at full stretch. This is one-way traffic.
Eriksen is involved again, as is Kane. The England man completely wrong foots the Bournemouth centre-backs with a lovely flick behind him in the direction of his Danish team-mate. Eriksen's shot on the stretch is turned round the post by Boruc and Spurs' short corner comes to nothing.
Bournemouth looking unadventurous so far
Bournemouth are yet to pose a significant threat in the final third.
Wilshere 1 Walker 0 as the Spurs full-back loses out while attempting to bundle his way through the Bournemouth penalty area. Not that it matters though, the home side are soon back with ball at feet trying to carve their next route to goal.
Christian Eriksen has now registered more assists (12) than any other player in the Premier League this season. pic.twitter.com/JYVZet2Ztq
— Spurs Stat Man (@SpursStatMan) April 15, 2017
And he just came within a whisker of a perfectly threaded throughball to unleash Kane.
Back come Spurs. Alli's pass to Eriksen pushes the Dane further wide that he wanted, but he manages to shift his weight and deliver deep to the far post, where Francis nods a vital header away from danger.
Time on ball (15 - 30 min)
Did he do a silly handshake celebration? I forgot to look. Damn.
Bournemouth are at least seeing more of the ball since conceding those two quickfire goals, which has forced Spurs to retreat into their own half somewhat. Stanislas picks the ball off on the right flank and delivers an absolute beauty of a cross, which bounces all the way through Lloris's six-yard box without anyone on hand to tuck it home.
A first attempt at goal for Bournemouth, in reply to four from Spurs so far.
A lovely ball from Stanislas forces Walker to put the ball over his own crossbar with King lurking. Stanislas will take the corner and Cook rises highest, but his header goes the same way as Walker's clearance.
Bournemouth's failure to get rid of the ball in the build-up to that second goal ended with a poor Wilshere pass...
Nice to see Jack Wilshere help embarrass Arsenal even when they aren't playing. Great job with that pass, Jack. Well done
— FitbaThatba (@fitbathatba) April 15, 2017
That's five goals in five Premier League games for Son.
Spurs have doubled their lead, and it's Son Heung-Min with the goal to make it 2-0.
Make that two! And surely it's game over already. Bournemouth fail to clear the ball, which loops to Kane about 25 yards out. The striker drops a smart backheel to Son, who completely gasses Cook, surges into the penalty area and finishes from a tight angle down the right.
Mousa Dembélé strikes early to open the scoring - it's 1-0 to Spurs.
A first goal of the season for Dembele as Spurs take the lead from a corner. Eriksen's delivery from the left is nothing special, but the ball bobbles its way to Dembele at the far post. His control is good and he drills his shot down into the ground to leave Boruc no chance. Eddie Howe will quite rightly ask why there were no defenders around to cut out the cross in the first place.
Time on ball (0 - 15 min)
Smith is penalised for knocking Eriksen off his feet about 10 yards in from the left flank. It's a nice position for the Dane to deliver, but his cross fails to beat the first man and the chance ceases to be a chance.
What a hit. And at the end of a sumptuous Spurs move. Kane feeds Walker, who has gone on one of his customary darts down the right. The full-back checks back inside, lays off to Dembele and his shot from 20 yards is well saved low down to Boruc's left.
A brief foray into the final third leads to nothing for Bournemouth and Lloris can go back to reading the Saturday papers.
Jack Wilshere = Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
They don't like Arsenal loanees in these parts.
Alderweireld and Vertonghen have had the luxury of stationing themselves on the halfway line so far in this match, picking up the ball and spreading the play at will. The visitors are defending resolutely though.
Bournemouth have barely had a touch so far.
The first chance of the match falls to Kane, whose volley is blocked by Cook as the centre-back flings himself in the direction of the shot. Eriksen's corner is whipped to Walker on the edge of the box, he repays the favour by giving it back to the Dane and the delivery is a wicked, fizzed low cross that is turned behind. A second corner is also put out of play before a third finds Kane in front of goal. His shot is well saved by Boruc, but the whistle had gone for offside against the England striker.
Unsurprisingly, it is the home side enjoying the bulk of the possession in these early stages, pressing high up the pitch when Bournemouth have the ball. It is pretty impressive that Pochettino's side haven't fallen away so far this season, considering the high-tempo game they have employed. Still seven games to go though...
Alderweireld pings a beauty of a long-ball to Alli who has found some space on the left flank, but his cross is blocked.
Spurs get things under way in what looks like nice sunshine in north London (I haven't seen daylight for a few hours so can't be sure). Apologies for misinformation if it's snowing.
Here come the players
It's handshake time.
The new (old) Man Utd?
One other piece to point in your direction is this from JJ Bull on why Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs could be the new (old) Manchester United. Read the whole thing here.
Pochettino's players are determined and ambitious. There are leaders all over the pitch too - Hugo Lloris is the France captain, Vertonghen is often the Belgium captain, Dier wants to be the England captain, while Kane will probably get that role.
Nearly every single player in that team could conceivably wear the armband well and as the new book The Captain Class suggests, a recurring theme in almost every single great sports team has been the on-field presence of a strong captain.
Barcelona's domination of European (and world) football ended when Pep Guardiola departed the club, but that Carles Puyol retired at the same time is no coincidence. Again the similarities with Ferguson's best teams ring loud.
Willie Miller, Alex McLeish and Jim Leighton were the cornerstones upon which Aberdeen's enormous success in the 1980s was built, while Eric Cantona, Teddy Sheringham, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Steve Bruce, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs are just a few of the players to have worn the captain's armband while leading equally capable team-mates.
Mind the gap
There is, of course, another gap that is of great importance to Spurs fans. One that they will be desperate to remain intact.
Tottenham are currently 14 points clear of north London rivals Arsenal and look certain to finish ahead of them for the first time in more than two decades. Paul Hayward has written a great read (for Spurs fans at least) about the end of St Totteringham's Day. Read it all here.
Arsene Wenger pulled one of his knowing smiles in May last year when a reporter pointed out that Tottenham had seemed likely to finish higher than Arsenal in the title race. “It looked many years like that,” Wenger grinned. The drinks flowed in Highbury and Islington for the 21st consecutive St Totteringham’s Day.
Readers unfamiliar with that ‘movable feast’ will need to be told that St Totteringham’s Day is an annual Arsenal celebration, held on the day that Spurs finishing higher than their north London enemy becomes a mathematical impossibility. It has been an Arsenal fiesta since the 1994-95 campaign.
But it will not be happening this spring. Arsenal are a best-priced 8-1 to finish in the top four while Tottenham are 1-100. The gap between the teams is 14 points. By the time they play each other on 30 April, Spurs fans may have come up with their own equivalent of St Totteringham’s. St Arse’s Day, or some such.
Comparing the sides is an annual fixation, sometimes pointless and often misleading. Yet there is no ignoring the turnaround. Spurs are now the ones shouting: “Mind the gap.”
The race is on
Seven points separate today's hosts from league leaders Chelsea. Is that gap too big to be breached?
Almost certainly. But if Chelsea slip up at Old Trafford tomorrow, and if Spurs don't drop a point for the rest of the season, and if Sunderland still have something to play for on the last day of the season... stranger things have happened.
'We want you to stay'
Do you think anyone actually buys these scarves?
— Ben Pearce (@BenPearceSpurs) April 15, 2017
On the return of Harry Kane:
It's important for us. He's our main striker and one of the best players for us. It's always important to have him fit and hungry to score goals. It's a massive thing for us.
On the difficulty of picking between Kyle Walker v Kieran Trippier:
I think it's good to have two unbelievable right-backs in the squad. It's fantastic and important for me to be fair to both to make them feel important. If we achieve something important, it's because of this type of situation. It's not about 11 players - it's about 25 players. It's true I feel sad sometimes when I have to pick only 11 but don't worry, they will have the opportunity to play different games.
On thoughts drifting to Chelsea:
The important thing for us is to try to win this game and get the three points. It's important to show respect to our opponents because Bournemouth are capable of beating any team in the Premier League. It's not important today before the game to think about Chelsea and reducing the gap. If we are capable of winning the three points then we can think about Chelsea and reducing the gap.
He played half an hour against Watford last week and now Harry Kane is fit to lead the line in place of Vincent Janssen today. The other change sees Kieran Trippier - who had a brilliant game in that 4-0 win - miss out for Kyle Walker. A tough pill for Trippier to swallow, but one he no doubt expected.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Dembele, Son, Eriksen, Dele, Kane. Subs: Lopez, Trippier, Wimmer, Wanyama, Onomah, Sissoko, Janssen.
The main news for Bournemouth is the return of Junior Stanislas, who returns in place of Ryan Fraser. Tyrone Mings is back on the bench after serving his five-match ban for that clash with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Bournemouth: Boruc, Smith, Francis, S Cook, Daniels, Stanislas, Arter, Wilshere, Pugh, King, Afobe. Subs: Allsop, Mings, Cargill, L Cook, Fraser, Gradel, Mousset.
Here are your runners and riders:
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) April 15, 2017
Subs: Lopez, Trippier, Wimmer, Wanyama, Onomah, Sissoko, Janssen. #COYS
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) April 15, 2017
— AFC Bournemouth �� (@afcbournemouth) April 15, 2017
You cannot blame Daniel Levy for dilly-dallying about the decision to move to Wembley next season. Spurs' record at White Hart Lane this campaign reads: P16, W14, D2.
If there is any chance of remaining inside the North Circular for the 2017/18 campaign, the Tottenham chairman is desperate to find a way.
Either way, Spurs are intent on saying goodbye to their old stadium in some style. Today's hosts have scored 13 goals in their last four Premier League home games, including a 4-0 romp against Watford last time out, and are showing no signs of slowing.
The fixture list has been kind to them while Harry Kane was out injured and with their talisman expected to return to the starting XI today they are odds-on to clock up a seventh successive league win. The team standing in their way are Bournemouth.
What is it?
Why, it's only the Premier League lunch-time kick off between Tottenham Hotspur and Bournemouth at White Hart Lane.
When is it?
Saturday April 15, 2017.
What time is kick-off?
Referee Michael Oliver will get the match under way in north London with three sharp peeps of his whistle at 12.30pm (BST).
What TV channel is it on?
Sky Sports 1 will be broadcasting the match from 12.30pm following an hour-long preamble of lovely build-up. If, though, you have better things to do with your Easter Saturday than tuning in to the gogglebox, then why don't you follow all the news and action right here on whatever suitable electronic device takes your fancy?
What is the team news?
Harry Kane is expected to make his first start in almost five weeks on Saturday. Kane came off the bench against Watford last weekend and is pushing for a starting berth, while Victor Wanyama is expected to return after missing two matches with a back complaint.
Danny Rose (knee), Erik Lamela (hip) and Harry Winks (ankle) are all out. Goalkeeper Michel Vorm is struggling with a knee problem.
Provisional squad: Lloris, Vorm, Lopez, Davies, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Dier, Carter-Vickers, Wimmer, Walker, Trippier, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Alli, Sissoko, Onomah, Son, Janssen, Kane.
Bournemouth midfielder Dan Gosling remains doubtful for the trip to White Hart Lane after suffering a setback to his recovery from a knee problem.
Defender Tyrone Mings is available again after serving out his five-match suspension for a stamp on Manchester United forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while winger Junior Stanislas could feature having been sidelined by a groin strain.
Midfielder Andrew Surman, though, may well be sidelined for the remainder of the campaign with a knee problem, while forward Callum Wilson, goalkeeper Adam Federici and defender Rhoys Wiggins all continue their recoveries from their own knee injuries.
Provisional squad: Boruc, A Smith, S Cook, Daniels, Francis, Pugh, Wilshere, Arter, Fraser, Afobe, King, Allsop, Ibe, Mousset, Gradel, B Smith, L Cook, Cargill, Mings, Stanislas, Gosling.
What are they saying?
"It's important for us to get the three points more than to put pressure on Chelsea. (We have) to keep our level, to win games for ourselves." Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino
"They have quality players, Harry Kane included. You want to play against their best players and see if you can deal with them." Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe
What are the odds?
Tottenham Hotspur to win: 1/4 Draw: 5/1 Bournemouth to win: 11/1
What's Jonathan Liew's prediction?
A dangerous fixture for Tottenham, for all their scorching recent form. Bournemouth have avoided defeat at Old Trafford and Anfield in recent weeks, and are good at forcing errors with their aggressive press. Tottenham should have too much, but it could get jittery: anything less than victory, and the title is probably gone. Score: 2-1.
Who do you think will win?