The traditional, daring swagger is intact and, with Harry Kane returning too, Tottenham can keep believing. They may be only on the edge of crazy, of greatness, but their tenacious presence just off the shoulder of Chelsea is still sufficient to keep the title race captivating.
Perhaps the seven-point gap will not be bridged after all, with only seven games remaining – but this expected victory over Watford was their sixth successive win in the Premier League and the seventh in eight games.
Those wins of late, at Burnley and Swansea City – the latter in the most high-wire of circumstances – are surely causing Chelsea a degree of “stress”, as Jan Vertonghen put it on Friday.
These precious points against a limp Watford, still to record a win at White Hart Lane of any note since 1994, simply keeps this Tottenham surge on track with increasing fascination.
Mauricio Pochettino is more realist than dreamer, particularly since last season’s promising run-in went shockingly off-kilter, but with his pre-match notes of “spirit” and “playing for the badge” the brightness intensifies with every game, particularly in view of a quartet of high-class goals from Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Son Heung-min, the South Korean scoring twice.
Feeling that maybe their time is coming, Tottenham’s standards are not slipping. If the challenge is to prove too late, there is unquestionably something in the air, in the longer term, for Spurs’ believers. Nevertheless, and against the odds, an unmistakable faith holds in this unwavering campaign.
On balance, Tottenham have probably a slightly easier forthcoming sequence of games, compared with Chelsea who travel to Manchester United next Sunday. What potential for a messy and exciting finale to unfold.
You could almost reach out and touch the amplified expectation levels at a sun-kissed White Hart Lane, and the home fans witnessed a complete team performance. The wing-back Kieran Trippier was the man of the match but you would have to say that Son was exceptional, seemingly involved in every facet of Spurs’ manoeuvres.
If there was a team Pochettino could have handpicked to keep up momentum it had to be Watford.
“Patience, time and a little bit of luck,” the Argentinian said of what Tottenham need now. “The most important thing is the next game, step by step. We have to be focused next week for Bournemouth and we have to prepare.
“All the staff know it is important to build and believe in the fight for the Premier League. We are working a lot from day one and there is a lot of work to do but it is exciting here at this football club. It’s good for us, we are talking about building a winning mentality. That was a good opportunity for the future to keep pushing and believing and respect the way you play.
“I am happy for Kieran, he deserved his reward. From the beginning it was a tough game, it was exciting, the players were very motivated to play and we started to control and dominate. We deserved the three points.”
Kane has made a remarkable recovery from an ankle ligament injury in just a few weeks. And with Tottenham on cruise control – they were 3-0 up at half-time – Pochettino decided to bring back the England striker, with match practice in mind, not only for the finale but also the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on 22 April. Kane could have capped his return with a goal only to hit the bar from a free-kick right at the end of a routine victory against injury-hit opponents.
Watford had started with some industry, Stefano Okaka foraging in the absence of the benched Troy Deeney. However, once Alli opened up matters with a marvellously sweet strike into the top corner from range in the 33rd minute, the game took on a straightforward dimension for Spurs.
Six minutes later Dier added another, a fizzing shot beating the Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
The waves kept rolling and Son’s low shot from 25 yards just before half-time was augmented 11 minutes into the second half by a well-controlled side-footed finish from eight yards, from Trippier’s winding cross from the right. The stylish Dane Christian Eriksen had started the move.
Watford are safe from any immediate relegation danger but, despite winning their previous two games, they were outclassed. Walter Mazzarri had to cope with several absentees and had said that he was, essentially, without a defence.
The Italian was full of praise for the victors, saying: “They were phenomenal. They have great players and they have great technique and physical condition. If we had more luck we could have made life more difficult.
“Unfortunately in the first half when you are losing 3-0, the second half makes things difficult. We started well but they had three great shots from champion players and managed to score all three. In Italy they say they this cuts your legs completely.
“If we look at what happened I am convinced we could have done better but we are doing well in the Premier League. We have to consider the injuries we had.”
Cruelly, all this hope may kill Tottenham – but not quite yet, at least.TG