Spurs showing early strength
At the final whistle, some of the purists were arguing about whether the 4-0 scoreline in Tottenham's victory over QPR was more a reflection of how poor the visitors had been than of Spurs' skill.
Wiser voices knew that these distinctions are often meaningless; few teams ever get precisely what they deserve over the course of 90 minutes, and a convincing victory over the newly promoted QPR would have been as much as anyone had dared hope before kickoff. To have had the game won by halftime and go top of the league was the icing on the cake. The season may be only two games old, but longtime Spurs fans have learned to take their blessings where they can. Take a photo of the Premier League table; you may not see its like again this season.
For QPR boss Harry Redknapp, the return to White Hart Lane was about as dismal as he might have feared. Having left the club just over two years ago, smarting over the manner of his dismissal by club chairman Daniel Levy while claiming -- with some justification -- he had been the best Spurs manager since Keith Burkinshaw, he now sloped away rather more quietly. His team had been outplayed in every area of the pitch, and he knows he will have his work cut out to ensure that the club does not return straight back to the Championship. Former Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle, who recently joined QPR as assistant coach, might also be questioning the wisdom of his move.
Mauricio Pochettino has no such worries. For the moment, everything he touches is turning to gold: an injury-time winner against West Ham, two late goals to snatch victory against AEL Limassol and now a 4-0 triumph in his first home Premier League fixture at White Hart Lane. These are the moments new managers live for, and if some of them have owed a little to luck -- Mark Noble placing his penalty wide of Hugo Lloris' right hand post in Week 1 -- then Pochettino appears to be a manager who earns his. His Spurs side looks well-organised and keen to play for him. Neither quality was apparent last season under Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood.
Tactics play their part, and Spurs' high pressing game drew its rewards. Far too often in recent seasons, Spurs have failed to make their possession count, content instead to keep men back and push the ball about in midfield, with the result that they seldom won games by more than a single goal.
On Sunday they scored early when Nacer Chadli finished off some good work by Emmanuel Adebayor and went for the kill. Eric Dier -- who would have had money on him scoring two in two? -- popped up at the near post to head home Erik Lamela's perfectly flighted corner on the half hour, and four minutes later Chadli netted his second after yet more superb work from Lamela. Only the woodwork prevented a 4-0 scoreline at halftime when Christian Eriksen's free kick hit the bar.
As expected, QPR began the second half with a strengthened defence and damage limitation being their prime concern. In that, they were only partially successful, with Adebayor making a tricky finish look easy to complete the scoring shortly after the hour mark.
Three points are all that any manager knows to ask from a game. But arguably Spurs came away with something even more valuable. Many of the players who had been bought with the proceeds of the Gareth Bale bonanza are now beginning to show they are not the white elephants first feared. Lamela, Etienne Capoue and Chadli all look like different players from last season; Pochettino's reputation as a first-rate man manager who knows how to get the best out of players may be well deserved. Witness Danny Rose, who was preferred to Ben Davies at left back and didn't put a foot wrong.
Then there's the Europa League syndrome. Last year, Spurs invariably turned in lacklustre performances after away games on Thursday night. This was anything but, and Spurs may dare to hope that Pochettino knows the formula for both a decent cup run and a strong Premier League campaign.
Hope and hubris have often gone hand in hand for Spurs fans over the years, so no one at White Hart Lane will yet be looking too far ahead. Come next Sunday's visit from the Liverpool side -- minus Luis Suarez -- that took Spurs apart last season, fans will have a better idea of just how good and resilient this Tottenham side is. For the moment, though, the supporters can just enjoy the look of that league table.
John Crace is a columnist and feature writer for The Guardian. He is also a THFC season-ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.