Spurs putting the fun in football
Tottenham Hotspur are top of the Premier League. All they have to do now is to tread water, maintain their current form and they will win the title. Whether Eric Dier can continue his current scoring ratio is questionable, but even if he can't, he should still break the 20 league-goal barrier that remained forever elusive for Jermain Defoe.
Spurs are rarely top of the league, so their fans can surely be forgiven for hamming it up and making the most of the situation. Everyone knows it won't last, yet among the decidedly tongue-in-cheek attitude to this freak occurrence there lives a genuine positivity about the season's perfect start.
No one should get too carried away by the fact that Tottenham have won their opening three games, but there is much to be encouraged by. Spurs displayed grit and the depths of quality that lurks within their squad, as they defeated West Ham and AEL Limassol, before winning comfortably against a very poor QPR side.
It's easy to dismiss the 4-0 victory, given how bad Harry Redknapp's side were. QPR are still adapting to their new 3-5-2 formation, seemed unfit, gave away possession cheaply and put little pressure on Tottenham's full-backs.
There will be much harder tests ahead for Spurs, with Liverpool on the horizon this coming weekend. That's not to say that there weren't signs of the work manager Mauricio Pochettino is putting in with his new side, as they swept aside meagre opposition.
The most striking development is the movement that now exists between the three attacking midfielders. With Erik Lamela starting the match on the right and Nacer Chadli on the left, the casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that not much has changed since the days of Andre Villas-Boas and his love of inverted wingers.
Yet these starting positions are just that. Once the game is underway, the three creative midfielders have freedom to interchange and find the space in which to flourish. Chadli came in off the right flank to control and convert an Emmanuel Adebayor cross for the game's first goal. The third goal came when Lamela drove from a central position out to the left, where he crossed with his stronger foot to find the head of Chadli, once more finding space as he drifted in from the right.
Compare this to the rigidity of Villas-Boas' system that stalled the moment it was robbed of the outstanding talents of Gareth Bale. It will take time for the players to get used to Pochettino's changes -- Christian Eriksen remains on the periphery -- but it is already bearing fruit for Lamela, who is making the most of the space he can find away from the flanks.
The system needs the full-backs to get forward to provide some width when the wingers move infield. You'd think this might be a tough gig for Dier at right-back considering that his favoured position is in the centre of defence, yet he looked a natural. Perhaps the way forward for English football is to send all young players to Portugal to become so comfortable on the ball.
On the left, the much-maligned Danny Rose had a fine game. The defence as a whole are not pushing up as high as one might expect under Pochettino, which suggests that he may be more sympathetic to his centre-backs' lack of pace than Villas-Boas was. This should ensure that Rose has fewer problems with his positioning.
Pochettino typically used Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama as his central midfielders at Southampton. At Spurs, Nabil Bentaleb occupies the box-to-box role of Schneiderlin, while Etienne Capoue holds like Wanyama. Bentaleb continues to prove that his presence in the side is not just down to former boss Tim Sherwood making a point, while Capoue suggests that his second season at Tottenham will be much more successful than his first.
Most of all, the match against QPR indicated that the concept of fun could be set to make a welcome return to White Hart Lane, after a truly dreary past season. It was best demonstrated by a moment towards the end of the second half, in which Adebayor, Eriksen and Lamela showcased their trickery on the left flank, as they toyed with the hapless opposition. The fans loved it, as they were reminded that going to watch Spurs can and should be a joyous experience.
Being top of the Premier League is all well and good, but by far the most important task for Pochettino is to start entertaining the fans again. On this evidence, he's on the right track.