Spurs' comeback win at Swansea showed they are no one-season wonder
The term "one-season wonder" is a familiar one at Tottenham -- many observers doubted Harry Kane would be able to maintain the form he showed in 2014-15. Similarly, the big question facing Spurs at the start of this campaign was whether last year's title challenge was a one-off, an anomalous result in an abnormal season.
With Manchester City and Manchester United recruiting big-name managers and players in the summer, in addition to Chelsea, the general expectation was that Mauricio Pochettino's side probably would be overtaken and find themselves scrapping for fourth again. But with eight games to go, the north Londoners are again the closest pursuers to the league leaders.
Like Kane, they keep proving themselves and answering every question that is asked.
Historically, Tottenham have been accused of inconsistency, mental weakness and a reliance on key players, criticism that hasn't been entirely unfair. Yet they have now won their last six matches in all competitions and triumphed in adversity away against Burnley and Swansea in the past week. They certainly showed character in abundance in south Wales on Wednesday night.
Spurs were missing most of the spine of their team: captain Hugo Lloris, midfield powerhouse Victor Wanyama and Kane, plus Danny Rose, Harry Winks and Erik Lamela. They then fell behind in the 11th minute and still trailed in the 88th minute, yet they scored three times. When Dele Alli's equaliser went in and it was announced that seven minutes would be added on, there was a sense of inevitability about what followed. The belief was obvious on the pitch and in the away end.
Similarly, those who have recently been asked to step up and deliver in the absence of injured teammates have mostly delivered. Eric Dier moved into midfield to replace Wanyama at Burnley and scored the opening goal, albeit from a corner. Since Kane limped off against Millwall, Son Heung-Min has scored five times, Christian Eriksen and Alli have both netted three times and Vincent Janssen has registered once amid a notable improvement.
Wednesday's triumph, achieved in the absence of key men, reinforces the sense that Spurs are becoming less and less dependent on certain individuals. It suggests they have a strong squad even though their bench at Swansea was actually rather weak. Pochettino clearly does not trust centre-backs Kevin Wimmer or Cameron Carter-Vickers at the moment: he changed his formation at the Liberty Stadium rather than picking either of them in place of Dier, who was again needed in midfield.
Kieran Trippier has become a trusted player but when it came to attacking options, the Spurs manager only had Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, Josh Onomah and Janssen to call upon. Neither Nkoudou nor Onomah have started a game since January.
Yet that is one of the most exciting things for Tottenham. They are on course for a top-two finish, their best ever in the Premier League, but there are obvious areas for improvement that can be easily solved in the summer, with only one or two tweaks. Further progress is entirely achievable.
Indeed, Wednesday's trip to Swansea has probably clarified the positions of a few players as Spurs plan their summer business. While Carter-Vickers is one for the future, Wimmer looks surplus to requirements and Moussa Sissoko put in another ineffective display, ultimately substituted before the comeback.
Spurs will presumably try to replace Wimmer or sign a pacy left-back and use Ben Davies as a deputy for Jan Vertonghen in a back three. If they can sell Sissoko and Nkoudou and bring in someone like Wilfried Zaha, while getting Erik Lamela back from his long-term injury, they will immediately have better strength in depth.
As for Janssen, the last week has forced a reassessment of his situation, and there seems to be growing evidence that the 22-year-old is worth persevering with.
Son has now scored five goals in his last four games and 16 this season in total, yet he lacks the physicality to play with his back to goal up front -- he is far better running at it. On the other hand, Janssen lacks Son's pace but leads the line well. Their talents combined nicely at Swansea when Janssen stood up strongly against his marker, gathered Eriksen's forward pass and back-heeled the ball to Son, who raced through and put Spurs 2-1 up. The Dutch striker also played a role in the buildup to Eriksen's goal and forced two saves from Lukasz Fabianski. He is now making a tangible impact in the final third.
While the loss of important players in recent weeks has been unfortunate, it has helped to show Pochettino whom he can and cannot trust, and that information will be valuable this summer. Spurs are flying high but still carrying passengers -- something to consider for anyone questioning their staying power beyond this season.
Ben is ESPN FC's Tottenham blogger. Follow on Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.