Why Spurs' confidence is so sky-high: Pochettino building winning mentality
Saturday's 4-0 thrashing of Bournemouth was Tottenham's 12th-consecutive home win and seventh straight victory in the top-flight -- the first time they have done that since 1967.
After the game, Harry Kane said Spurs feel "as confident as we ever have done"and, following Chelsea's defeat at Manchester United on Sunday, even Blues boss Antonio Conte admitted that Spurs are now "the best team" and "in great form."
Here are five reasons for Spurs' soaring confidence as we reach a crucial part of the season.
At the start of the season, Mauricio Pochettino said the only hurdle his team still had to overcome was "in their heads," and the manager has repeatedly insisted that last season's embarrassing collapse was "not a physical problem." Spurs need to win a trophy before the questions disappear completely but there is a new and palpable sense of belief at the club.
"We are ruthless at the moment. We don't want draws or to lose, anything to stop our momentum. Every game we go into now we have that mindset," Kane said on Saturday.
There is also an improved, single-minded focus, fostered by Pochettino, who said: "Last season, we fought against all and we spent a lot of energy. But now we are focused only on fighting our opponent."
This belief and focus can be packaged under the term "winning mentality." And former Spurs captain Gary Mabbutt believes the players' mindset is the most significant change from last year. "The most important thing is that this group of players now believes they can win things together," he told ESPN FC.
A settled team
The mindset may have changed but Spurs' players have not. Every one of the XI who started against Bournemouth was involved in the title push last season and Victor Wanyama is the only summer signing to make a significant impact on the first-team.
Spurs' squad could still improve but their key players are better for the experience of a title challenge and the club already has more points than in the whole of last season. On the pitch, Spurs have become a well-oiled machine, capable of switching between two formations and as solid in defensive as they are relentless in attack. It has taken time for the players to fully adopt Pochettino's philosophy but now they have, they are flying.
"Pochettino has created a team that is greater than the sum of its parts," added Mabbutt. "It's the same group of players as last season, with a couple of additions, and, as this season has gone on, the team has grown in strength, desire and ambition."
A settled club
Off the pitch, too, there is harmony at Tottenham. While Arsenal are an example of the corroding effect of uncertainty on a club, the only significant question mark at Tottenham relates to their new stadium.
Sources at the club have told ESPN FC that none of their players will be sold in the summer and nine of the XI who started against Bournemouth have signed new long-term contracts in the past 18 months, while Pochettino committed his future to the club in May. There is a sense of unity at Spurs that runs from the boardroom to the terraces, through the manager.
"When I joined, I thought it would be difficult to get on with everybody because a few seemed a bit distant. But I was wrong," Wanyama said recently. "It's just unbelievable. If anyone wants to go for a meal, they invite other players. Sometimes we go for a meal with the whole team -- it was amazing to see this."
Mabbutt says: "Group harmony is vital -- a winning team doesn't happen through luck. You're at the training ground and there's a great atmosphere between the players, a great atmosphere around the manager and his staff."
Players hitting top form
Spurs may be first and foremost a team, but it is always good for confidence when key players hit top form at the same time.
Spurs' injuries are finally clearing -- Danny Rose could be back in the next fortnight, leaving only Erik Lamela and Harry Winks sidelined -- and every one of their regulars is at the top of their game. Dele Alli has six goals and two assists in eight matches; Christian Eriksen has seven assists and four goals in his last nine matches; Son Heung-Min has eight goals and two assists in six. And that's without mentioning the returning Harry Kane.
Even Eric Dier has scored twice this month and when you have goals throughout the team, it breeds confidence, particularly given Spurs' defensive strength too.
"Only a few weeks ago, Chelsea were being handed the title," says Mabbutt. "Listening to Antonio Conte after the Manchester United game, it seems like he's conceding a bit there. Tottenham are in such excellent form. This squad, if they hit the best of their ability in the next six games and the FA Cup, are clearly the most dangerous side the country. Antonio himself was the first to admit that at the weekend."
Spurs' team is full of brilliance but the most important man at the club is Pochettino, and he is the most significant reason for Spurs' confidence. The manager's ruthless desire for perfection was best summed up against Bournemouth when he urged his players on in a frenzy for 90 minutes, and stormed down the tunnel at half-time in a fury, despite his team's comfortable two-goal lead.
"From the touchline, if you can help the team to translate the idea that we must always be alive, that is important," he explained. Jan Vertontghen described his manager's mentality after the game, saying: "The gaffer keeps telling us not to give up, to reach a higher level, he keeps us pushing forward. We're never happy. Even today at 4-0, we want more and more."
Spurs' players believe in Pochettino -- evidenced by captain Hugo Lloris saying his future is "tied" to the Argentine's -- but he can be cold and ruthless, too. While he is at the helm, the squad feels able to play with freedom but know that standards cannot slip.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.