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The Title Might Be Out of Sight Now, But Spurs Lost it in January

27/04/2016 17:14

​Every weekend, the fingers of thousands of Spurs fans across the country are crossed in the hope that Leicester City fail to win a game. It doesn't happen.

This time it was Spurs who shot themselves in the foot when they needed a response, in a game that should've been wrapped up by the interval.

Despite the crushing blow in the 1-1 draw against West Brom, Tottenham are still the only team capable of stopping the Foxes in their tracks, after Arsenal's 0-0 draw with Sunderland officially ended any mathematical chance of them finishing above the league leaders.

Each week in April, Leicester City have set the bar and Spurs have finally deemed it too high to reach, but is this a game of cat and mouse that was determined quite some time ago?

Wednesday 13th January was a pretty significant day, because it is the day Leicester won the league, when they beat Spurs 1-0 at White Hart Lane. They've had some incredible results against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, but with what we know now, that was the result that put the daylight between the two teams.

It's also important to put into consideration the predicament Claudio Ranieri's side were in on that day.

For the entire season, football fans left, right and centre have been pencilling in the fixture where it would all come tumbling down for Leicester, and when they would perhaps revert to challenging for the Europa League, and it might well have happened in January.

Prior to that game in North London, Leicester were on a rare winless run of three games, starting with a narrow 1-0 loss at Anfield and followed by two successive 0-0s against Manchester City and Bournemouth. Until the 83rd minute at the Lane, Leicester were about to go four games without a goal, which is pretty much unheard of in the present day.

Spurs dominated the game with 62% possession and 21 attempts at goal, but their adversaries stood strong as they watched a Harry Kane effort touched onto the crossbar by Kaspar Schmeichel, and rallied before sneaking in a late goal through Robert Huth's power header from a corner.

If you were told at the time it was a game between two future Premier League title combatants, you would have laughed in the informant's face, with the proceedings mostly unexciting and anything but end to end. Largely down to a sturdy Foxes defence, Pochettino's side had no joy in front of goal, as only five of their 21 shots hit the target, and eventually they were made to pay - that is despite the Spurs defence having the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy on lockdown.

In fact, it looked like Ranieri was playing for a draw as he substituted both Vardy and Shinji Okazaki before the winner arrived seven minutes from the final whistle.

It was maybe a result that could have easily petered out into another 0-0 draw, but it was a game that Spurs could not afford to have lost. The win rejuvenated the away team, who looked to be sliding away from their earlier cloud nine state, but any chance of that happening was vaporised after an off-colour and misfiring Tottenham team failed to put them to the sword.

We could get into 'butterfly effect' territory, and discuss what might have been if Kane's shot hit the crossbar and went in. Would the following results up to now have stayed the same? In Leicester's next game they travelled to Villa Park and fired yet another blank in a 1-1 draw against the now-relegated side, but you wonder how different things might have turned out had that followed on from a defeat at Spurs.

They've never looked back since. Aside from a rare loss to Arsenal and a draw at West Brom, the Foxes have secured landmark results against Liverpool, Man City and four 1-0 victories in a row.

Tottenham have had a monumental season, take nothing away from it. Some of the football on display has been arguably the best ever seen at the club since the Premier League's inception. Mauricio Pochettino has a young, almost telepathic squad with excellent team chemistry.

But as Leicester have proven in hard evidence is that results win you the league, not silky fluid football.

There are many 'where it all went wrong' moments' - the last minute loss against struggling Newcastle, the failure to beat 10-man Arsenal or indeed the latest blow against West Brom.

But ultimately, when Spurs went head-to-head with Leicester, they fell short, and perhaps that was the ultimate title test that Ranieri's men passed with flying colours.

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