Recently I spoke to Jon Mackey, esteemed goalkeeper coach at Davidson College, about the increasingly impressive Tottenham Hotspur side. He tipped the Spurs to challenge his beloved Manchester United in the Premier League, but I seriously doubted their title credentials. In recent years, Tottenham have played some beautiful football, but have lacked serious backbone when it mattered, leaving them bereft of silverware, but with a firm grip on the "most entertaining loser" spot in the casual viewer's heart.
Enter Juande Ramos. Juan de la Cruz Ramos Cano, of Sevilla F.C. fame and success took over and transformed the club from lovable loser to serious threat. With his strict diet and fitness regimen, Ramos turned his team into a Cup force, reversing their poor fortune in the UEFA Cup, and guiding them into the second round of the knockout phase, and winning the Carling Cup. During the Carling Cup run, Ramos masterminded a 5-1 win against Arsenal, the club's first win in the North London derby since 1999.
Building on this success, Ramos has continued his philosphy of diet and exercise, and has added some key ingredients to what Spurs fans hope will be a Premier League-winning pie. Luka Modric, the Croatian midfield dynamo, was masterfully signed before Euro 2008 for a paltry 16 million Euros, a fee that surely would have soared after his brilliant performance in the tournament. Giovani dos Santos, the Brazilian/Mexican/Spanish attacker also joined the Tottenham fold for a mere £4.7 million, with the potential to rise to £8.6 million depending on appearances. The addition of Heurelho Gomes to replace Paul Robinson (who couldn't keep the ball out of his net despite the fact that his waist size made it possible to block half the goal simply by lying down), David Bentley, and a host of defenders also signalled Ramos and Tottenham's very clear intent to challenge the big four of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. In addition, as Jon pointed out, the "spineless" players that cost them many of the big games have been dropped, leaving a very dangerous and hungry-looking squad.
Today, Tottenham beat the Italian league runners-up Roma 5-0 in a friendly. No small feat, but the real tale of the tape will be told as they do battle in what is arguably the best league in the world over the course of 38 games. If the new-look Tottenham is the real article, I'll be sure to eat my words and write a piece about their success at the end of the season.
--As a side note, drop a comment to debate the EPL being the best league in the world. I by no means believe it's the highest quality of play, but judging solely from the Champions League results, it can't be overlooked...