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Eye On EPL

Hungry Spurs must keep up their intensity

Tottenham Hotspur have served notice that they are not fading away after their near miss at winning the English Premier League (EPL) title last season.

The manner in which they inflicted on Manchester City their first league defeat of the season - a 2-0 victory on Sunday - showed that they have not lost their hunger to clinch their first top-division title since the 1960-61 season.

It was a commanding performance, one which manager Mauricio Pochettino later hailed as "nearly perfect".

This year, with City, Manchester United and Liverpool recharging themselves for legitimate title assaults, it is even more crucial for Tottenham to maintain their intensity throughout the whole season.

Of course, no manager will rate their team's performance a perfect 10, but Sunday's match was an early statement of intent by Spurs - that they are not going away in a season with plenty of challengers for the league title.

Playing a full 90 minutes of high-tempo football with aggression and pace, Spurs harassed City players incessantly, giving them little time to react.

It is the same high-pressing style of play which Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp or Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone is known to advocate.

When I was playing for the SAFFC (now called Warriors FC) side that won the S-League from 2006 to 2009, we were successful because we were physically fit and could close down on our opponents for the full match.

Such high-pressing football can be effective, but it also puts a lot of strain on players' fitness.

Tottenham would definitely be hoping that they avoid any debilitating injury spells during this season.

They are already missing key striker Harry Kane, last season's top scorer in the EPL with 25 goals, although his injury absence was downplayed by the bright form of South Korean striker Son Heung Min, who has five goals so far this season.

With young England internationals like Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli showing the same hunger as last year, Spurs do look better equipped to last the distance than last season, when a late slump saw them finish third behind champions Leicester and archrivals Arsenal.

This year, with City, Manchester United and Liverpool recharging themselves for legitimate title assaults, it is even more crucial for Tottenham to maintain their intensity throughout the whole season.

Other teams will be ready to face them, and Pochettino should be prepared to strategise how to break down teams who are content to park themselves deep in defence while waiting for the right time to hit them on the counter-attack.

I am sure that every team will have to go through hiccups as the season progresses.

But if Spurs can sustain this level of performance, they are capable of lifting their first league trophy since 1961.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2016, with the headline 'Hungry Spurs must keep up their intensity'. Print Edition | Subscribe