Richard Buxton: Spurs’ winter warriors should worry Arsenal
Tottenham usually surge from mid-December, while their rivals slow their roll
Fixation once remained the greatest barrier to Tottenham Hotspur's pursuit of progress.
Keeping up with the Jones' was not the cause of the north Londoners' unhealthy obsession.
It was always Arsenal.
Whatever the Lilywhites' local rivals were doing, they sought to surpass or at least equal. If they could not, revelling in the Gunners' misfortune acted as a hearty consolation prize.
Clashes in the English capital doubled up as Spurs' cup finals in the absence of an actual tilt at silverware. Mauricio Pochettino has ensured that such gallows' humour no longer applies ahead of tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) League Cup quarter- final.
Travelling to the Emirates Stadium just 17 days after a 4-2 humbling behind enemy lines makes Pochettino's side a dangerous prospect. Even in such a short space of time, the Argentinian holds an upper hand over Unai Emery thanks to his meticulous methodology.
Everything that Tottenham have done during Pochettino's tenure has been geared towards another Christmas-time surge. From mid-December onwards, they traditionally peak - around the same time that their closest challengers in the English Premier League are invariably forced to slow their roll.
Year upon year, they continually raise the bar through both points won and goals scored.
Pochettino's penchant for the infamous "Gacon test", a punishing running exercise honed during his playing days at Paris Saint-Germain, ensured that his England representatives were able to cover more distance en route to a place in the World Cup semi -finals.
More than that, though, it has allowed his squad as a whole to maintain a high level of performance that has already put Chelsea to the sword and secured a place in the Champions League's Round of 16 with a belated onslaught in last week's Group B finale with Barcelona.
Late goals have become a trademark of their existing run, with Christian Eriksen's stoppage-time winner against Burnley sealing a 10th league win from Tottenham's previous 12 games.
Under normal circumstances, a squad devoid of any new additions during the summer transfer window should be starting to feel its limitations by this stage of the season.
Likewise, an ever-growing casualty list would ordinarily have derailed even Pochettino's best-laid plans.
A third serious title challenge in four seasons appears beyond them solely due to the strength that Liverpool and Manchester City possess. But Pochettino's focus has not intensified on the EPL's latest protagonists any more than it has Arsenal during his four-year tenure.
Eclipsing them became easy during the twilight of Arsene Wenger's tenure, but his successor has done little to deter Spurs from their main objectives of fighting on multiple fronts.
The League Cup's importance may have diminished in the grander scheme, even though it symbolises their last piece of silverware in a drought that now dates back over a decade.
It also represents their best chance of winning a trophy in what is likely to be Pochettino's final season in charge, with no shortage of takers at the highest level of European football.
Much as he jokes about chairman Daniel Levy's concerns that Real Madrid and Manchester United will be on the lookout for a new manager in the summer, it is not concern that lacks foundation.
Pochettino's legacy will not be measured on honours alone. That Arsenal are currently in sight yet firmly out of mind is a greater testimony to his work.