While Leicester have dazzled, Tottenham have also been busy on their own fairytale, says Neil Humphreys
Pochettino's men are also writing a far-fetched title story now
Just when you thought it was safe to step back into the weird world of the English Premier League, an unexpected fin appeared on the horizon line.
All right, it's not a fin. It's an Argentinian.
But Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs are the latest sharks to circle the coveted silverware.
While Arsenal, Manchester City and Leicester thrash around in the spotlight, Tottenham are moving stealthily without making waves.
They're also making a bit of a mess of the title race.
For a while now, this weekend promised a touch of sanity after a season of silliness.
Arsenal are playing Leicester City. That was going to be first versus second, Arsene Wenger's puritans up against Claudio Ranieri's Cinderellas, a straightforward clash for the summit.
Then, Tottenham turned up to spoil a party that has already been napalmed more times than a nuclear test site.
From top-four contenders to title challengers, Spurs have slipped between the sputtering Gunners and those wild Foxes to mess with our heads once more.
Who's going to win the title? Forget that.
Who's going to win this weekend? The top four are facing each other. Arsenal host Leicester on Sunday and Tottenham visit Manchester City on Monday morning (Singapore time).
Picking a winner in this tumultuous campaign is already proving to be a more embarrassing public experience than picking one's nose on a packed bus. Only a masochist would try to make sense of the madness.
But the idealist is floating towards nirvana, marvelling at the two underdogs who both smell like team spirit.
As Chinese New Year celebrates a time of abundance, Leicester and Spurs are offering two-for-one fairytales.
The Foxes are already promising to act out the greatest story ever told. Now Spurs are sprinkling pixie dust over a competition that is already overdosing on football fantasy.
Like Leicester's wide-eyed believers, Tottenham's fragile followers are daring to dream, but are refusing to say it out loud. It's the trophy that cannot be named.
But the title chase is happening. Form favours the brave and none are more tenacious than Tottenham's terriers right now.
Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores came up with the most telling description of Spurs' evolution. After his side succumbed at Tottenham, he called the victors "animals".
He wasn't being derogatory, just stating the obvious.
Once renowned for their brittleness, Tottenham have found a fortitude to eke out 1-0 victories where they would've previously dropped points. The Watford win made it six out of six. That's title-winning form at a time when City and Arsenal, the runaway favourites at Christmas, are meandering.
Goals remain a niggling concern, with Tottenham still heavily reliant upon Harry Kane. But the bolstered rearguard has lifted expectations and started the sheepish title whispers.
Pochettino's counter-pressing game rises or falls on its defence and Jan Vertonghen's long-term injury, picked up last month, was expected to disrupt Tottenham's progress.
But Kevin Wimmer has filled the breach with minimal fuss, forming an easy understanding with Toby Alderweireld that belies his inexperience.
The Austrian joined in pre-season and is still only 23.
Kieran Trippier was also picked up for a smallish fee in pre-season. The 25-year-old Englishman, who was developed at Manchester City's academy before being discarded, is quietly making his mark at right back.
Such is the depth of Tottenham's squad, their star turn Dele Alli was rested against Watford, coming on for a half-hour cameo.
Spurs' nascent stars, along with their established counterparts, are aligning.
Ranieri deserves tremendous credit for his heroics at Leicester, but Nigel Pearson had at least assembled the nucleus of a settled, committed squad of workaholics.
Ranieri's ingenious contribution was to resist the temptation to fix what wasn't broken.
Pochettino, on the other hand, inherited overindulged, overpaid basket cases masquerading as Champions League wannabes. The rapid transformation at Tottenham is no less impressive than the one at Leicester.
Just don't tell anyone connected to the club. They've been here too often before.
Since Bill Nicholson's Double winners of 1961, Tottenham have flattered to deceive.
When Jimmy Greaves joined the following season, Spurs were expected to sweep all before them. They never lifted the title again.
Ray Clemence, Chris Waddle, Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles would make just about every list of Tottenham greats, but they still couldn't make them champions.
Playing in the same side, they couldn't even beat Coventry in the 1987 FA Cup final.
That was Tottenham, sometimes brilliant, often beatable.
But in a season soaked in insanity, a Spurs title triumph no longer sounds so ludicrous and will seem even more plausible if they can defeat Manchester City.
And then, an overlooked fairytale will finally step out of the shadow of another.
“I think Tottenham aren’t going to get a better chance of winning the EPL and (Harry) Kane especially should be rested (in the Europa League).”
— Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy, suggesting that Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino should prioritise
Ranieri: From being ridiculed to earning respect
Leicester City's unexpected tilt at the Premiership title has not much to do with tactical talk, says their manager Claudio Ranieri.
Instead, it boils down to just the simple things: Trust, lots of hard work and extra rest.
That's what Ranieri revealed, ahead of Sunday's clash with title rivals Arsenal, who are five points below them.
"When I spoke with the players, I realised that they were afraid of the Italian tactics," Ranieri told Corriere della Sera.
"To an Italian coach, football means trying to control the game by following the ideas and systems of the coach. You talk so much about football.
"They did not look convinced and neither was I. I have great admiration for those who build new tactical systems, but I always thought the first job for a good coach is to build the team around the characteristics of his players.
"I told the players I trusted them and I would talk very little about tactics. For me, the important thing was that they all ran hard as I had seen them do towards the end of last season."
Ranieri also gives two days off a week, so that his boys have plenty of time to recover from the intensity of training and playing in the EPL.
"My boys are training a lot, but not too many times," he said. "In England, the game is always high intensity, it exhausts. You need to recover.
"I make sure the players have at least two days away from the ball each week. This is the pact I made (with the players) on the first day - I trust you, I'll explain some football ideas to you once in a while, you always give me everything."
As the Foxes sit proudly at the top of the Premiership, it is hard to believe that just seven months ago, the 64-year-old Italian's arrival at Leicester's plush training facility at Belvoir Drive was greeted with widespread ridicule.
Former Leicester and England striker Gary Lineker described the July appointment as an "uninspiring choice".
Former Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp questioned how Ranieri could "walk back into the EPL" after being sacked as Greece coach.
Only last year, Leicester were fighting a desperate battle to avoid relegation under Ranieri's predecessor Nigel Pearson.
Yet, after last Saturday's stunning 3-1 win at Manchester City, Ranieri's men find themselves installed as the bookmakers' favourites for the title.
And, in an era where the "greed is good" mantra of the league's superpowers grows more unpalatable by the year, Leicester are also the choice of neutrals captivated by the unexpected renaissance of the colourful Ranieri.
The former Chelsea manager, who was sacked by Roman Abramovich 11 years ago, has never won a top-flight league title during a 30-year managerial career, which featured stops at 12 clubs, including Juventus, Roma and Inter Milan.
His last major silverware was the 1999 Copa del Rey with Valencia.
However, his shrewd management, allowing the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez the freedom to express themselves, has worked wonders.
With Champions League qualification looking increasingly certain, the season is already destined to be remembered as a golden period for Leicester.
But Ranieri, asked if Leicester can really win the title, won't stop his players from dreaming of even greater glory.
"I don't know, but it's fantastic that we've earned the question," he said.
"In an era when money counts for everything, I think we give hope to everybody." - Wire Services.
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now