Tottenham cool on transfers as Pochettino's men show strong form
Tottenham have developed a habit of clicking into top gear at this time of year under Mauricio Pochettino, and so it is proving again.
The north Londoners have won eight of their last 10 games and one of the other two matches, where they fell short, was against Manchester City at the Etihad -- the toughest league fixture of the season.
With the exception of that 4-1 defeat back in mid-December, and this month's frustrating 1-1 draw against West Ham, there has been plenty to be positive about, culminating in a virtually flawless 4-0 home win over Everton last weekend.
Pochettino seemed unsure what system to use earlier in the season, but he has now settled on a 4-2-3-1 formation which is providing constancy and an effective balance between attack and defence.
Offensively, each member of Spurs' first-choice front four is looking potent. Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen were all on the scoresheet against Everton, while Dele Alli is looking more like his old self and set up Eriksen's strike against the Toffees with a neat backheel at the end of a fine team move.
Before their trip to Wembley, Everton's worst defeat under Sam Allardyce was a 2-0 loss against Manchester United, but Tottenham doubled that margin and could easily have scored more.
At the other end of the pitch, Spurs have also regained their defensive solidity and have now only conceded one goal in four games -- Pedro Obiang's unstoppable 30-yard strike for West Ham.
At right-back, Serge Aurier is showing why he was chosen to replace Kyle Walker with both his attacking and defensive contributions.
In central midfield, Mousa Dembele produced probably his best performance of the campaign against Everton, shrugging off doubts about his long-term fitness and future in the same way that he casts aside rival players.
Meanwhile, Eric Dier's displays in his most effective role -- midfield, not defence -- have meant that the returning Victor Wanyama, a key man last season, was benched against Everton.
Also among the substitutes were Kieran Trippier, Moussa Sissoko, Erik Lamela and Fernando Llorente -- a strong roster of reserves -- while Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Harry Winks will bolster the squad further when they return from injury.
It is little wonder Pochettino has loaned out Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and youngster Marcus Edwards. Given the form of last weekend's starting XI, and the increasing strength in depth, the competition among the senior and established players is now fierce in most areas. There is little room for another breakthrough act.
It is hardly a surprise either that Pochettino is so calm when admitting he does not anticipate any arrivals in this January transfer window.
Could Spurs improve their squad? Of course. Left-back is an area which will require attention sooner or later, given the question marks over Rose's future and Ben Davies' lack of pace, while Sissoko still has work to do to prove his worth and it is debatable whether Llorente has had the desired impact as Kane's understudy.
Yet, while Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton are all making moves this month, Pochettino can feel justified in pressing ahead with his existing squad, pointing to the latest victory as evidence that Spurs are on the right track without the need for their own signings at the halfway mark.
It is worth remembering that the club have not added a single player to their first-team squad in any January transfer window under the Argentinian, yet they have still finished third and second in the table in the last two seasons.
That suggests there is value in stability at this stage, and shows that a lack of signings at this point does not equate to a lack of ambition.
Yet, with all of this said, Spurs have a real fight on their hands if they are to secure another top-four berth, and any concerns about their position are understandable -- they are coming to the end of a benign run of fixtures but remain three points outside the Champions League spots.
After Sunday's trip to Southampton, things get much trickier in the league, with Tottenham facing Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal in succession.
It will be a crucial month and Spurs need as much margin for error as possible. It is therefore imperative they maintain their momentum on the south coast this weekend, ensuring at the very least that they do not fall any further behind the top four sides.
Another victory would also give Pochettino, Daniel Levy and, importantly, the fanbase extra confidence in the current group, strengthening their resolve to ignore the transfer activity going on elsewhere and to trust the existing squad for the challenges that lie ahead, particularly in February.
Ben is ESPN FC's Tottenham blogger. Follow on Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.