Alan Hansen on how Tottenham have become genuine title contenders

By Alan HansenBBC Sport football expert
Tottenham celebrate Benoit Assou-Ekotto's spectacular strike against Everton
Tottenham celebrate Benoit Assou-Ekotto's spectacular strike against Everton

Tottenham's win over Everton on Wednesday means they are only three points behind leaders Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, and there is no doubt Harry Redknapp's side are now genuine contenders for the title.

Go back a month or so, and it looked like a two-horse race between City and Manchester United at the top. But they have both dropped points since then, and Tottenham's superb form has helped to ramp up the pressure.

Not many people tipped Spurs to even finish in the top four before the start of the season, but a big reason for that was the uncertainty over whether Luka Modric would stay at White Hart Lane.

If they had sold Modric to Chelsea in August, then Tottenham would basically have been saying they are a selling club and that everybody can come and get their best players.

But Redknapp and Spurs chairman Daniel Levy dug their heels in and said he was not for sale, and I think that was the defining moment for what has turned into a hugely impressive campaign.

You also need to give Modric some credit in this, because he wanted to move to Chelsea when they came in for him and, in the modern game, when a player wants to go somewhere then, 99 times out of 100, they go.

A lot of players in his situation would have sulked and let it affect their performances but Modric has been terrific. He might still leave in the summer, but what he has done is give his best shot for Tottenham this season, which is tremendous to see.

As well as keeping hold of Modric, Redknapp's other transfer business over the summer is now looking very astute.

Scott Parker has added solidity to the midfield, Emmanuael Adebayor gives them a big presence up front, and they have a reliable keeper in Brad Friedel.

Redknapp was quite cute in the way he brought in Friedel. After some of Heurelho Gomes' mistakes last season, he kept saying the Brazilian is a top-class keeper and wouldn't be replacing him. Then he went and brought in Friedel.

Friedel has got years and years of experience and has done exceptionally well. He is rock solid even though he is the wrong side of 40.

It all means that, with the way Spurs play, they have still got power, pace and a potent attacking force but they are also effective defensively - so they have everything in place.

The biggest difference between this season and previous years is that they have allied the quality they have in their squad to that defensive steel and also a burning ambition to do well.

They obviously think they are good enough to win the title, and they seem determined to prove it - which has been reflected in their form since they lost to both Manchester clubs at the start of the season.

Not being in the Champions League this season has helped them too, because it has enabled Tottenham to focus fully on the Premier League.

Redknapp effectively wrote off the Europa League from the start and just played his kids, which was very clever.

On Redknapp's list of priorities, the Europa League was probably a bit like the Carling Cup and FA Cup in that, if Spurs had reached the semi-final, he would think 'great, let's go and win it'.

But, in the early rounds, he was basically not playing anyone who would feature the following weekend. There is no doubt that approach has paid dividends.

There is still a lot of work to do, though.

Redknapp has not been the distance in a title race before and neither have many of his players. That experience can be so vital in the run-in because, if you have won it before, you know what it is like when you come under pressure.

But it is the same for City and obviously everybody has to go out and win it for the first time at some point. There is no better time do do that than the present.

The crunch time for Spurs is going to come when they face City, Liverpool, Arsenal and United in the space of six weeks, starting at Etihad Stadium on 22 January.

Out of those four fixtures, only the United game is at White Hart Lane and, if Tottenham are going to win the title, then they might have to pick up some major points on the road against some of their biggest rivals.

Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric
Tottenham fought hard to stop Modric joining Chelsea in the summer

At the moment, though, with the form they are in, Spurs are in dreamland. In the last few weeks, they have been more impressive than any other side but they have to maintain that. It is all very well saying 'what a great run' in January, because they need to do the same again between now and the end of the season.

That is far easier said than done because, as well as the big games, they have to keep racking up the victories in the games they are expected to win too. For example, they face Wolves at home on Saturday, and Mick McCarthy's side are already fighting for their lives.

That is the type of game Spurs simply have to win. If they do get three points, it means that when they go to Etihad Stadium on 22 January a draw is a good result. If they do slip up, they will leave themselves with more and more to do to stay in touch at the top.

Can they win the title? A lot could still go wrong but they don't have any European distractions and they have the strength in depth they need. If they can keep players like Modric, Adebayor, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon fit, then they have got a real chance.