Spurs moved up to 11th - their highest league position so far this season - with an unexpected but thoroughly deserved victory at Villa Park. This was arguably the best team performance of the current campaign, exemplified by the fact that two key players, Modric and Palacios, were below par and yet Spurs were still able to put three points on the board. Thankfully Jenas for once took up some of the slack in midfield and also managed to get on the score sheet. While he still gave the ball away cheaply, he at least showed some industry. The same was true of Darren Bent, the scorer of the second and killer goal - albeit a "Sandra Redknapp " effort from less than six inches out.
The victory, though, was achieved in large part thanks to the back four, and in particular Woodgate and King. When John Carew rose above Woodgate to head in what proved to be a consolation goal for Aston Villa, it was just about the only challenge that Woodgate had failed to win all afternoon. There are now constant calls for Aaron Lennon to be included in the next England squad: why Woodgate’s name is not being raised in the same context remains a mystery. His commanding display at the heart of the Spurs defence was matched by that of Ledley King, who played superbly despite his ongoing injury problems. Martin O’Neill was angry at the booing that accompanied Agbonlahor’s withdrawal near the end and understandably so, since no forward would have got much joy up against Woodgate and King - a fact that was not lost on Harry Redknapp:
"Ledley has come back into the side and, with Jonathan, forms one of the best pairings in the country. You can talk about Ferdinand and Vidic but these two are also up there. They are fantastic central defenders. They have got bags of pace, bags of ability and play a key part for us. "
Assou-Ekotto also played well but it was not all sweetness and light in the Spurs defence, at least initially. For reasons best known to himself, Redknapp chose to deploy Didier Zokora as a makeshift full-back and the Ivorian was roasted by Ashley Young, with Woodgate in particular saving the team with some last-ditch interceptions. Zokora - who had also picked up a yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Young - was taken off with almost two thirds of the game remaining. His replacement, Vedran Corluka, not only nullified the threat posed by the Villa winger, but was also much more effective in supporting the once-again excellent Lennon.
After the final whistle, Martin O’Neill talked in terms of his team dominating proceedings, but the stats would seem to suggest otherwise. Spurs enjoyed exactly half of the possession and had more shots on target, with Modric and Lennon both going close. Gomes had one or two characteristically shaky moments but was the far less busy of the two goalkeepers. Spurs now face a tricky game against rejuvenated Chelsea, but on the back of the best win of the season so far, they should go into the match without fear and with the threat of relegation eased.