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Three weeks ago, when Sunderland were sitting in the relegation zone with only one win in their last ten matches, victory for the away side at the Stadium of Light would not have seemed such a great achievement. But, after the Black Cats' mini-revival over Christmas saw them pick up six points against Southampton and Manchester City, Spurs' second away win in three days is a sign of their steady improvement under Andre Villas-Boas and sends a message to their rivals in the race for fourth.
After experimenting with his system to varying degrees of success so far this season, Villas-Boas has settled on a 4-4-1-1 formation in the last six matches (in all competitions), with Spurs winning four of those fixtures and losing just once, in the last minute at Everton. With Emmanuel Adebayor playing behind Jermain Defoe in attack, and Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon - who was particularly impressive against Sunderland - stretching the play on the wings, the manager's switch to Harry Redknapp's favoured formation has enabled him to crowbar plenty of attacking threat into the starting line-up.
But the real strength of this Spurs side is the partnership of Mousa Dembele and Sandro in central midfield - arguably the strongest combination in the Premier League. If it were not for these two fierce competitors, Villas-Boas' team would certainly not be able to adopt such a flowing, attacking style that has seen them fire in 38 shots in the last two games.
As the central linchpins in Spurs' system, Dembele and Sandro pose a formidable challenge for any opponent, as Manchester United found to their cost in the visitors' 3-2 win at Old Trafford in September. It's no surprise that United have been linked with both midfielders in the past 12 months, and either would provide the combative presence Sir Alex Ferguson's team often lack in the middle.
The main advantage of Dembele and Sandro's partnership is that they complement each other superbly. While Sandro is tasked with breaking up the opponent's possession, Dembele's strengths lie in his sensible use of the ball (only two of his 64 passes went astray against Sunderland) and ability to drive forward and initiate attacks. It's a relationship that works incredibly well; no-one has made more interceptions than Sandro in the Premier League this season - and only six midfielders average more tackles per game - while Dembele is in the top ten dribblers and has also provided three assists.
The growing understanding between the duo is crucial to Spurs maintaining their fight for fourth place and Villas-Boas will hope the current form and fitness of his two midfielders will continue as he tries to eke out more consistency from his team. That Sandro has already made 24 appearances this season - only three less than his total last year - suggests the Brazilian is finally over his previous injury problems.
After allowing Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart to leave in the summer - and missing out on a last-minute deal for Joao Moutinho - Spurs seemed to have taken a backwards step in midfield ahead of the new season. But at 23 and 25, Sandro and Dembele look capable of leading the team in the middle for this campaign and the foreseeable future.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.