The Manchester City boss ruffled Tottenham’s feathers in October when he described them as “the Harry Kane team” and, with the England striker only fit enough for the bench after suffering a heavy cold, his replacement, Fernando Llorente, headed Spurs into an early lead against his former club.
It was his first Premier League goal for Spurs on his first Premier League start and suggested the struggling Swans were set for a long night in the torrential rain.
Llorente went close to snatching a second from another Christian Eriksen free-kick before half-time but he barely touched the ball after the interval and Spurs needed Kane, a 68th-minute replacement for the Spaniard, to provide the game’s outstanding moment of quality. His inch-perfect pass set-up Dele Alli’s late goal, bundled past Lukasz Fabianski at the second attempt, to end Swansea’s resistance.
Llorente did his job and afterwards Mauricio Pochettino suggested he would improve in the second half of the season.
But questions about Spurs’s ability to cope without Kane — who missed the chance to be the first Premier League player to score a hat-trick of hat-tricks — persist.
Elsewhere, there were more encouraging signs for the Spurs boss. Victor Wanyama made his first appearance since August as a 59th-minute replacement for Davinson Sanchez, just after the Colombian had escaped a second booking for scything down Martin Olsson.
Wanyama, who has been missing with a knee injury, looked rusty on the ball but he showed Spurs exactly what they have been missing with a string of tackles, including a late intervention in the saturated six-yard box after Jordan Ayew had muddled past Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris.
Mark van der Hoorn’s header thumped the underside of the crossbar from the resulting corner, as Spurs again struggled to defend set-pieces.
Erik Lamela, who missed 13 months with hip problems, was a peripheral figure going forward but he came through 77 minutes on a sodden pitch and, as usual, disrupted the opposition with a series of niggling fouls, while Pochettino was also able to rest Serge Aurier, Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko.
Spurs leapfrogged Arsenal into fifth and can move three points behind Manchester United with a win against West Ham at Wembley on Thursday.
Pochettino’s team tend to find an extra gear in the second half of the season and, ignoring the 4-1 defeat at Manchester City, they have won their past six matches, scoring 20 and conceding just three. They are quietly finding form.
Danny Rose will undergo tests this week to determine the extent of a knee injury sustained in the Boxing Day win over Southampton. The injury is to the same knee that required surgery and ruled Rose out for nine months until October but Pochettino says he is “not concerned”.