BIRMINGHAM, England -- Mousa Dembele says Tottenham teammate Harry Kane has proved the doubters wrong and shown he is a top-quality striker this season.
Kane, 22, started last season as a relative unknown but he finished the campaign with 31 goals in all competitions and 21 in the Premier League, second only to top scorer Sergio Aguero.
After failing to score in the first eight matches of this term, there were suggestions that Kane's form was a flash in the pan but following his double in Spurs' 2-0 win at Aston Villa on Sunday, he is joint top of the Premier League scoring charts with Jamie Vardy, on 19.
Dembele, also on fine form for second-place Spurs, believes his teammate has answered his critics.
Asked if Kane had proved his quality, Dembele told reporters: "It's the hardest thing to confirm that.
"Everybody -- not in our team but on the outside -- was a bit like: 'We'll see if he can confirm it.'
"He is very talented. Everybody sees an unbelievable player who can make the team win even if sometimes the team isn't playing that well. He can make the difference. He's an unbelievable player and I'm happy he plays for us."
Spurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino has described vice-captain Kane as a "leader" of Spurs' young squad and Dembele, 28, agrees.
"He's a very professional guy and he's a leader as well," he said. "He's still young but from the start when he plays, you can feel that he's hungry to succeed in what he wants to do. It's very nice."
The Belgian added: "I hope I do my job. I'm one of the older guys, so in a way there are few guys who in a certain way are leaders."
The victory at Aston Villa temporarily moved Spurs to within two points of league leaders Leicester, before the Foxes restored their five-point lead with a 1-0 win over Newcastle United on Monday.
Regardless of whether they overhaul the Foxes and claim a maiden Premier League title, Spurs are enjoying a remarkable season and Dembele admits they are "surprised" about their progress under Pochettino.
"We're very happy about this, of course," he said. "We surprised everyone but of course we believe in ourselves and during the year you can feel that we're up there, we play as a team.
"The ambitions change during the year always so you can't compare to before. So for us, this is what we deserve and we want to go further, go top of course."
Dembele, 28, was a bit-part player last season -- making just 10 league starts -- but this season Spurs are yet to lose a match that he has started in central midfield.
Asked if he is in the best form of his career, Dembele said: "It's difficult to answer because the team is doing very well as well, and I'm a part of it.
"I'm very happy. I think they're are seasons when I've played very good as well but maybe the results weren't that good so it's always difficult to say. There were seasons when I said 'I'm playing really good, I'm playing well'.
"But of course people are going to say this is my best season."
Before Spurs pursuit of a first league title since 1961 resumes against Bournemouth on Sunday, they face Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League round-of-16 second leg, trailing 3-0 from the first leg in Germany.
Dembele was among several key players rested for the defeat at the Westfalenstadion and he is again likely to sit out Thursday's rematch.
"It's not my business," he said of Pochettino's selection in Germany. "The gaffer picks the team and we have confidence in every player.
"Everyone in the team is capable to play and is a very good player, so we have confidence in the team. It was bad luck against Dortmund but at home we're going to try to do everything.
"I think if you ask everyone, everyone wants to play. But it's the manager who decides and the manager knows what he wants, so it's not my job to think about that.
"It'll be difficult but it's useless to go into the game if we don't believe in it, so we have to believe in it or else."