Wow, it’s amazing the difference a couple of months can make in football. One minute everyone is saying you are nailed on to finish in the top four come the end of the season, the next you’re not, and the doom and gloom mongers are out in force ruing what might have been.
This looks like it could be the story of Spurs’ season again, flying high like an Bar-headed goose through the Christmas period, before freezing up when it comes to the ‘business end’ of the season…maybe it was the cold weather?
Over the last three seasons a similar pattern has emerged at Spurs; in control for lengthy spell – not just of fourth place, but, on some occasions, third – when the chance arose to capitalise on their position and push their advantage home, they didn’t take it.
Instead, they lost winnable games and made it hard for themselves. Last season fourth was unfortunately not enough, but they could have very easily finished above their north London neighbours Arsenal in third if they had taken their chances.
Draws with Stoke and Sunderland, plus losses against Norwich and QPR in March and April cost Spurs third place.
In the 2010/11 season draws against Wolves, West Ham, Wigan, West Brom and Blackpool in March, April and May cost Spurs fourth place.
This season the costliest result was the home loss to Fulham, but you can look to draws in January against QPR and Norwich as games where maximum points should have been taken.
Spurs’ remaining fixtures aren’t easy either, the toughest coming in the form of Manchester City and Chelsea, with trips to Wigan and Stoke to contend with and home games against Southampton and Sunderland. The latter four contests are must wins, but it won’t be easy against three of those teams who are fighting for survival.
With Spurs on 58 points, potentially a point behind Arsenal if Arsenal win their game in hand, and three points behind Chelsea if they also win their game in hand, meaning Spurs are going to need to take 12 points minimum from the last 6 matches of the season to realistically finish in the top four on 70 points.
Chelsea’s fixture list contains matches with Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool and is not the easiest, nor is Arsenal’s who also have to face Manchester United and Everton, but you can’t see too many points being dropped by either side outside of those matches.
If Spurs want a top four finish they need to be capitalising on any opportunities they get, especially against the lower sides, because they may take no points from the matches against Chelsea and Manchester City.
It isn’t impossible though, as Spurs have done it before – they earned fourth place the hard way in the 2009/10 season when they beat Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City in three of the final six games of the season, but with Spurs stripped of their top talent, can they be expected to do it again?
If they don’t, similar questions regarding the squad will be asked, reminiscent of previous seasons moans. Spurs do not have the depth upfront that they should do, but this season they are lucky that Arsenal and Chelsea don’t do either.
Another area where Spurs have been weak is down the flanks. As soon as Bale or Lennon are out, they have no natural replacement who can provide the width that the team needs.
Good attacking full-backs can soften the blow caused by a lack of wing-play, but Spurs’ full-backs haven’t enjoyed their greatest season this term.
Kyle Walker’s form has been erratic on the right and Spurs have had no established left-back after Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s long injury lay-off left him looking off the pace, Kyle Naughton is not a natural left-back and has been guilty of some poor positioning and getting the wrong side of his man, and Jan Vertonghen has lapses in concentration when having to play towards his own goal (see Kevin Miralles goal on Sunday).
Saying that, Spurs have a lot of quality and it is not over yet.
There is also a fairytale storyline gathering pace with the rearranged Chelsea vs Spurs fixture. Chelsea cost Spurs big time last season and it could happen again this season, but it would be very sweet indeed for Spurs were the roles to be reversed.
Imagine a scenario in which Spurs beat Chelsea and finish in the top four, costing Chelsea another season out of the Champions League, with Jose Mourinho deciding against a return to Stamford Bridge, while AVB would metaphorically stick two fingers up at his former employers.
Then again, Chelsea could beat Spurs condemning them to another fifth-place finish, with Gareth Bale heading off to pastures green, just as Luka Modric did.
As the race for the top four hots up, the same questions are being asked of Spurs, as everyone wonders if they have the minerals. No one would be surprised if they didn’t, not even Spurs fans who have seen it all before. It is time for Spurs to prove themselves or again fail at the hands of their closest London rivals and that would be a very bitter ironic pill to swallow and a little bit of history repeating.
Where do you think Spurs will finish this season? Can they finally get one over Arsenal or Chelsea? We want your opinion below. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook by hitting the links, we provide a blast of football goodness everyday, so get involved if you love football.