Ac felly rydym yn croesawu Caerdydd i Wembley, cartref byd-enwog (dros dro) y Spurs!
Which roughly translated (according to Google Translate, anyway – so it could pretty much be saying anything) means and so we welcome Cardiff to Wembley, the world famous (temporary) home of the Spurs, their first trip to us in the Prem since 2nd March 2014, when we were sitting pretty in fifth and they were squatting ugly in 19th.
That last visit ended in a brilliantly engineered Tim Sherwood victory to us by a whopping 1-0 margin, enhancing Tim’s chances of going down in Tottenham folklore as the manager with the greatest win-percentage of all time despite only having much-of-a-muchness to choose from.
Alas for both clubs, each would drop a position by the end of that season, with us finishing ten points behind Arsenal in fourth (remember when they nearly always used to come fourth, and always – always – above us?) and three points behind Everton in fifth (remember when not finishing above Everton used to be a conceivable thing?). Cardiff ended bottom of the pile, accompanying Fulham and Norwich into the Championship.
Our team that day was Lloris, Naughton, Dawson, Verts, Fryers, Dembele, Paulinho, Lennon, Townsend, Adebayor and Soldado, with Soldado getting the winner in the 28th minute – a really well taken close-range effort following a pretty-slick move between himself, Townsend and Adebayor. According to the BBC match report, ‘Spurs came closest to scoring in an underwhelming second-half when David Marshall saved substitute Harry Kane’s effort’.
This time around, it’s pretty much as you were for Colin’s Cardiff as they’re still squatting ugly in 19th, having taken two points from seven games. Should they lose to us on Saturday – and, really, they should; I’m firing up the VPN and creating an alias on a certain other website to truly wet the bed with some like-minded individuals if they don’t – they’ll have the proverbial two points from eight games, and we all know a manager who can help them with that…
For us, we’re one place better off than we were the last time Cardiff came calling four and a half years ago, which I’m going to use as a spurious link to the fact we’re also one place better off than Cardiff in the ever-important net-spend table for roughly the same period, Enic having diverted £18 million worth of cheese-room supplies towards our somehow competitive first team in that period, roughly £5 million more than Vincent Tan has needed to invest in order to return Cardiff to second from bottom in the Prem.
Just to show that pounds don’t necessarily mean progress, though, Arsenal and Everton spent £221m and £203m respectively across those five years. Man United, £400m. Saturday will see us kick-off on the same points as Arsenal, five points above United and six points above Everton. Although, of course, both Arsenal and United have won trophies in some of those seasons, and both United and Arsenal somehow finished above us in the league in one each of the last three seasons.
And, of course, for any non dumb-dumbs who might be reading, Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool have net-spends of £508m, £242m and £173m across those five years, and all go into Saturday’s round of matches better off than we are – Man City and Liverpool (who, of course, face-off at Anfield this weekend) four points to the good, and Chelsea, who face Saints, two points.
Meaning, should Dippers and City draw and ourselves and Chelsea win, (and should my maths not have screwed this up), we’ll end this weekend two points behind the three teams tied at the top of the Prem.
Other than 16/17, where we were a point behind City and Arsenal, that will be the closest we’ve been to the top spot after eight games in Poch’s time with us. Chelsea, who won the Prem that season, were three points off top spot, lurking behind us and Liverpool in fifth.
Which, given we still haven’t really performed at anything like our best in any competition so far this season, is pretty astounding. Because, points-wise, following last weekend’s trip to the Terriers, we’re still slightly improved on last season’s results – a whopping single point better off following the same number of games, and an even more awe-inspiring three points better off against the same opponents.
If we’re going to maintain these superior stats, though, nothing short of a win will do against Cardiff, as we beat Bournemouth 1-0 at home in this round of matches last season and scuppered Stoke – who finished second from bottom and are therefore the team I’m swapping results against Cardiff with – 5-1 at Wembley.
Irrespective of what we do against Cardiff, though, cups add context, and this time last season we’d beaten Barnsley one-nil, Borussia Dortmund three-one and APEOL three-nil. However, as weird as it sounds, none of those games left me feeling quite as optimistic as Wednesday’s defeat against Barca. The fact an out-of-sorts Spurs team without Verts, Eriksen and Alli – and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Dembele – could gift Barca that opener, concede that second, see Messi strike the same post twice within a matter of minutes, and yet still be one late blocking tackle away from a three-three draw after subbing on Sissoko says there’s still a lot about this Tottenham team that is very, very right.
If anything, there’s no reason why Poch can’t sell this to the squad as a glorious defeat and inspire them to go on a run the way Redknapp did in 2010 after Bale’s hat-trick in that 4-3 defeat at the San Siro, when, other than that obvious blip in the return at The Lane a fortnight later, ‘Arry inspired us to a one-one draw away to Everton, our customary two-nil defeat away to Manchester United, a four-two defeat away to Bolton, and a brave one-one draw at home to Sunderland.
Hmmmm. Or maybe, hopefully, not. Because, following next weekend’s interlull, it’s Pikey’s away and City at ‘home’, so if we’re going to continue to keep pace with the spenders, we’re going to have to cut out the stupid mistakes at the back and build on the attacking verve we sporadically displayed against Barca. I think we’ve got us in it to do it. But I’m a Flat Oeufer, me.