I guess there’s no shame in getting pasted by City considering the form they’re in at the moment, and even in the happier days of Pochettino’s 2017/18 third-placed Wembley season there was a pre-Christmas 4-1 pasting at The Etihad.
That defeat came in match-week 18 and left us in seventh, a mammoth 21 points off City in first though only three points off Liverpool in fourth. Arsenal and Burnley were the other two sides squatting between us and the fabled CL qualifying spots.
If we can react the same way to last weekend’s defeat as we did to that 2017 one, we’re probably going to be alright. We went on a fourteen game unbeaten run, winning eleven, and wouldn’t taste defeat again until City came to Wembley and gave us another pasting.
Here’s hoping they don’t do that to us at Wembley later this season…
Most of us probably doubt this incarnation of Tottenham have that sort of run in them, but it’s easy to forget that between the Sheffield United debacle last season and that late winner for Liverpool late last year, Spurs played eighteen Premier League games and won eleven, drew six and only lost that solitary game against Everton on the opening day of this season. We faced Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City across that run of games.
That was then and this is now, though, and right now we’re ninth and seven points off Chelsea in fourth and six off West Ham in fifth, although with a game in hand. Across our last five league games, we’ve lost to every team not called West Brom. If we lose today, we probably have to face up to the fact we’re going to finish lower in the table than West Ham for what I think will be the first time since Glen Roeder guided them to seventh in 2001-02 and Hoddle had us right where we find ourselves now, nowhere special in ninth, though we did enjoy a day out in Cardiff that season, losing 1-2 to Blackburn in the League Cup Final at The Millennium Stadium, an experience which, with hindsight, makes it all seem alright.
Back to the more recent past, and this fixture last season came in match-week thirteen with us sitting in fourteenth having just sacked Pochettino following the 2-7 Bayern result and a run of two losses and three draws in the Premier League. Dele set Son up for our first goal under Mourinho and then produced that sublime falling backwards back-heel flick in the build-up to Moura’s glorious second. A beautiful Kane header from an excellent Aurier cross had us coasting at 0-3 before the usual frailties set in and we ended up clinging on for the win.
That we couldn’t repeat the same trick earlier this season when they came to The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and we raced into yet another 3-0 lead and then had numerous chances to make it four or more is probably up there alongside that late Anfield defeat to Liverpool as the sliding doors moment of our season so far.
I still think Bale should have had a penalty for a push from Yarmolenko when he put that chance to make it 4-2 wide, and while they don’t show it in the above highlights and my memory of it might be deluding me, if that push on Bale wasn’t a foul, then neither was Aurier’s challenge which led to the free-kick Lanzini eventually scored their third from.
But that’s the sort of thing that happens in football, and at no time in that game did we look defensively secure whenever West Ham were on the ball, and we’re now approaching Mourinho’s fiftieth Premier League game in charge of Spurs and seem no closer to solving the frailties which have been haunting us since the 73rd minute of his first one and became increasingly apparent through the final ten months or so of Pochettino’s time at the helm.
Outside of last week’s pretty limp surrender to City, though, it does feel as if a bit of verve has crept back into performances since that dire run of three defeats on the bounce against Liverpool, Brighton and Chelsea. The West Brom win was a good watch at least until we got the second, the Everton result was gutting but the opening period and the overall attacking performance was great, and there was plenty to enjoy in the win against Wolfsberger, who, now we’ve pretty much guaranteed progression against, must always be referred to as Little Wolfsberger, despite beating Feyenoord and CSKA Moscow in the group stages.
We need to build on it, though, and if we’re going to be able to look at the final Premier League table with any sense of pride this season – irrespective of whether we do somehow end up clinching fourth, which I’m no longer thinking about, being honest – today’s a must win. Moyes and West Ham are having their best season in years, but while they’ve had some great results – they’ve beaten Leicester, Leeds, Everton and Villa away – their home form includes an opening day defeat to Newcastle and 1-3 losses to Manchester United and Liverpool. They’ve also dropped points to Palace and Brighton at home and only beaten Burnley and West Brom by the odd goal. We’ve only ever lost there once, beating them 2-3, 0-1, 1-3 (League Cup), and 2-3 since that painful 1-0 defeat on our first ever visit helped Conte’s Chelsea wrap up the league.
A win today would be lovely, and a performance to merit it rather than some dire smash and grab even better. The team selection is going to be an interesting indication of just how confident Mourinho feels in his post and his squad, but looking at the respective talents both managers have to call on, there really shouldn’t be any contest.
Come on you Spurs!