Back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since West Brom and Manchester City on 8th and 21st November plus the fact we somehow avoided yet another 1-1 draw are about the only good things to be sucked from that bitter lemon of a second half against Fulham.
And three points.
I enjoyed the first half, though, and the move for our goal was typical of this Tottenham, thirteen seconds of direct transition from deep inside our own half between Doherty, Bale, Dele, Son and then Dele again which looked fluidly exquisite and yet also involved two mis-controls and ended in an own goal which probably saved Kane being flagged offside had he got to finish the move.
Despite us still having just enough about ourselves to carve out a great chance for Kane to finish Fulham off towards the end, that second-half reversion to type was worrying, and the VAR against Lemina which saw Maja’s ‘goal’ chalked off was as anti-football as the VAR against Dier in the Newcastle game and the VAR against Moura at Bramall Lane last season.
We should have known, given the poor quality of Premier League officials, that VAR would end up being yet another layer of dodgy decisions that hopefully even themselves out over the course of a season, but that win felt like a draw in the same way draws against Newcastle, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Fulham all felt like losses.
Despite that horribly long list of discarded points, here we are with eleven league games left to play, five points off Chelsea in fourth with a game in hand and Chelsea playing fifth placed Everton tomorrow, West Ham facing unpredictable Leeds and Liverpool playing Fulham at Anfield having just lost five Premier League home games on the spin.
Win tonight, and we might somehow end this weekend right back in a race we looked well and truly out of following defeat to West Ham.
We need to take care of Palace first, though. But that’s something we have tended to do at home over the years. Barring a fifth round FA Cup exit at their hands in February 2016, you have to go back to 1997 and the days of Ian Walker, John Scales, Stephen Clemence, Andy Sinton and Steffen Iversen – not to mention mere 25,000 home-crowds and Christian Gross taking charge – for our last league loss to them, Neil Shipperly scoring the game’s only goal.
There have been a couple of nil-nils and a few squeaky one-nils across the following years, but none probably felt quite so squeaky as Palace’s April 2019 visit, when a crowd of 59,215 finally got to see us play a Premier League game at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the first ever time.
Although we ended up winning comfortably enough, the wait for Son’s 55th minute opener felt interminable and even after Eriksen’s 80th minute clincher I felt as if it was just a matter of time before we started spraying something Spursy all over the stadium’s big opening night.
Although we didn’t, what we all thought was going to be the start of something special simply turned out to be the start of the end for Pochettino: He would only lead us to five more Premier League victories following this first one at the new stadium, and it’s nicely symmetrical for the purpose of this bloeug that the last decent one came in Palace’s most recent visit: In a game that felt as if it might just blow away the cobwebs of losing to Newcastle in our previous home-game and then throwing away a two goal lead at Arsenal, we just couldn’t build on it and would only enjoy one further league win under the Argentine – somewhat luckily in our next home game against Southampton – before the axe fell seven Premier League games after this Palace game ended.
At least with our recent wins over Burnley and Fulham the comparisons between Pochettino’s last run of matches and our current form don’t look quite so similar right now.
And at least with Mourinho suddenly sending out sides that mainly look offensive due to the number of attackers he’s cramming in, there’s the prospect of enjoying the games at the moment.
At least until the second-half kicks off, anyway.
As for Palace, despite having potentially their most potent attacking line-up in years, they seem to be in a state of flux with 73 year old Roy Hodgson and up to eleven players out of contract at the end of the season and results giving the impression they’re doing just enough to stay out of trouble and not really fussed about achieving very much else. They’ve won one in five and have only scored two goals across those five games – both in their 1-2 win over ‘local’ rivals Brighton. The other four games ended 2-0 to Leeds, 0-3 to Burnley and 0-0 against Fulham and Manchester United.
Back in match-week 12 when Schlupp’s 81st minute equaliser signaled the beginning of the end of our time at the top of the table, they’d recently beaten Leeds 4-1 and West Brom 1-5 (admittedly either side of losses to Burnley away and Newcastle at home). This time around, they’ve pretty much got nothing to play for and seem to be playing as if that’s the case.
If Mourinho picks a side which means we’re not trying to rely on our defence and if we play as we did in the first half against Fulham, we really should win this one, then.
But if we play the way we ended up playing in the second half against Fulham with the likes of Zaha and Eze on the pitch, we probably won’t.
In truth, we’ll probably end up seeing both sides of Spurs to make sure Sunday evening ends with its fair share of squeaks, and winning will come down to how many goals we can score before either Mourinho or the team’s collective weak mentally comes into play after half-time.
I think we’ll need three at the least, and I think we can get them as well.
Come on you Spurs!