And so to Stratford, where – other than poor sight-lines and unhappy ‘locals’ – who knows what awaits us? The team that recently beat Everton and Man United either side of a very creditable draw at home to Chelsea, or the team who (from Match of The Day highlights, anyway) looked defensively all-at-sea while losing one-nil at Brighton last time out and also lost their opening four games of the season?
It’s tempting to trot out the ‘fierce local rivals / it’s their cup final / they’ve invested heavily in a squad while Levy’s been building a shopping mall’ line and doom-monger a potential battering for us on Saturday, but that wasn’t the case last season when we paid our second ever visit to the London Stadium: Harry Kane goals in the 34th and 38th minutes plus an Eriksen strike on the hour gave us a lead that West Ham couldn’t claw back despite Aurier seeing red in the 70th with the score at 1-3: Although Kouyate pulled another one back in the 87th, and despite there being 7 minutes added on, the only further threats the Spammers mustered were long range efforts from Reid and Noble, both of which flew high and wide.
As Chauvelin pointed out when I referenced this victory as ‘strolling into Stratford’ on a previous bloeug, though, shipping two goals made this too close to comfort and maybe hinted at troubles to come: It was only a few weeks later that we threw away a two-goal lead to the Spam in the 4th round of the league cup, and, of course, we’ve gone on to lose at least four matches from winning positions since, which is something I can’t really remember us doing on such a regular basis under Pochettino up until that point.
Putting aside the fact we conceded two goals and saw Serge sent off, last season’s visit to Spam was definitely happier than our previous two, both of which we lost by single goals and neither of which we turned up in. 16/17, which saw our away-contingent’s first ever need to take binoculars to a premier league match, brought an end to a nine match winning streak and the slim hope of overhauling Chelsea with three games left to play. 15/16, our last ever visit to Brady, Gold and Sullivan’s state-backed retirement fund, brought an end to a six match winning streak and, had we won, we’d have gone top of the table with ten games left to play, level on points with Leicester (who had drawn that night) and seven goals superior. As we then dropped two points at home to Arsenal in the following game, this turned out to be the last genuine chance we had to go top that season, a gut-wrenching result which hurts me to look back on even more than lasagne-gate does, even though nothing was actually decided that day.
To counter-balance those three soul-sapping defeats away to the Spammers, I’ll just quickly mention Harry Kane slipping Eric Dier through to score that last-minute winner in Poch’s first ever competitive game in charge of us, Gareth Bale’s 89thminute screamer in 2013, and the sheer joy of Paul Stalteri popping up out of nowhere to tap Robert Green’s fumble into the back of the net to make it 4-3 to us having been 3-2 down with 89 minutes on the clock: If this fan-cam clip wasn’t quite so long, I could use it as a sound-track to make love to – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUyfb_5r_7o.
There. I feel a little bit better now. And all I’ll need to keep that happy glow through to the end of the weekend is for us to finish Saturday three points better off than we started, because, as much as I’d love for us to take them to cleaners (and as much as I believe we’re capable of doing so (though our injury / unavailable list is potentially worrying)) I’ll gladly take three scrappy points. With City up next in the Prem and the four league games following that looking tricky (Wolves and Palace away, Chelsea at ‘home’ and Arsenal away – not to mention decisive CL and Carabo Cup games dotted in and around them) dropping points this weekend and the effect that might have on morale ahead of the first PSV double-header could instigate the first truly disastrous run of league and cup results we’ve had to endure under Poch.
Though, of course, certain doom-mongers would say we’re already in the midst of a truly disastrous run of league and cup results as we’ve lost to every half-decent team we’ve faced so far this season and our performances have been utter dreck for as long as any self-respecting doom-monger would care to remember.
Personally – and obviously marking me out as a complete and utter dumb-dumb – I still think the United away result counts for something, especially given our previous record under Poch of simply turning up at Old Trafford with three points held out on a cheese-board. Other victories, such as Fulham at Wembley and Brighton and Huddersfield away, I’ve enjoyed watching – though none have been vintageTottenham, they’ve been pretty open games rather than bore-fests where the other team has relentlessly sat back and watched us do little more than witlessly pass the ball sideways across our back-line. Defeat-wise, we at least gave ourselves the ghost of a chance against Barca despite having several key-players missing. In the other three games we’ve lost, whether we deserved anything or not, we should have had a chance to draw level from the spot against the Dippers and, as already mentioned, somehow managed to get ourselves intowinning positions against Watford and Inter despite being well below par.
As for our most recent performance, against Cardiff, yes, it left a lot to be desired, but I think we played better against Cardiff than we did in last season’s 1-0 home win against Bournemouth in the equivalent round of matches, where an Eriksen goal in the 47th minute separated us from a Cherries side second bottom in the table, only two points better off than Colin’s Cardiff were this time around: On top of that, as painful as the Cardiff game was to sit through in real-time, the Match of The Day highlights showed it could have easily ended 5-2 had both teams taken their chances, proving we did at least create some chances (we were the ones who could have scored five, btw)...
And, as a final small straw of comfort for anyone else as desperate as I am for Spurs to wake themselves up and start proving the negatives wrong, we just happened to follow last season’s close-run thing against Bournemouth by dismantling the Dippers 4-1…
Should we repeat that sort of performance and score-line thisSaturday, though, let’s not any of us dumb-dumbs go getting over-excited: It’s only Wet Spam away, after all, so we still won’t have beaten anyone good.