Never mind seagulls – we head to Brighton on Saturday with an albatross around our necks in the shape of our first three-match losing streak since the dark days of Dimwood.
Returning to happier times, though, the last time we headed to the Amex was five months ago, on 17th April. In the three games immediately preceding that one, we had finally won at Stamford Bridge – so were the best thing since sliced-bread – pipped a narrow squeak away to Stoke, then copped a pants down at home to City, proving that the round-earthers were right all along, and we never will thrive under Levy.
That run of results saw us third in the table after 33 games, two points behind Man U, three points ahead of the Dippers, and ten points ahead of Chelsea in the race for securing top-four.
For the football purist, though, the telling statistic is that we were twenty points behind Man City, and the seeds of that sorry state of affairs had perhaps already been sewn by this stage last season, where the equivalent round of fixtures saw us trailing the Cityzens by six points despite having just strolled into Stratford to beat West Ham 2-3. However, we were also six points behind Man U and two points behind Chelsea, proving it’s too early to say a gap can’t be narrowed or that an early pace-setter won’t fall away as Chelsea did under Conte.
This time around, of course, and we’re in a pretty similar position, though it’s Liverpool and Chelsea six points ahead rather than the Manchester clubs. And, of course, by the end of the weekend, we could be even further behind, because Brighton away won’t be easy, especially the way we’ve been playing: I caught most of their second half performance against Southampton on Monday and thought they were unlucky to be two-nil down. Even so, they stuck to their game-plan of attacking down the flanks and getting numbers in the box, and although I didn’t see the end of the game I wasn’t surprised to learn they equalised at the death.
Their other results have been patchy, however, losing to Watford and the Dippers away while beating Man U and drawing with Fulham at home, while, trawling back through last season’s results, if you ignore another routine win over Man U the week after we paid them a visit, they haven’t tasted a Prem victory at the Amex since Arsenal were overcome 2-1 on 4th March.
Last season, we ended up coming away with a 1-1 draw, with Kane scoring on 48 minutes following good work from Son and Pascal Gross equalising from the spot two minutes later following an Aurier trip. I remember watching the game but don’t remember much about it, except that on the blog I used to read back then (but was banned from contributing to) both the result and performance were taken as a sure sign we would get no points from our remaining four fixtures and drop out of the top four. Which, obviously, would serve Enic right and reveal Poch for the Levy-pet fraud that he is.
We actually won three of those games to finish third, although the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Man U which immediately followed the Brighton game soured that achievement and took the gloss off an otherwise excellent season, more in the limp manner of the defeat than the fact we had lost yet another FA Cup semi-final – plus it was yet another key game we lost after taking the lead.
This time around and, for some, we’re verging on crisis again, while, for others, we’re wallowing in it: No new stadium, no new signings, and no clue what Poch’s going on about with all his guff about cows. His substitutions on Tuesday didn’t make a lot of sense either. As far as I’m concerned, Watford could have been a blip but the performance against Liverpool was woeful, even though we should have been awarded a penalty at the death which would probably have seen us steal a point. I don’t feel that performance was entirely out of character for a Poch team, though, as I felt we hit similar lows away to both Arsenal and Leicester last November, a month in which we also narrowly beat Crystal Palace and drew 1-1 against West Brom at Wembley, all of which followed our 3-1 trouncing of Real Madrid.
This, for me, has been the most frustrating aspect of the Poch era (on the pitch, anyway): We seem to follow a great result such as the ones last season against Dippers and Madrid at home and Chelsea away or the recent win at Old Trafford with a run of shoddy performances which completely undo the milestone results. I don’t know if it’s squad size, form, formation, or a Hoddle-like smugness that sees players and management sit back on their laurels after doing something special, but it’s something that Poch’s going to have to find an answer to if he wants to take himself to the next level without having to jump ship to a club that has oodles of cash to cover up this flaw in his teams.
On Tuesday, in the second-half, and especially after our goal, I did feel there were signs we were playing ourselves back into some sort of form until Poch’s tactical changes handed the initiative back to Inter. On Saturday, no matter what formation and team he sends out, it would be nice to see a performance which shows some evidence of our pressing game, a return to form for Christian Eriksen, signs of life from Harry Kane, signs that we have a functioning central midfield, and an end to Poch’s worst ever run as Tottenham manger: The sort of performance, in short, his Spurs teams have been delivering for us more often than not.
But, it’s also got to be said, the sort of performance it feels we haven’t seen over ninety minutes in a while now from Tottenham.