Well, there’s little more to love in this life than a late Tottenham come-back victory: West Ham at The Lane and Harry Kane; West Ham at The Boleyn and Paul Stalteri; Arsenal at The Lane and Kane’s 86th minute header; Arsenal at The Emirates and Kaboul’s 86th minute header…
… Winks at the death against Fulham…
… trailing to an eleventh minute Routledge goal away to Swansea in April 17 as we tried to apply pressure to Chelsea, still trailing 77 minutes later, 1-3 winners within the next six…
Good old Tottenham Hotspur. Bottlers supreme.
Our next game following that storming finish against Swansea just happened to be against Watford at The Lane. A Spurs team with Trippier and Davies in a flat back four and Vincent Janssen up front strolled to a four-nil victory, already three-nil up at half-time. These were the days of prime-time Moussa Dembele, a fully intact Eric Dier, and not all that much else materially different in our line-up or bench; the halcyon days when opposing managers would make post-match comments about their teams being suffocated; you know, the sort of comments we don’t seem to hear all that much anymore.
That particular lunch-time, our stats were 58.7% possession, 6 of 19 shots on target, 501 passes, 7 corners, and we allowed Watford 8 shots in 90 minutes, 2 of which were on target.
On Wednesday, our stats were 69% possession, 3 of 17 shots on target, 588 passes, 9 corners, and we allowed Watford 9 shots in 90 minutes, 1 of which was on target.
Other than the nature of our victory, those stats don’t seem too dissimilar to me, which just enhances the fact that it really is a funny old game, because Wednesday was no stroll in the park the way the 16/17 game was. Even before the two late goals, though, I was enjoying the game and felt our performance was much more dominant than I’d expected given the two cup games we’d lost, the injuries we had, and the fact Watford are now in their fourth consecutive premier league season rather than trying to avoid second-season syndrome. We didn’t swarm all over them in the opening exchanges, but we definitely busied them, and although there were a couple of scares ahead of Cathcart putting them ahead in the 38th minute, I really didn’t feel we deserved to go into the break trailing one-nil, and, given they only had that one shot on target, they obviously didn’t trouble Hugo again.
And with the goal they scored, Hugo really, really, really should have done better.
The second-half reaction was pleasing, though: There was Llorente’s knee miss, a definite penalty waved away, the scramble which led to Llorente heading a presentable chance up and over the bar, a lot of patient probing, and, of course, our two late goals. Whether we deserved to run out easy winners or not, on a different day, had we taken our chances and defended that one sloppy corner, the result could also have ended four-nil.
It was also nice to be the only team in the top three to take all three points and not throw away an early lead. Good old Tottenham Hotspur. Bottlers supreme. No stadium. No signings in two windows. A stat doing the rounds that Levy could double the wage of every single current player, sign seven new ones at £100k a week, and still have a smaller wage-bill than City.
And we’re somehow nine points better off than we were at this stage last season, and ten points better off than we were in comparative games.
I genuinely don’t know what’s behind the lack of transfers and if it’s down to a calm assessment of our needs and the market’s availability or connected to the stadium delay and out of control debt. I only know, if we win against Newcastle Saturday lunchtime, we’ll temporarily go second in the league.
If it wasn’t for that away defeat to Watford and that home defeat to Wolves, a win against Newcastle on Saturday would have put us temporarily two points clear at the top of the league.
Even if you’re dumb-dumb enough not to be worried by the lack of first-team investment, the ever-spiraling cost of the stadium, the ever-shrinking size of our squad, best not to get too carried away, though. Thanks to this week’s unexpected set of results, our next three opponents have, between them, just beaten City at home, held Liverpool at Anfield, and thrown away a two-nil lead to draw away at Old Trafford.
And, of course, we still have to travel to Bournemouth, who have just decimated potential Carabo Cup champs Chelsea.
It’s finally turning into yet another season where anything can happen.
So, as I just said, best not to get too carried away.
Ah, screw it. Let’s all get carried away. Like our title challenge between the Everton and Wolves games, it might only be temporary and who knows when we’ll get to do it again?
Besides, we could be about to go second with the two teams directly beneath us facing each other the following day…
No, no, no. Let’s not get carried away. We’re Tottenham Hotspur. Bottlers supreme. It’s nailed on we’re going to lose or draw against Newcastle.
But, then, if we really were bottlers supreme, we would have lost or drawn this fixture last season: Our penultimate league game, the Wednesday after a last minute defeat to West Brom, we were suddenly cast as the least favourite horse in a three-horse-race with Liverpool and Chelsea to decide third to fifth: Liverpool, who had just been beaten by Chelsea, were on 72 points but had played a game more, Chelsea were on 69 points but facing a home-banker V Huddersfield (who they face this Saturday, funnily enough), and we were on 71 points, with nothing but ‘home’ slip-ups against Newcastle and Leicester between us and our destined return to the Ropey.
Chelsea drew against Huddersfield. We won against Newcastle.
Then Chelsea went up to Newcastle for their last game of the season and lost three-nil to come fifth.
One point from Huddersfield at home and Newcastle away for the reigning champions to drop into the Ropey: FA Cup winners or not, can you imagine the unending references to ending a season like that if it had been us?
And yet it always seems to be us labelled bottlers by opposing fans and negative notspurs whenever the current top six are discussed.
Not that we’re strangers to last day defeats to Newcastle, of course, our five-one thumping on the last day of the third-in-a-two-horse-race season still a painful and vivid memory for us all.
What’s even more painful to me though is the fact Newcastle did the double over us that season, coming from behind to do us 2-1 at The Lane in December, the only time under Poch a relegated team have enjoyed a double over us.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a much more revealing stat than our excellent record under Poch against promoted teams, where we’ve taken 80 points from 87 to date: In Poch’s four full seasons with us, against teams who ended up Championship bound, we’ve only taken 57 from 72, with the season we finished second being the only one to return 18 points – two stats which seem screamingly connected to me.
This season, so far, we’ve played five matches against the teams presently propping up the rest of the league and are on target for our second clean-sweep.
We’ve yet to take any points from the other teams in the top-four, though.
Maintain the former and improve the latter – which doesn’t seem quite so daunting following Liverpool and City’s midweek results – and this season could yet turn out to be the stuff of our dreams.