Despite the fact we’ve now lost five of our last six Premier League matches and have only managed to beat Leeds, Sheffield United and West Brom in the league since beating Arsenal in early December, I just can’t seem to switch off the hope.
Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, we had a mammoth 70% possession against West Ham and 20 shots. In the second half especially, we actually looked like we knew how to attack, got a Dele sighting, and Bale probably had his best Premier League game for us since he returned to the club. It was good to see Reguilon back too.
If Bale’s screamer had flown in…
If Lanzini’s screamer had flown over…
If… if… if… if… if…
Probably best to sweep the fact only four of our shots were on target under the garish claret carpet that spans the vast empty spaces between the pitch and the stands at The London Stadium. Also best not to dwell on the fact that a man paid £15m a year to pick football sides put one together that featured a central defensive partnership of Dier and Sanchez. Does choosing Alderweireld and Dier – probably our least error prone pairing back there at the moment – for both our games against Wolfsberger indicate that he’s pretty much kissed top four goodbye?
I’ve got to admit I pretty much had kissed top four goodbye myself after the defeat against West Ham, but then you look at our next three league fixtures – Burnley, Fulham and Palace – and think there could actually be nine points there while West Ham and Chelsea have the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool to negotiate across those three games. In theory, given the patchy form of the other teams who also have realistic designs on fourth place, by the time we face Arsenal on 14th March, we could be right back in the mix.
I hope, in the end, the hope kills me quickly.
As for today’s opponents, we haven’t lost at home to Burnley since those long ago cup winning glory days of Keith Burkinshaw, getting tonked at home in the League Cup quarter finals in January 1983 following a November exit from the Cup Winners Cup against Bayern Munich and a few weeks ahead of finally losing our grip on the FA Cup in a 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park:
Don’t worry about the fact it was a long time ago. I’ve gone and found you some footage:
To counter that, we did have a strong finish to that season in the old First Division, eventually coming fourth and securing UEFA Cup football for the following season, and we all know how that ended up. This narrow win over Arsenal at The Lane helped us on our way:
For Burnley’s last win over us in the league in North London, you have to go all the way back to 1974/75 and a 2-3 reverse in Terry Neill’s unhappy spell in charge of the club. They did us the season before that by the same scoreline in Bill Nicholson’s last season.
They got a right good tonking the last time they visited, though, with Son securing himself the Puskas Award for the best goal of the last twelve months for his sensational slaloming run.
It was Son on the mark again when we did them at theirs earlier this season, though we made a bit of a grind of that game, our first since the madness of 3-3 V West Ham as we shut up shop and began our snoozefest towards the top of the table.
Our results might have dropped off the proverbial cliff in the league since then, but the games against Wolfsberger were a good watch and there have been signs against West Brom and West Ham that there’s life left in this squad yet. The papers might be doing their best to sell off Kane to Man City and this might have been the hardest season to get through since the days of Sherwood, but all we can do is watch what’s served up before us, and a game against a team who sit beneath our current watermark of Leeds United and have only won once in six games – especially if our own team features Bale and Dele and Son and Kane with Ndombele roaming around somewhere behind them – could actually be a good watch.
Come on you Spurs!