Considering how the results went over the weekend, plenty of people are suggesting this evenings game at home to Villa is a 'big one'. It's imperative we win, they say. It's the ilk of game that transcends the football played physically and reaches out to the psychological aspect that can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing when you're expected to get the points or if what's going on around you beckons it. Sometimes we can choke a little or find ourselves the victims of a 'shock result'. Football blips don't need a written invitation. They tend to gate-crash if you leave the front door unattended.
Regardless of who is beating who at the moment, I think everyone can agree that the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal are not anywhere near the standard they played at during the dominant Sky Sports Top Four era. They sat (along with Utd) in a league of their own. When looking back to those seasons, you can more or less nod (grudgingly) that they were a class above which makes that bitter pill easier to swallow. You can't compete with seasoned CL clubs. At least you couldn't back then. As much as you would have hoped and wished for.
It's all degraded over the past few seasons for them and the rest (some, one in particular) of the chasing pack have caught up (level pegging?) and to be honest, there is no apparent hierarchy of who is better than who at this moment in time. Blagging rights firmly placed aside. Arguably last season, this season and the next will go quite some way to defining a new potential 'top four' (either that, or 2/3 clubs will take it in turns to share CL with the Manc sides).
Don't mock me or abuse me, but I'm glad Arsenal have remained plucky (be it dependent on a certain forward) and continue to look back up towards the upper tier of the Prem. Even if the reality is they are not a patch on the past, sometimes that belief factor can aid you in the right direction even if you're punching above your weight. Chelsea have the look of a side that needs to be stripped of the legacy left behind by Jose and start afresh (more likely to sack and replace their coach rather than giving him an opportunity to rebuild). Liverpool are hardly spectacular. They resemble some of the hard working Everton sides of recent years that attempted to puncture the Top Four.
If everyone around us is in transition, we're the ones that have continued to progress, retaining our good looks with no need for re-constructive surgery. The pressure is on us. But expectancy should not be feared. It should be the fuel that rockets us into the heavens. Smile please Tottenham, let's see those brilliant white teeth.
All the aforementioned clubs can stake a claim for 3rd spot as their target for this season. Opposition fans can still go about pretending time has stood still and it's the mid-00s, but best left to leave them alone with their delusions. They will work through their stages of denial in time. But that doesn't mean they can't turn it all upside down by reclaiming some of that supposedly dead status quo ante.
Whether you believe we have the best squad or not, it wont matter much on paper if the results on the pitch are failing to match our aspirations. When you look back at 2010, we had to dig deep as underdogs. It's different today. We are contenders. Perhaps we need to still find that authoritative cutting edge to boss games and see games out without drama in our pen area. Just to make the ride that little bit more comfortable and thus ease the pressure. The Tottenham way is always the hard way. But if we are genuine contenders, then it shouldn't be half as difficult as we are capable of making it.
I think most would agree any which way this evening will do as long as we win. I still want us to lay down that marker we continue to grip in our hand. A lucky win or one that requires grit is the same three points as one that is fluid and controlled...but I much prefer the latter.
Love the shirt.