Hello. I’m Tottenham Hotspur. You might remember me from such classics as ‘Comolli doesn’t live here anymore’, ‘Tommy Huddlestone’s neck is missing’, ‘The Crosstrabulous Flaptraption of Heurelho da Silva Gomes’ and ‘Dial R for Ramosnessness’.
Today I’m here to present to you how to win a game of football when attempting to do your very best to lose it. In order to produce this paradox you first need to set the foundations. Then build on it. Then take a step back to watch it crumble. But don't fret. It’s all just an illusion, an elaborate plan to trick. The Prestige being that the false sense of security is nothing but a trapdoor for the unsuspecting opposition.
Do not mistake this for anything less than it is; an art form.
Part I – The Classic away game performance (45 minute version)
A false sense of security
Away from home at a ground where league wins are rare (one since 2002), there is no shame in playing a game of containment. Onus is always on the home side to take the initiative. Start the game with assured confidence, movement and patience. Counter attack with intent and be clinical with chances presented.
With the possibility of claiming another win and thus 22 from 24 points, go into the break 2-0 up practically cementing continuation of good form. Do so with devastating elegance. For example:
1-0 Delicious cross field pass from a forward (Ade) in a deep position, into space for marauding right-back (Walker) to run onto, beat a player and cut back to a winger (Lennon) who then plays a tantalising ball across the penalty area to be smashed in (Bale) via a defenders body. Punishing.
2-0 Sublime flick from winger (Bale) to winger (Lennon) sharing flank and space, who proceeds to dazzle and dink into the penalty area finishing superbly. What a fantastic run.
Go into the interval with the knowledge that similar control of the second half in terms of patience and composed work ethic will head towards a killer third goal and potentially a comfortable win. If the home side step it up a notch, then a two goal cushion leans towards a tactical sacrifice and the possible substitution of Sandro on so that the midfield is armed and equipped to battle.
Is that the much maligned wingers-swapping-wings ideology that Redknapp has been scorned for? Not quite. Inter-changing is altogether a different beast and it appears to have awakened the sleeping giant in the small frame of Aaron Lennon. He might spend parts of the game on the outside looking in, but when he comes alive he produces assists/goals. Ade, the non-scoring forward, an almost false position on the pitch, coming deep to collect the ball. Parker, the engine that continues to drive us forward. Luka effective in silent mode helping out offensively and defensively. Only downside is Rafa who left his magic boots at home.
Part II – Doing the exact opposite of what is required to preserve the lead
The ‘second-half lapse’ to avoid at all costs
Conceding an opposition goal just after the half re-starts or within 10 minutes must be avoided.
Opening 10 minutes of second-half
Opposition fail to score a goal early in the second half. We score it for them. i.e. With all the shot-stopping and defence splitting passes, when we do concede always make sure it’s a goal birthed from a mistake. The more untidy, the better.
Begin process of regression
The one trait missing from the THFC genetic make-up is bossing a game out. That’s either home or away, when the opposition are plucky or fired-up from a position of defeat. Retain possession, adapt in midfield to counter any problems that a renewed home side might present. Do not sit back and soak up pressure like a sponge the size of North London.
Soak up pressure like a sponge the size of North London.
Continue to allow home side to attack with little reply. Ask your forty year old goalkeeper to move about a bit between the sticks. Pray. Lose your composure and allow the home side to rain down on goal with shots on target. Surrender possession in the absence of blindfolds.
When making the first substitution do not bring on Sandro. When making the second substitution wait until the supporters have chewed through their nails and have bitten into their flesh and have teeth touch bone, then bring on Sandro.
Beckon the equaliser
Contentious handball incident + a goalmouth scramble, all good ways to ruin your day. But continue to defy the inevitable by having one of the smallest men on the pitch clear off the line.
Part III – Pull the panties off Lady Luck with your teeth, then give her a cheeky love bite
Winning by doing as little as possible to win, except score again and not concede which happens to be the two things you need to do to win
As Fulham perceiver with their attempted redemption having been out-thought in the first half by dominating the second, allow another example of this brave new Spurs world to shine through. Counter and score, but make sure it’s deflected in just for good ironic measure. A gentle reminder to the hosts that if you’re:
a) Not going to take your chances
b) Fail to capitalise on retaining pressure in the midfield (and suffocate us from regaining any foothold in midfield)
c) Make substitutions that were not required
d) Have 31 shots on goal compared to nine
You’re going to get bitch slapped for your lack of bastardality. In addition, dry your eyes out if one of our players hugs the ball when earlier one of your players pushed one of ours to the ground.
Win the game 3-1 even with your manager not present to prove he can win games without even turning up. He might have hair but we don’t care, Harry Harry Redknapp.
Part IV – Post-match rhetoric and analysis
The cliché that the Spurs of old would have lost this should be mentioned, preferably a dozen times in conversation post-match per supporter. Spurs have moved on from that particular revision to one with a far more vibrant template for success. We still don’t boss games we should be bossing but winning ugly or when sustaining constant pressure...these are the ilk of games that other teams end up losing and only a few ever get to win. That Spurs team of old, for example would have been far more prone to a capitulation with a sorry air of familiarly and apologetic head shaking.
So when you add the deserved wins with the undeserved wins you continue to redefine the template to prove that if you win, regardless of the manner, you deserve it (unless you cheated). Lucky points equate to a knack of being able to survive when most expect to see you roll over and die. But then how lucky do you have to be to score three goals away from home? Lucky Efficient Tottenham.
It might not tell us much when it happens in isolation but if it forms part of a renewed attitude in the midst of a run of undefeated performances, then embrace it. Winners win even when they’re not meant to. Do it regularly and it becomes second nature. Dare I say you will the win towards your chest and out of the reach of the opposing side.
Allowing the opposition to pass the ball and pressure is just dandy when you are solid at the back but not so much when you are not and still continue to invite them forward time and time again. Shape might have been lost, questions relating to player conditioning (physically and mentally) and lack of deceive astuteness of required shrewd tactical changes still remain answered. But the momentum survives intact and belief further consolidated even if we rode our luck thanks to spirit and fortitude.
Roll with the punches.
I am Tottenham. Three league defeats since April.
I am Tottenham. Gritty.
I am Tottenham. The easy way is no fun.
I am Tottenham. I have gone through puberty. I’ve grown a forest of hair and have now shaved my balls and studded my cock.
Hard even when limp. You don’t want me in your face.
That's how to survive 90 minutes and come out on top. Remember, don’t try this at home. Unless you’re playing newly promoted sides and want to prove your fertility for point accumulation.