I love football. I also unequivocally hate the old bag. I was deeply philosophical on Sunday evening. I tend to be because I always believe. It's not blind faith, I'm happy to accept if something wrong is staring straight back at me. I think I'm balanced most of the time and yes I retain a certain degree of positivity. I'd rather that then be permanently pessimistic feasting on the negatives. Best to be weighing it all up with ample objectivity.
We all like to latch onto stereotypes about our fragile seasoned mentally and reference a variety of 'typical Tottenham' punchlines when we Spurs it up because it's quite hard to dust off twenty years of deep-rooted psychological issues and our prior soft backbone and spine. So today, am I still lost in more whimsical deflection or have I managed to anger up the blood enough to allow the home truths to spit their venom as I stand and accept it?
I'm probably somewhere between acceptance and despondency. I won't ramble on, I'll just throw my thoughts at this blog and hopefully make some sense of it all. Whether you make any sense of it isn't down to me. Your way of processing a Tottenham defeat will be different to mine.
Firstly, football irony. Worth noting how eloquent it is when it wishes to stand next to Spurs. And by eloquent I mean like a Rhinoceros smashing through your door and sh*ting on your living room floor. Irony is something you can only love when it works in your favour. It is bitterly cruel when it gatecrashes your party and ruins everything. Its lack of subtly beautifully orchestrated to mock us to its full extent of its cruel endeavour.
We we're 12 games unbeaten (a Spurs record in the Prem). Gareth Bale was is sensational form. The team, placing aside the Bale hyperbole, we're impressive with their compact application of Andre Villas-Boas tactics. Everyone working for each other and working to allow Bale the freedom to destroy. Our belief and desire to keep on going, to not look back and to always look forward was unrelenting. Spurs, a side in form and strong and forceful with each game.
We got past Lyon. We beat West Ham. We beat Arsenal. We beat Inter Milan.
Momentum was our lover.
Now at this point in time most - pundits, supporters, footballers, you lot - all of you would not have been thinking anything else but 'Oh God, Tottenham look like they've got this by the balls'. The thought of any type of blip was pushed aside because of our prior experiences with blips this season. We like to pick ourselves up when knocked down and start running again without a seconds pause.
The Liverpool game was, pretty much, a freak result in the way its conclusion was delivered. We had it by the balls and we balls it up. In control and lost it. Two glaring errors set us back. Okay, fine, cool...we all thought. There was a risk that tired legs/tired minds might be our undoing if anything was going to be our undoing. The fixture list has been brutal and the reality of our predicament through out this season is we've had to make do with the odd key player missing (excuses excuses) but more so the fact that we're possibly the weakest side in the top five in terms of strikers at our disposal.
But, testament to the players and the coach, we've not complained and we've got on with it. But still, it was disappointing to lose all three points at Anfield.
Now remember, before Anfield, remember that feeling of pride and glory in your heart?
Then came Inter Milan away. 3-0 up from the first leg. Extra time. Lost 4-1. Crept past them into the quarter finals on the away goal rule. Two massive headaches. One, the fact we allowed ourselves to be spanked. Two, the fact we allowed it to happen across 90 minutes and a further 30 minutes. Preparation for Fulham, not perfect.
There was the odd scratch of the head with selection and this and that about the high line and the defensive nature of our shape. Many questioned our coach that has - without the necessity for the spectacular - grafted us into a far more robust side this season. Off-day? Inter with nothing to lose and our players thinking we couldn't possibly lose? Villas-Boas made mistakes and the players we're prone to making their own.
Two defeats on the trot. Is that feeling of pride and glory pre-Anfield fading away?
Then Fulham at the Lane. The irony is now up to my neck at this point. There's three or four fat Rhinoceros parked up in my living room accompanied by an eye-watering stink. Fulham are rubbish away from home. They are rubbish at the Lane. We have the best record this season in derby games. We haven't lost for Christ knows how long at home (since November) and we've only lost three times in over four months of league football.
Three defeats on the trot. Two defeats on the trot in the league.
How's that pride and glory feeling doing now?
So what went wrong?
Honestly? We're knackered. It's no excuse, it should not be an excuse but I can't for the life of me explain it any other way. Are we going to throw it all away because we've exhausted our resources? No, I don't buy that for a second. Momentarily off-key perhaps. We need to pick up the pace again, and quick.
I'm going to hold onto my belief (delusion?) that this is also not a mental collapse. Why? Because I can't see how this side can suddenly switching off because of the pressures of the reality of claiming a top four place now entering the business end of the season where you need to be accountable or else you end up with nothing. Why would we suddenly be defaulting to choke-mode when we're a team with a variety of dimensions to our play? Or...well...we have been that team, for months now. Probably not quite that team against Fulham. We're a bit knackered but more so, we didn't quite play to our standards on Sunday.
The formation, the tactics. It didn't quite work out. Not sure the effort and desire quite matched up to Villas-Boas post-match analysis, but he's always going to retain some degree of positivity in what was a hurtful loss. There was rotation (with Walker rested). Defoe was benched. Bale returned but lacked that cutting edge impetus (possibly thanks to a knock he picked up early on in the game). Siggy found himself out wide on the right and uncomfortable on his weaker foot. Dembele back in the centre of the park, but was hassled and overwhelmed for most of the game (then subbed) with Parker incapable of calming the ball to feet and retaining possession. The left hand side of the team (Verts and Benny) failed to spark up any assured influence down the flank. Adebayor was busy (more so than usual) but not where it mattered most - in front of goal. Defoe came on and had chances. It was ominous from start to finish.
We might have snatched a point out of it. Yet still, the performance was not half as bad as it felt at the final whistle. Again, the expectancy plays a massive part in exaggerating the disappoint. Not that it needed any help. This isn't making any sense is it? What I mean is, we haven't suddenly turned to ****. It was an average day out and the true disappointment is that we couldn't quite graft and craft something out of it.
If Liverpool was a fluke and Inter was a reminder that complacency is an evil best avoided then Fulham was a telling sign that we're in need of a desperate reboot and some rejuvenation.
This is not a team that is suddenly incapable of desiring what they've been chasing all season long. We haven't suddenly switched off or bottled it or have become poor over-night. The perception that a week or so back had us flying in the heavens can't suddenly be dismissed and replaced with what sits at the other end of the spectrum. Because if you believe what you just witnessed is somehow the real Spurs or the consequence of 'lack of depth' or the Europa League run...then it means your perception in the first place was wrong and we've never really been capable of sustaining this run of form.
That feeling of pride and glory before Liverpool was real. Plenty thought our blip would come before Liverpool, at West Ham and against Arsenal. Seems, once again, we're not going to make it easy on ourselves.
The blip *is* the Fulham game. Not in isolation but as part of the entirety of the season to the point we find ourselves at right now. This defeat was on the cards because of what happened in the lead up to it. We just refused to see it coming. Andre Villas-Boas might suggest we're not tired but this performance looked to be the perfect illustration of weary minds and lost physicality. I said earlier he is still prone to the odd mistake or bout of stubbornness and tactically (and selection wise) it's been erratic in the past couple of games. This learning curve isn't as plain sailing as we would have hoped for. But if you placed your trust in him when we we're in the midst of that unbeaten run, then you should place your trust in him now.
I can't believe I'm saying this but thank God for the International break. Lennon and Dawson have pulled out of the England squad. I hope the rest don't play and return safely home. We've got two weeks rest after playing five games in fifteen days. Boo-hoo that's football at the top. We're fitter than we we're last season but we're still human and we've finally lost our grip on momentum. But she hasn't faded away yet. Her hand is there, waiting for us to reach out.
Reboot and rejuvenate.
Our new founded predicament is simply this - there is no more room for error or for any further excuses. If we falter again then questions will need to be asked and answered. Even with injuries/lack of depth/whatever, it feels weak that this would explain away any sudden loss of form in a prolonged manner. We do like to bounce back, so one last time Tottenham...bounce back please.
Thirteen days until we play again. Swansea away. Basel and dreams of Amsterdam might offer an unnecessary distraction or the continued journey towards silverware depending on what you perceive as a priority. We'll have Everton, Chelsea and City before April is over, with Wigan squeezed in at the end. Hardly the most inviting fixture list of the sides fighting for Champions League. It's daunting. Our home games should provide us with maximum points, so the Fulham defeat is the reason it hurts as much as it does.
Once again, we do not do things the easy way. We're not wired up to do things any differently to what you're experiencing at the moment. But we have to try and change that. Hoped it wouldn't go to the wire, looks like it will.
Momentum is now accompanied with the unavoidable requirement for monumental effort in all our remaining games that must see us keep ahead of the sides behind us and push up towards the sides above us.
This break might actually be our saviour when a week or so back you would have bemoaned its arrival.
I rambled. I always do. It's therapy. Spurs are hardly bipolar. Plenty watching are. And yes, that is a direct dig at those at WHL that select when and when not to support or wait for others to support for them.
Leave comments below, knock yourselves out. Pick yourselves up. It's what we do. It's what Tottenham do. The moment you stop believing is the moment you stop supporting.