They can't stop winning. We're running out of time to reclaim momentum. So who's in a negative spiral now? Look beyond the present and the answer isn't the obvious one that is currently messing with your mind set.
Arsenal go through the entire season deluding themselves with grand expectations and when they face the seasoned fact they won't be winning silverware or contending for the title they slumber and panic before waking up in time to make sure they regain the initiate for CL contention. It's almost like the self doubt is flipped over from misery to joy, a source of refined energy that burns for a short time but burns long enough to fuel them to the seasons conclusion with a smile on their faces.
From our perspective, we make them look good. Go back ten years, as much as it will pain you, there is little doubt you'll have taken a fair few of their players if given the choice. These days, pound for pound, there is very little if anything I would consider taking. Aside from the good fortune and seasoned experience which is definitely not part of any delusional tendencies.
As for us, we haven't choked. Or mentally collapsed (I wrote about this last week). However for the sake of continuation I'll follow the thread that this is a repeat of last season even though the problems we have this term are not the same as the ones under Redknapp. The continuation, the trend, is that it was in our hands in 2012 and it was in our hands again for most of this season.
It's in our hands and we place it down and forget where it is and before we remember and return to pick it up, they've stolen in to take it. You can't dig at anyone who dares to steal in. Our own fragilities to blame for allowing it to happen in the first place. Keeping it philosophical, if you lose it you might not fully deserve to have had it in the first place. Arguably, we could be the ones deluding ourselves for not retaining the expectancy of early season (few predicted top four, much like the start of last season) and instead allowing the ever so slight mirage to mask the cold hard truths of reality. The mirage pushing that expectancy to the highest of heights, the cold hard truth reminding us it still remains a task far more difficult than it appears to be on the surface. The real enemy is within and not across the border.
Then again, aiming high is what we do. It's what got us out of mid-table mediocrity.
So are we guilty of a different type of delusion to the one our neighbours harbour? I'll answer that later. Firstly, back to them lot. Their fans have regained their voice once more. The same set of fans who will roll out the same set of sound-bites about it 'being easy' and 'expected' are the same set of fans not turning up to games when they're losing them. The same set of fans placing black bin bags on empty seats. The same set of fans that want to see the man who created their clubs modern indenity replaced because he's 'lost it'. The very same set of fans that are now calling Wenger a genius for inspiring them to regain the driving seat for CL qualification...again. Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat as his encore, an illusion, but one that helps pay the bills and as long as someone's applauding, they'll pay to see it again.
And what is that exactly? What is the applause for? Qualification for another competition you're unlikely to ever win? To be fair, it's several days home and away against the elite of Europe. It's the highest level of club football. It's nothing to be scoffed at in its purest form (ignoring the financial side, UEFA appeasing all competitors by moulding the Europa League into a parachute payment scheme for those that get knocked out in the group stages). For us it would be the potential for Glory Glory nights against famous clubs and famous names. For everyone else (aside from the minority expected to seriously challenge for it), it would pretty much be the same. Hate modern football but don't hate on trips to Barca or Milan or Munich.
Back with feet on the ground with the heavens looking down on you it amounts to pretty much nothing in tangible terms for most competing in it, aside from those financial benefits and those glory glory moments. Yes, on occasions a plucky dark horse surprises all and lifts the cup. For the most part, it's usually telegraphed. For them lot down the road, it's now simply a badge of honour. They've never won it. They got to one final, but aside from that they are out classed season in and season out when it matters most. That's the true negative spiral.
A perpetual existence of believing that simply qualifying for a competition equates to success. Perhaps it is success. Because surely success is quantified and specific to the club in question and what they are truly capable of achieving. In their case the real treat is guaranteeing they will always edge above us, always maximise their revenue. Always retain the spotlight. But the overwhelming sense of frustration from within their stadium surely points to despondency. They know it's not enough. They know it's soulless. Which is why the race for 3rd/4th is suddenly important for them.
Those forgotten bragging rights are worth something when no shadows are cast in a trophy cabinet which once rendered the rights inconsequential, preferring to then flirt with a certain Mancunian team instead.
This is not to say we wouldn't be caught up in the same cycle if we attained consistent qualification. It's one that few will find disagreeable for all the obvious reasons. Plenty make up the numbers and anyone can take the mantle of the dark horse. But it shouldn't define you. But it does define them and it's defining us (and we're not even consistently in it - just the single cameo).
Yes, in 2010, the manner in which we fought and took 4th spot was in many many ways a glorious effort. So was the adventure with Europe's elite the following season. In fact, saviour one or two of them lot in the CL, most are likely to never forget that cameo of Tottenham shaking the competition to its foundations with iconic moments. You appreciate something more when it's rare rather than common. Wouldn't have been that uncommon had a certain other London club not won the trophy in Munich. Could have been a hat-trick if this seasons attempt is 4th or better. But none of it should be taken for granted.
Frustratingly, we're allowing them lot to embrace that powerful emotive of hope. No doubt they're be talking about title challenges next season until they'll balls it all up and turn it on again towards the end to re-start their perpetual cycle. Makes you wonder, what if Spurs had been the ones doing all the chasing all this time? What if we had been the ones just on the outside looking in rather than being X amount of points ahead. What would inspire them to wake up in that scenario? Would we have enough to keep on chasing till the very end?
The irony is not lost on any of us that we love to make it hard on ourselves. You can sit and debate the reasons, I'm happy to accept a fair few of them. Also more than comfortable with the fact that we've been on the up for several seasons but can't sustain the momentum across all 38 games. Yet. They've stood still for as long as I can remember. Yet their standing still proves they have a mental edge which for all our ambition, leaves us feeling numb. Not surprising considering their much maligned manager isn't half as out of touch as some of their own would have you believe when things are not going their way.
Them lot stagnating (which isn't really stagnating, it's who they are, just an ordinary side much like everyone else aside from Utd, a side as ordinary as Utd have been but genuinely have what it takes to win things making them extraordinary in application) still manages to provide their manager with a good enough platform to deliver the bare minimum. The bare minimum being something that isn't truly tangible, it's rationalised and only takes shape by comparison to others that give definition to that bare minimum. Ask yourself, if Spurs we're still mid-table, what would you make of Arsenal's drive to cementing a CL place? They'd just be an afterthought. A solitary perhaps trying to keep ahead of Everton. Hardly the same chest thumping excitement when you don't have North London locking horns.
(Just to clarify, by 'ordinary' I simply mean they are not extraordinary. Fair to say the Prem is not instilled with the ilk of quality - in the top four clubs - as possessed 5-10 years ago).
In x amount of years time nobody will remember who finishes 2nd or 3rd of 4th. Nobody. In fact, in the last eight years or so, what have Arsenal achieved that is memorable? Losers in cup finals? Finishing above Spurs?
Winning trophies is no longer deemed important compared to the almost unthinkable possibility of finishing outside the CL places. It's become acceptable, this false high, this 'chase for top four'. A competition within a competition to allow for more Super Sundays and sensationalistic headlines. It's the emperors new clothes. Their supporters aren't happy about it, but they retain a level of forgiveness and like so many other sets of supporters, pray that next season it all changes for the better. But it never does. Simply existing to compete against measures of success attributed to financial gain isn't football. It shouldn't be rationalised. I've been guilty of the latter. I might now be accused of rationalising only because we're lost the initiative. But this noise in my head, this alarm can't be shut off. It rings too loud and there's no snooze button. I can't fool myself any longer and pretend I'm still sleeping.
This, all of this, doesn't change a thing. Not finishing above them is still failure. The very fact that you can even consider it failure is testament to how mortal they are and how distinctively average we can be when the very capable opposite is required.
So are we deluded? Yes. Pretty much the same way Arsenal are. Both of us
bickering and fighting for scraps. Sure, both aim high, yet
both are miles off from truly flying in the heavens. Contending isn't fourth or third spot. If this is simply a transition for both clubs then we're second best until the final position states otherwise.
I've written several times about how CL can allow a side to progress. How competing for silverware is only possible if you take a share of the CL money pot. Attracting a certain calibre of player, coach - all of it is that bruising reality that has fragmented support and stretched those expectancies beyond the enjoyment threshold where the obsession is contained in the short term, bleeding out into the long term.
The only thing that matters is that we don't end up stagnating ourselves. As supporters and as a club. You'll immediately tell me 'well, in that case, we need CL'.
We need to embrace what it means to be Tottenham. We're not defined by Arsenal. Our identity was forged by the likes of Rowe and Nicholson and Blanchflower and Burkinshaw. Push and run '51 to double winners '61 to Gilzean headers to Greaves to the shirts tucked out boys of the 80s and the roller-coaster of the 90s. Our tradition has remained strong throughout all these decades. We lost our way a little but we've rediscovered form.
The game is about glory.
What is the point of having this dressed around White Hart Lane if we're simply going to ignore it? These are not just words. It's an ethos. Much like our Latin motto.
I'm comfortable with completely detaching myself from being told how to think and how to behave and how to react. It's not an easy thing to do. It might not even be possible. Perhaps there is where the true delusion festers. Everything that comes with glory and its pursuit, including CL football, will be a consequence of us deserving it because of what we've achieved on the field of play and not something we sacrifice the enjoyment of belonging to Tottenham for.
This doesn't, for a second, mean that I still don't find it utterly abhorrent that them lot sickeningly manage to keep lucking out. I am in no way attempting to side step or ignore what is happening/what might happen/what is probably going to happen.
However, I won't be partaking in an autopsy. There will be no post-mortem. I will never stop believing. I will never lose faith. I'll take the good with all the pain and heartbreak of the bad. Every negative you see as a failure, I see as another building block. I don't need to have my side be successful just so I can fill a void in my soul to proclaim I'm better than the next person because I desperately require the next person to notice me. The next person doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is the white and blue cockerel.
I hope I'm not alone. I hope there's an echo. There is always meant to be an echo.
No matter what our fate is, for every season for the rest of my life and yours, the game is about Tottenham and Tottenham is glory.