Two games. Six points. Eight goals. Just the two (lapses) conceded. Four wins on the trot. Up to fourth spot (edit: at time of writing, now lowly 5th).
Merry Christmas. Happy new year. YOU CAN SMILE IF YOU WANT TO.
I guess we can put away our Poch Out hashtags now? At least until the next loss. Yeah sure, it was only Southampton (fell apart) and Watford (abysmal) but Spurs have produced football that flows with far superior fluidity than we've attempted to showcase in prior outings during our recent slump. There was a disparity between the statistics and the quality of football. We haven't been able to connect the dots with consistency. It's been scribbles rather than well crafted signatures. We were average, however now we're looking healthy again. The festive period has delivered. Oh what fun.
I said the last time I blogged that I wanted us to claim the points over the Xmas fixtures. The points (the results) being vital with keeping a firm grip on the top four. My thinking was that in all probability, winning these games might well equate to an upturn in performance (which is an indication towards more future victories). I'm happy to report this was the case - regardless of the opposing sides lack of competitiveness. I expect us to turn up, turn on and turn over teams that are below us. With no disrespect to any of them, I'd prefer we did this at a canter and not struggle with opportunities created. One of the seasons trends has been our lack of conviction. We hold onto the ball, we own possession in most games and also hit the ball towards the goal more than the other team. But it's never done so with the rhythmic stylings that would suggest we are bang on form. We're not looking too shabby now. Our mojo is slowly and surely returning.
We are playing with more zest. Ignoring the opening quarter of the Soton game, we looked bright and industrious and far more likely to score when pushing forward. Sure, the red card helped and you could even afford the luxury of laughter at the movement of the turf under Kane's foot for the missed penalty. Whereas in other games we have been clumsy and untidy when progressing into the final third, Spurs now have an air of confidence and direction. It's expressive and no longer congested. The movement, the intricate touches, the telepathic mannerisms - they have all returned. In small measures yes, but collectively across the side there is a distinguishable identity to what Mauricio Pochettino's side is attempting and fulfilling. It's about sharpness. It's about end product and no filler. Against Watford, we melted through them. It was practically exhibition in execution. You really can't ask for much more.
I knew we would. I knew we'd dig deep and reclaim the traits that fuel us towards the momentum we need to step it up another notch. We have shape and it's convincing, even if our last two opponents have lacked mettle. I feel like I have to keep mentioning this. What's vital is the ease of our wins (even if we started slow in both occasions). Against better opposition, there's a reflex to perform several levels higher because there's no way of surviving if you don't. With Soton, Watford...we did enough and enough was comfortable. If you don't excel and still win like this, it's a sign of stern stature.
The 352 worked a charm.
Toby Alderweireld returned. It's akin to Atlas holding the celestial spheres whilst the stars around him dance with glee. Kevin 'the media will have him loaned out again, this time next week' Wimmer slotted in well. Kieran tripped the light fantastic, with two exquisite assists. Harry Kane was ruthlessly clinical and aided Dele Alli's thirst for more of that tasty Spurs are quite decent kool-aid. The kid got a brace and was unlucky with an early thunderous effort that smacked off the woodwork. Son, always in positions of intent, not quite pulling the trigger, should have pistol whipped 'em. His finishing wasn't on point but his endeavour was relentless.
The tangible improvement of Christian Eriksen (ongoing for weeks) and our ability to craft passages of play that are both forceful and dangerous, all with instinctive interchanges...was delicious to watch. This is/was the missing factor. Making all that was easy seem like hard work is now appearing to be a more naturally reactive characteristic. Poch and his man-management, probably under appreciated by those that just stare blankly at the negatives and don't consider the mental and physical stretch required to muscle our way back into contention.
I never doubted it. The team isn't weak mentally. Class is permanent, right?
You don't suddenly forget to play and you'd be foolish to under-rate what we achieved (from a personal growth perspective) in the past couple of years. Statistically, we have accumulated more points/wins/scored more goals etc etc this time round. I'm not a fan of these comparisons but in this case it's telling. Looking at the table today, everybody that has been expected to contend has turned up. Perhaps not all in perfect nick, but still a class above the rest of the league. The fact that (a week or two back) sitting in sixth spot with the points we had was a record (for that stage in the season) suggests just how much more competitive the Prem is right now.
This isn't proof we had it easy when chasing Leicester meaning we are somehow over-rated and miles behind the traditional giants. None of this is easy. It's the Premier League. It's a battleground season in, season out. It has to be difficult for us if we seek to improve because not doing so makes you a redundant competitor. Attempting to win the title is monumentally tricky if there are other clubs in prime positions to kick on with it too. We've not done that since the 60s so let's not pretend this isn't an absolute bastard of a target to achieve.
Ideally, I'd rather not be this far behind top spot. Spurs have been tested and our inability to gain momentum during that lowly run of form was a self-contained conundrum. Another steep learning curve. Another necessity. It's not the enjoyable part of experiencing our attempts to mount a challenge but it's unavoidable. The run of poor results highlighted our weaknesses (i.e. not playing our best eleven can substantially impact our synergy). Yet without the slap in the face and the introspection, we'd never know how to work towards new solutions. Solutions to new problems that only arise because we're so much better now than two/three years ago.
Spurs regaining their mojo gives us back that foundation to see how we do when all those other sides (that failed to turn up last season) turn up. Two back to back 4-1 wins away is evidence of the relative comfort in brushing aside teams we are expected to beat. Even if we're the least fancied club in the upper echelons of this brand new chase. It was this time last season we started to get going. Chelsea at the Lane won't be easy but if there's a game our players are up for, it's this one. The affinity I feel for our players, the standard of their professionalism (as witnessed when we conceded the goal late on against Watford) is the benchmark. They looked dejected with the hosts consolation goal, bundled in after a brilliant Hugo Lloris save to initially keep it out. That dejection was shared. It almost ruined my day.
Four nil up and letting them have one left me tasting bitterness. This is the new emotion that's replaced the 'Spurs have lost' feeling that dominated most of my 1990s existence. Conceding a single goal. I love our players. I love that they get it, that they want what we want. Don't read this in a joyous voice thinking I'm drowning in emotive superlatives for my team (having beaten a very sorry side), all happy-clappy and delirious. I'm still grounded but I ain't surprised. We have quality in abundance and we've only just started to display it again - and it's still nowhere near the bullish brilliance of peak Tottenham.
Do you think the way we played last season isn't enough for this one? I'd say it's more than enough to give it another go and the lessons learnt means we'll have a new robust dimension to our mentality. We'll never forget Stamford Bridge and the infamous brutality of the performance and result. Whether we have enough guile and creativity to edge ahead this time...well, perhaps we still have a way to go. Pound for pound we truly can't be expected to match up with the clubs favoured for the title if they are firing on all cylinders. Money dictates so. Yet here we are considering it because football doesn't always follow the approved script.
Beating Chelsea and doing so convincingly might well be the moment everything clicks back into place. If we don't, it changes very little. No matter what, the next month is defining and there's no hiding away. This feeling of pressure, every game a six-pointer...it's what Spurs gave us last season and it's what I want again. We have to be involved, it produces the building blocks of belief. It keeps everyone immersed and ultimately sets a goal, an ambition we can all aspire towards.
The next six league games.
Come back to us completely Tottenham, with all your might.