Hello. Welcome back from the abyss of the international break. Happy three point weekend to one and all. It's been a decent couple of days to be fair. Most of the results went our way. The continued implosion of a fanbase down the road in the swamp continues to provide comedic entertainment. Fights in the stands, fights outside the ground. Widespread chaos. Arsenal fans with no real identity fighting each other over the identity Wenger gave them because they no longer want it. Insecurities showcased for the world to laugh at. I'm sure there are some genuine supporters in amongst the fame hungry dropping bluds and fams for the fan tv cameras but, well, you know...f**k 'em all. Their game against City was turgid, I found myself got distracted with the potential that they could actually beat them in the semi-final. I also got distracted by the unavoidable tradition that it doesn't matter how bad they are, they only have to wait for us to slump. Because, well, you know...f**king history.
Still, they appear to be disjointed and broken, a reflection of their supporters and their manager. Spurs fans have a lot more class when fighting each other. We do it online, primed with Google Maps, Linkedin, indirects and with the caps lock on, shouting down people to delete tweets like big bad gangsters. One bloke threatened to get his solicitor because someone called him a nonce. Now that's top tier right there.
I'm probably reading way too much casual psychology into their (the scum) goal celebrations but the first was nigh apologetic and their second a desperate exaggeration. They don't strike me as a set of players that want to win for their guvnor. I'd seriously consider cutting the word cursed onto my chest if they...if we finished below them. I don't think the contract extension Wenger would get could help in the slightest to numb my pain.
Them lot provided the banter but thankfully Spurs delivered the hope. You know, the type that kills. The only type we accept as supporters of this greatly punished club. They do pantomime, we do Greek tragedy. Don't fret, I'm not about to get a violin out. I just hate football as much as I love it thanks to the fact that this season and the last we have arguably been the (one of the) best teams in the land. Emphasis on 'team'. That's TEAM. A band of brothers, all fighting for each other and for the supporters. We've also had our own fair share of wobbles and internal scuffles in the recent past. Both in the dressing room and in the stands. That magnificent hunk of a pudding of a coach Mauricio Pochettino has been our saver. Or rather the first manager in a lifetime to implement the very fundamentals we've lacked in abundance during our years in the wilderness. That includes pride and a winning mentality.
Tottenham have a mental tenacity now that is our backbone and foundation to build upon. A benchmark. You know this tune, I whistle it every few weeks. As cruel and bitter as last season was, it was perhaps a learning curve that will serve us right for the future. Of course, not to underplay the evolution, it's worth citing it started under Martin Jol and continued with Harry Redknapp. We had something under AVB too (in spurts). A dribble. You don't really want me to mention Tim, do you? Spurs fans fighting each other in the away end? Sshh. Best not. Let's move along.
Poch along with Hotspur Way becoming so prevalent in developing youth has been a match made in heaven. It's been, what, three seasons? Got rid of the bad eggs, reinvented one or two players and along with some fantastical accidental hero moments...we are here. On the cusp. That thin line between an echo and true glory. Bit more polished required with the transfer windows. Less 'players for the future we'll end up loaning out' and more proven talent. Not easy though, is it. Not for us.
It's been an astonishing season for injuries too. Spurs Stat Man on Twitter informed us of this nugget during the post-Burnley win timeline:
"Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Rose have started together in just five out of 29 Premier League games this season"
We often bemoan our bench yet we seem to have strength in depth. Or perhaps we have strength in our manager. Two things scream out a 'what if?'...
What if we didn't suffer so many injuries? Every club could probably argue the same fantasy. I'd say we have plenty of key players but let's face it, all our first eleven are key. Even though we've got through some hard rough patches you have to wonder 'what if?'...
What if we had better quality off the bench? My often repeated complaint is that we don't. We've made some underwhelming transfer acquisitions for sure. Add to it a slow start to the season and that more or less rewards our rivals above us a seven point advantage (although their real advantage was no European football and world class players plucked from all over the place). Fortress WHL has given us the chase once more. All those draws away have punctured the potential for a party.
Can we catch them? The criminally good Chelsea? I'm going to believe we can only because it makes the entire experience one worth living. Even if it runs the risk of more torment. It's still theirs to lose much like last seasons dramatics. Let's be honest, they were unlucky not to beat a resilient Palace (a team I'm not looking forward to facing). It's highly unlikely they'll lose enough games to make the impossible happen and we all know everybody loves to turn up against us. It's just a mathematical illusion, teasing and mocking us into thinking about it. I'm easy like that. I can't look away. Technically, the double is still on.
In all likelihood, our game against Leicester will turn out to be another decider (lose and Conte's team win the league) because football is a cruel sonofabitch that loves synchronicity .
No matter what, we just have to consider that we still have the momentum. Last year, this year..the next, we have something special and time will keep pushing against us. I want to see this team win silverware so that they (this squad) are forever fabled in memory. Get rid of that nearly men tag, that perpetual burden of the almost achieving stigma. We're up against it. The money teams around us will always have the advantage. Not to p*ss on the parade, but you know how loyalty and ambition works in football. Players, it only takes one or two, might start looking elsewhere. Not for Champs League but for tax free wages. The biggest risk to everything is losing our manager. Okay, so I'm getting a little emotive here, so just imagine me on my knees in the pouring rain during a thunderstorm looking up at the heavens screaming at the Gods, demanding to know "Why us? Why always us? Let us have nice things, damn you!"
As for Burnley away, here's some quick fire snapshot insight:
Winks injury - Harry could be out for the season, looked nasty, ligament damage. Having his composed, controlled influence has proven to be vital for us at times. Possibly the most refined from the bench. Typical luck that he gets stretched off after starting the game.
Victor off - Apparently precautionary and should be fine. Although Eric Dier can slot back into midfield if need be and do so with relative comfort. It's easy to forget that's his prime position. Big Vic, the best defensive midfielder in the country that you don't know about if you support anyone other than Spurs and drink the Kante kool-aid. Mousa provide us with possession when he was subbed on, which meant more space creation...so we don't lack options, even if we appear to be running out of them, one game at a time.
Sissoko's touch - It's so bad that a bag of cement could trap another bag of cement with more comfort than he displays trying to control a ball.
Janssen's ethic - Again, does all the grafting but plays like a foil to a striker rather than the leading man. Still feel that he needs to put his boot laces through the ball, score a proper thunderbastard. Strikers need to be instinctive. He does little wrong in build up, he's just not a second striker. Then again, we don't need one when we have Son and Dele providing the goals*.
*We still need one.
Dele Alli and the sitters - Considering his stats are pretty incredible, I think we can let him off for the occasional misfire. Dele tends to pass the ball into the net when he's in full control of the move and shot. Bit more composure and he'll be perfect in those more frantic moments inside the box. Nobody's perfect, right? Could be a lot worse, he could be scoring a ton of pens and deflected long rangers.
An Eric Dier goal - Good to see. He's been under the radar, sacrificing himself in the back-line so nice for him to claim the headlines with an easy but well placed finish. The exemplary professional.
Alli assist to Son - Delicious. Can you believe some fools don't rate him? Probably just for the clicks, but you know what they say...You can wake a person that is asleep but not wake a person that is pretending to sleep. Watch his movement, you know, if you class football as something more than goals scored from foot of X player.
edit: Had something in my notes to mention the majestic mugging inflicted on Joey Barton from bullish Christian Eriksen, to start the move for Son's goal. This is the belated mention. Eriksen, the nucleus of all central creativity, dishing out the physical before releasing with vision. He's fantastic and under-rated by those that prefer to be dazzled with bigger names at other clubs.
No classical wing backs, back four - Our wing-back system is pivotal. Davies and Trip hardly got forward with full pelt powers. We also had to reshape thanks to the injuries, but I enjoyed our tempo and counters. You can't be too critical of both players effort (although the finesse was lacking in comparison to the first choice options). We do miss pace on the width. Speaking of which...
Walker and Rose and the City link - So according to the tabloids ('cause Spurs are doing well), most of our players are being sold to bigger clubs already. Walker and Rose are both targets. Controversially, you could say both are replaceable. That the magic here is what Poch brings with developing and getting the very best out of players. Sure, they could be replaced. It would be harder to replace a Kane, for example. We could make a handsome profit too. Two issues. One, when was the last time Daniel Levy willingly sold to rival clubs in England? Two, it's ye olde momentum again. We have all the working parts and this teams story is far from over. Improve on it, but do not do so to the detriment of team shape and spirit. Here's a three for good measure, two seasons now we have challenged (be it in the chasing position). We are so so close. So close. Breaking up this side will weaken us. Why make our rivals stronger? Get rid of even one and it's saying there's potential for others to exit.
Erik Lamela surgery - His hips don't lie. Erik photographed from a hospital bed. Quite an elaborate cosplay, pretending to be injured, eh? The rumours have persisted. You can take them or leave them. The problem most of us have concerns the ambiguity around the last six months and the attempts for him to be correctly diagnosed. Questions perhaps for our medical staff if they're accountable. I don't know. Poch protected the player in a press conference, defending him and laughing off suggestions he wouldn't be at Spurs next season. But then, what else can he do when prompted? We have either really been over achieving or we are under achieving because of the missing puzzle pieces. You decide.
I will end with this quote from Hugo Lloris. Feet firmly on ground:
"I prefer to look backwards and look at what is happening behind us because this is the final race. It’s a key moment of the season.”
Retain focus Spurs, injuries and all, get the job done long before the final weekend of the season. Whatever that job is (2nd, 1st, above them lot down the road, FA Cup final) I want to avoid another meltdown in a thunderstorm.
Swansea away next.