Top 4. Game on.
With each passing week there appears to be less people scoffing at the idea that Spurs are serious challengers to finishing in a Top 4 slot. Great pretenders no more. I'm not about to streak naked down Tottenham High Road singing the Champions League anthem, but my socks and shoes are off. In preparation. All this off the back of a 1-1 draw away to Villa? Of course not. It's the sum of all parts thus far. We are a proper team. Or at least one good enough to take advantage of what is turning out to be a season of ups and downs for all concerned, including the sides that are meant to be super-glued to the CL positions each passing year. We've been outclassed this season by Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal. Although none of the defeats, IMO, are as bad in hindsight as they appeared to be at the time. They were blips, hiccups that have simply needed a swift glass of water to be rid of. The sides we have to beat remain the ones from mid-table down and the rest who are our 'rivals' for the promised land. And so far, we're not doing too shabby a job. I'll have my shirt off and catching a bus to N17 if we do well against Everton, Wolves and City because then the reality of the situation will befall all - including non-believers.
The great fallacy is that breaking into the Top 4 is nigh impossible because the gulf of class between the likes of us and the Sky Sports 4 is massive. It is in the strictness sense with regards to mounting a title-challenge, but with each passing season - as we improve - the teams above us sort of kinda stagnate. We are beating the sides they are beating, just not beating them. But that's fine. We're not about to worry Utd or Chelsea, but the vastly over-rated Arsenal and Liverpool? They won't admit it, but we're catching up. Liverpool are disjointed, lacking depth and missing key ingredients. Arsenal are not half as good as their fans think they are. Yes, yes, pretty football and toddlers running around scoring fancy goals in the Carling Cup against weakened Prem opposition or lower league sides might allow for the usual superlatives from the red tops but the fact is they have no spine, are sometimes comical in defence and are hanging on desperately to the past. But hey, don't worry gooners, you've still got Theo Walcott.
Of course, they will still finish Top 4, at least one of them will. So it's up to us and one or two others (City have to break out of their draw-abyss and Villa have to discover more guile and adventure) to make it as difficult as possible for them. The more we improve, the more pressure pushing down on them.
And we continue to dig deep. So fuck it, why shouldn't I shout? It's better than whimpering. There's plenty of work to be had, and it seems we are more than up for it. Harry continues to impress. And even with several key players missing (King, Woodgate, Modric) we just get on with it. We have cover, we have commitment. Dawson (Forest bound, ha!) comes in and gives us one of those 'come here you big lump I want to kiss you' type of all-smiling performances. I love this guy. He took his goal superbly well. Niko is turning it on at the moment. He is positively on fire. Oozing class and has swagger we love to see in a Tottenham player. When Moddle is back, we'll be stronger for it. Obviously.
So, to the Villa game. Pretender v Pretender. First half, we hardly got stuck in so no surprise they took the lead. We sat back, looked nervous. Made it easy for them. Second half was rather better. Such was the tempo of our play that Villa could only survive by sitting back and defending. We were relentlessly good. Totally dominated them. Anyone would think the game was at the Lane with MON's men doing their utmost to survive rather than take the game by the scruff of the neck (although had they, and the game opened up, we'd have scored more). Disappointingly we didn't, and I'm a little gutted we didn't take all three points.
Even with Lennon, double-marked, we still pushed forward and other than a looping Heskey header there was nothing from the home side that troubled us. Dunne also doing a superb job of keeping Defoe on the quiet side. Credit to Villa and their defending, even if their fans are probably despondent that they could not muster up more in the way of offensive opportunities. Freidel was also superb for them. One or two of their fans, pre-match, were dismissive of our chances, suggesting we come unstuck against 'touch opponents'. I guess we'll let them know when we come face to face with the next one.
Villa 170. Spurs 394. Completed passes. Says about us much as any stat.
Obviously, Harry has to work out why it didn't go according to plan in the first half. We lacked composure with passing and appeared off-key. Whatever he said at half-time worked, but credit doubly to the players for reacting to it the right way and performing the way they did in the second 45. Concentration, bite and intent all back in abundance. And this is the little clue to my Monday morning jig. Our reaction was one that showed we look far more prepared for the long haul than Villa. Early days. Once we start games in the same fashion as we started the second half at Villa Park, we'll have grown big enough balls to really believe the next level has been reached. The next level is the one where we take all three points in games of similar ilk.
So, for now, my boxer shorts will remain on.
Onwards and upwards.