Demand it

I'm now on cruise control for the festive period. Annual leave in session so no working distractions. A rum per night is my Xmas delight. But whilst my feet are up I'm hoping Tottenham's don't touch the ground either. I just expect a little more dynamism from our boys in Lilywhite compared to my brisk walk from living room to kitchen fridge and back.

Much like Christmas itself, the fixture list can leave some feeling bloated, head in hands nursing a migraine. Except, if you feast on victory (and the odd pint in celebration) it will be your points tally bloated and the only migraine will be that of your opponents.

It's a congested part of the season, when the rest of the continent relax, we have an excess of football, punching its way through boxing day and beyond into the new year. But it isn't just the three 'Christmas' games that are of paramount importance in this frenzied game of points accumulation. Sunday's game and next weeks are equally vital in preparation for the two away trips and the home coming in 2013.

Swansea (H)
Stoke (H)
Villa (A)
Sunderland (A)
Reading (H)

As we come out of the other side of these fixtures the battle for a top four place might be far clearer to all concerned. Other sides (along with ourselves) remain erratic. With the undoubted prospect of a January galvanisation with incoming transfers, it's what we achieve now until then that will set our narrative for the remainder of the season.

We've fallen apart post-February in the past two seasons. Thrown it away, lost focus. Not speculated enough in the transfer window. Excuses come thick and fast. On the pitch, presently, we can all see what isn't working. We know our dysfunctions. Our weaknesses are more than evident in the closing stages of games. We await the return of key players. And a fair few of us remain patient as this team - from coaching level to first eleven - continues to grow and understand the changes we're undergoing as we attempt to evolve.

The dysfunction that embraces the final ten minutes or so then proceeds to strangle the life out of it is one Andre Villas-Boas has spoken about and he can see it as clearly as we do when we nod despondently at points lost. This is a positive pushing the negative aside. 

Centre-back Vertonghen playing out of position. Old man Gallas, hardly expecting to play as often as he has this season. Young man Caulker, learning and developing his game and perhaps not benefiting from a back four which remains unbalanced. Walker out of breath, inconsistent and pressured (or not so) to perform with no true competition for his place. Our midfield adds further invitation when failing to retain the ball productively. We have to play with some reserved movement at times because the risk of playing more openly could easily leave us susceptible to further punishment.

The loss of Dembele was a major factor with our midfield lacking forward thinking. The lack of form from Dempsey and Sigurdsson also detrimental. Sandro is covering more ground than The Incredible Hulk covers smashing his way through the military. Parker is back with us. Benny is not that far behind. Bale will return, possibly next week. All in time to either eat turkey or be turkey.

Regardless of my perception and perspective, regardless of whether citing lack of depth or accepting patience is a virtue or disagreeing completely and siding with complacency and lack of tactical astuteness - we're all as one looking forward to the next match.

AVB talks about the long term. The training centre. Transfer philosophies. Maturing of squad. The long haul. There's a war to be won but you can't win it without a few bloody battles. So, you're probably wondering what the rousing war cry should be at this juncture? I have to default to a seasoned cliché with this. The game is about inches. It's about every second being played with guile and fortitude and the manner in which every player plays in each and every one of those seconds. I'm not Al Pacino so suck it up.

The moment where Caulker failed to clear the ball convincingly in the Everton game. A moment, a second...lost, surrendered to our hosts who took the opportunity with a relentless belief to take further advantage and craft the momentum to do so. This isn't about scapegoating. Mistakes happen. It's how we deal with the mistakes and how we use their memory to fight against re-occurrences.

We have to own every inch. That ball coming towards you? If you wish to ignore the calls from your keeper then kick that ball harder than you'd kick your worst enemy in a battle to the death. Don't self-doubt.

Perhaps I'm romanticising and simplifying something that is obviously so much more complex. Tired legs, tired minds. What your head wants to do sometimes your body doesn't. No amount of courage or belief will help you if others around you are struggling to own their space. For all the  will in the world you can storm out onto the pitch at 100% but the quality can be lacking and the performance degrade to lacklustre. Or 100% only equates to 60% when compared to your opponents or the tempo of the game. But if there's fire in the belly, in a side that does possess a certain high end quality, the same moments in games that see you lose a 1-0 lead to a 2-1 defeat can so easily turn out to be something better. You own that space, that treat every second in the game like it's one that belongs in a cup final. Now I'm dreaming. But the sentiment can anchor itself to reality.

If you look like you're going to concede a late goal then you're most likely going to do so because you're thinking it. If you really want something, if you don't give up and you make a point of it so much so that your opponents know you won't give can be the decider, it can make a difference.

Forget the two Manchester sides, but does any one else out there strike fear into your heart?

Five games, five wins. Believe. Don't just have faith, don't just desire it. The players should demand it from themselves. From one man to the next fight for everything. Resilience is key.

Once the selection is done and the tactics are discussed on the training pitch and dressing room, out on that field of play, it's down to eleven spurred cockerels to do the business. If we're not good enough, we won't win but if there is heart then there is hope and their acceptance.

There's some Latin that would fit perfectly right about now.