A magnificent seven games in what will be a defining seven weeks of football. This is not quite the run-in but it qualifies as the business end of the season (the business end being every game until we cement Champions League). We might have to dig deep, get lucky but the emphasis as ever has to be on retaining momentum. Suggestions the court case is affecting the teams focus. Opinion that we are so finely tuned that a key player missing here or there weakens us with far greater impact because of how much we rely on a very specific style of play. It’s a testing period, every game massive. Every point vital. If we trip and fall, I have no qualms about our ability to stand up, dust off and continue the march.
I’m buzzing. This pressure and at times anxiety is what football at the top is all about. There’s an edge to it because of what’s at stake. But I’m still managing to maintain some dignity and haven’t quite begun to feast on my nails. You know you’re doing something right when you go into every game echoing its importance.
Defeat isn’t something I’m entertaining in any of the above matches although the odds suggest it’s probable. But considering we’ve yet to truly disappoint in defeat this season (excluding the opening two games) I’m confident that the team can fight and perform well. It resonates, the belief. We’re going to need to be exceptional across the next four games and if we are then we might no longer feel the need to look behind (if you’re that way inclined - some prefer to still look upwards).
If you work out the points ratio to games and the fact that everybody is still prone to slipping up, we only have to continue our form (points accumulation) to retain our position. I’d rather not though. I’d rather play like we need to make up a ten point gap. I’d rather we continue to chase the impossible dream, if only to hold onto a standard that will practically guarantee a top three finish. Can’t settle with what we have, we need to always be better than our last game.
Forgetting all future fixtures, the only one that matters at the moment is Liverpool away. Two morale boosting wins against the two Manchester clubs (one over two legs) but their home form is still erratic. Traditionally a tough place to visit, much like last season when we travelled north and faced a resurgent home side to then return home with all three points. Mental strength in abundance these days and we’ll need it on Monday evening. They won’t have forgotten the spanking we dished out at the Lane. The indignity (for them) more so in the fact we could have scored double the goals we got had we not ease off and slowed the pace down to simply possession play. They’re going to want to put that right. As you would expect.
I’m not going to dwell on the past too much. It’s easy to remember their dominant cycle during the 70s and 80s and more recently their consistency in finishing top four and winning cup competitions. There’s no doubting their pedigree. But they’re in transition. They’re going to cite the past to aid in fuelling their motion forward to reclaim those past glories; it counts for very little until they’ve actually achieved it. Much like the position we’re in. For both clubs it’s wise to remember that football owes us nothing. Liverpool are still in transition. We’re several steps ahead of them. The onus is on us to prove that. Both clubs have to fulfil their immediate ambitions. For us, it’s finishing as high as possible in the league and to qualify for the CL. For them? Consistency to lay claim towards challenging for a top place finish again.
A win for us would be demoralising for a fair few clubs inside that top seven. It really is a strong position to be in. One we are still becoming accustomed to. Several steps ahead but still on that learning curve and still earning that experience. You look at how Utd came back against Chelsea. This being a Utd side that might lack the depth of quality of previous revisions but still retain that sense of all-consuming belief, that never-say-die attitude that only Champions can possesses. We’re in there, we continue to compete, contend. We’ve got to really want it and show that desire in games like this.
As for Liverpool, their style. I can never shake off the feeling that they are quite workman like, nothing overly fancy but still well drilled with a caveat to being susceptible to lethargic performances. Their form is much like the form of older Spurs teams. Bit all over the place. Dare I say they are similar to us when we began to rebuild (for the umpteenth time), trying hard to find a cohesive pattern. Things can change quickly, so it’s best we do our utmost to widen that gap further.
Do they have players that can hurt us? For sure. I still worry about defending set-pieces (that’s if Downing manages to get a cross in successfully). A certain returning player from a lengthy ban might be making a comeback appearance. So all eyes (and lip-reading) on him. Do we have players that can hurt them? Let me think about that one. Yeah, one or two. You do get the impression that Dalglish’s men will try to take us on, bring the game to us and attack. Which should suit us fine (hoping we’ve learnt lessons re: Stoke and Swansea away). An open game means if we keep it controlled and composed at the back then we’ll have plenty of opportunity to go forward with intent.
How do we win? We win by owning the midfield. Might be an idea to play Sandro and Parker, match their work rate ethic (which is far more one dimensional than ours) and get Modric on the ball as often as possible. Width key (as ever). Bale should do his best to stretch them to the left and only look to cut inside if the passage of play invites him to do so. Structure and discipline essential. I do hope for once Adebayor does more than bring others into play. Needs to start scoring again. Would be perfect timing if he rediscovered his touch in front of goal and went on a little run of games. Would accept arrogant, bullish displays of ruthlessness. Alternatively, Saha might have to do. Defoe (along with Lennon) not available (if you refer to official team news updates). That’s hardly been his trademark for a while. Would prance around like a character out of Glee if he was to rediscover that instinct one chance one goal state of mind. Hoping we are careful with where we give away free-kicks. They have players who can do damage by way of a dead ball.
As ever, Tottenham need to keep it Tottenham in terms of approach. We are hardly the most tactically astute side and that tends to benefit us when we go out and look to retain possession and attack/counter-attack. We play the Tottenham way, we swashbuckle but with a spine and strength that isn’t too dissimilar to Liverpool sides of yesteryear.
If we play like the second half at Eastlands or in fact if we match our almost destructive nature from the White Hart Lane 4-0, then when thinking of Anfield, you’ll most like to reply...'This is three points'. Couldn’t care less for comparisons of silverware and history. Very few clubs can come out looking better than Liverpool in terms of titles and cups. All I care about is the present and living in it. With any luck, enjoying it too.
Love the shirt.