Refuse to go silently
Tottenham 2 something something
We are not allowed to have nice things. Even when we have the better team, they still find a way to ruin it for us. Even with ten men. This is football and it still hates us. They scored from their first shot on goal and then equalised late on thanks to a bounce. Nothing can illustrate it better than the 1 cm that denied us a goal when technology is programmed to just say no. By the end of the game I felt and looked like Zammo slumped in the amusement arcade bog, strung out on heroin. Dead eyed with senselessness.
We are perpetually waiting for the new dawn and this is one motherf*cking long night.
We didn't choke. We gagged, cleared our throats and simply didn't do enough with the in-game momentum that followed the Harry (14 goals in 18 derbies) Kane moment of absolute delirium. A thunderous chapter in the game's narrative and at that single point in time, pure glory in motion - from the pitch to the stands.
Dele Alli with a delicious back heeled nutmeg assist (hoping I didn't dream that) for Kane to curl with power and pace beyond their keeper. I can't even begin to describe the emotional outpouring in the seconds that followed. I've never celebrated a goal like that. Held back tears like the grown man I am. In this moment, I connected with just how much this push for the title means to me, us, and everything Lilywhite. It immersed me deep in how vital it is to avoid losing to Arsenal and how much I bloody love our band of brothers led by leader Mauricio.
I'm bitter beyond belief that wasn't the winning goal. It deserved to be legend. The celebrations were next level. All this within the minute or so it took us all to calm down from Toby's thrash for the 1-1.
That should have been it. 2-1 should have been it. Ten men down, it should have been over.
Maybe because of the intensity of the game and the weight of expectancy we placed on the occasion, we couldn't quite get a complete stranglehold on it. The game controlled us rather than us taking control of the game.
We also had a couple of players not quite offering the usual all-encompassing balance to the side (the two will differ depending on your perspective*) and we let the opposition get a little too comfortable with their containment. The one opportunity they had, which was always going to happen late on, they took. Cheap to concede like that but they kept getting behind us and we didn't grab the game by its b*llocks when we went two one up. Dangerous and ultimately punishing. In the end, it leaves both clubs exactly where they were. Looking up, not wanting to look down.
*Mousa and Alli didn't look 100%, understandable with recent knocks. I might need to re-watch (unlikely at this moment in time) as I kept thinking positionally, they weren't as influential or as dominant as they could have been leaving Eric Dier with plenty to do. The midfield dynamic wasn't as composed as usual. Lamela was biting at every ankle in sight in the first half, tenacious but not penetrative in offensive positions. Cue the arguments for what ilk of player he actually is and what he best offers us - rather than what we thought we got when we paid £30M for him. We do need to be more fearless when pushing into the penalty area. Especially this close to the end of the season. Son perhaps has a part to play but he's got to play it soon and offers something far more urgent and direct than Lamela does. We need to take more risks even if there's the potential to fail. Perhaps it's at this juncture that 'echoes of glory' begins to mean something more than a tag-line.
I didn't think anyone was worthy of criticism. Just a case of not pulling together as a collective as tightly as we could have. Synergy lagged a touch.
It tells you everything you need to know when the draw feels like a defeat and a point for them an escape. They might mock that the best Spurs team for a generation still can't beat them and I can only shrug. They've not beaten us in the league for two seasons now. It's a far cry from the despondent days when we always knew we'd get a pasting. Still, they only drew the game because we failed to win it. LOGIC BOMB DROPPED.
At least this team will learn from the performance and application required to find a more suitable end result next time. The players will hate what happened as much as we do. That's a good thing. No acceptance. Got to be better. They know it. Look at all the post-match interviews and quotes. You can not ignore the attitude and the spirit this squad has instilled. It's not just sound-bites for the sake of it. It's all from the heart. This is what I want from my team.
Arsenal were unfortunately decent with their no-time to think forward movement on the counter. It's when they have time and over-play that causes them headaches of a personal nature. Our football and the games setting probably benefited them more. Perhaps if we were more direct in how we got forward...who knows. They had few memorable attacks, just the two that punctured the afternoon like the downpour that followed from the skies above. However, every time they got into the final third, they looked capable of creating something even if they never quite executed the final ball.
Our conviction at times did appear to lack edge. It's easy to ask the players not to get psychological conflicted with the occasion when the fans are suffering in anticipation. They can't avoid or ignore who the opposition is. Yet the tempo, as frantic as it was, lacked measured control and decisiveness. We had plenty of the ball before the 0-1 but didn't carve up enough chances. We sat back a little too much. More reactionary than proactive. There were chances but no ascension of pressure. It was all rubber bullets rather than exploding ones.
The red card changed the game. There might have been more for both sides - Lamela included. When Francis Coquelin left the field of play, we found that extra zip in our step, that belief and what followed was football at its very best. Two minutes that bests the very best of a night in with the missus. That was the knock-out. Yet those sonsofbitches still found a way to drag themselves up and hold on. They displayed character and retained shape. We lost ours or rather didn't find one befitting to muscle them out.
There wasn't a strong enough flow to the way we searched for a killer third. More chances followed but again, the pressure wasn't powerful enough to break them a third time. Interestingly, with all eyes on Spurs 'bottling it' there's a solid argument that at 0-1, Arsene Wenger's side imploded. In some perverse way, both sets of fans might feel aggrieved and fortunate that the 2-2 was the only outcome for the drama that unravelled.
I'm still gutted. I said in the last blog we had to win. Not winning would deem us not worthy of going on to win the title. Naturally, I'm going to dive into a sea of contradictory emotion and still proclaim it's not over. I have no inclination to drown but equally so I'm not going to stay still and get eaten by sharks.
For the first time I admit it's unlikely. We're at the outer reaches because we've momentarily lost momentum. A bit of breathing space would have changed the arc at the top enough for us to grow in confidence rather than cling onto it and try to re-ignite.
It's not so much about having to keep up with Leicester City (edit: They are now five points clear and easily favourites - it's theirs to lose). We're also going to have to rely on Arsenal to wobble a few more times too. It's going to yo-yo, dip and spike and twist and turn till the very end. Any more mistakes from either North London club and it's game over. Spurs have to go on believing because LC might hit a wall. Arsenal might not.
That isn't the most comforting way to remain involved. Sadly it looks like it's the only option we all have. Man City can lose one week, win the next, and still be tentatively involved.
You can sit there and think about what six points from the last two games would have meant but it is what it is. It's happened, there's no way of changing it and all we can do is move on. It's out of our control because when you win six games on the trot, you start considering how machine like our form is and if you can keep it up, you can get ahead of the rest. Then with two blips you question if we've lost ground that can't be regained.
We are running out of games that can be labelled as blips. We have to win our next two league games. More so than we had to win against Arsenal. That's how you adapt when hedging emotion. Never give up. Another 'run' of games birthing winning momentum is the only weapon that will cause mass destruction on others.
It's disappointing, right? However both of the last two games were massive derbies. They're hardly the easiest of games even when nothing is at stake. This isn't an excuse. We all know if were going to be a team that wins silverware we have to find that extra dimension - whether we play below par or when tested. It's why not winning the NLD resonates pain. These are challenging times but perspective; rather this than chasing 4th spot or whatever else we've had to succumb to in the past. I couldn't care less about Champions League football right this moment in time. Imagine saying that a few seasons back.
I know, I'm trying to make myself feel upbeat. Reasoning. I'm writing this just before 5pm after the game. I wanted us to make a statement even if it still doesn't guarantee a thing. If anything, just to beat them because there's no feeling that is comparable to it.
The only difference to past indiscretions? We usually win these games of hype and claim the ascendency before spiralling whilst they're inspired to bounce-back with a ruthless streak. It's different this time. The draw hurts us more than it hurts them but there's no way of really knowing what it means until the next game has been played.
I'm desperately seeking to anchor myself to hope. Considering the magnitude of the game, we threw it all away. We had to win it, for the past twenty years, but they simply refused to die, whilst we defaulted to the 'almost' stereotype. Even though this team is in no way comparable to the ones from our past. It's just hard to process at the moment. Probably writing this too soon. Best to consider that without that Kevin Wimmer tackle at the end, this write-up would have made for truly depressing reading.
And now? What next?
Is it just me or does the Dortmund game feel like an unnecessary distraction? Want to know why I feel like that? It's because I know we are getting towards the end of it all and it's now or never. It was now or never on Saturday 12:45 but there's still one final push that might yet give us what we persistently refuse to give up on. Then again, it's Dortmund, we're going to be full strength and Villa will get a rotated side.
In the Prem, we're left chasing. We are always more comfortable with the chase. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with anything at the moment.
I'm sat here reading my Twitter timeline. I love rival fans.
"Spurs have f**ked up the league!"
Yeah, sure m8. Bypass the bit about us being involved in the first place. Best Spurs team still can't beat Arsenal? Gooners have had the same 'team' for ten years. This isn't the best Spurs team. This is a fledgling side, not even two years old, that out-played them on their own patch and let them off the hook on ours. Unlike the other sides we watched get close, this one has. Not to Arsenal, but rather the space that sits above them.
At least we attempt to change, to evolve, even if it usually fails spectacularly. This is the first time - across the season and going back to the appointment of Pochettino - that we have succeeded in doing something that stands out as agenuine revolution. Them lot remain the same team they've always been. Getting away with it. Made to look good because of the deficiencies of others. That's always enough for them and I've had enough of it.
We have nothing to lose and everything to lose. They can't be the ones winning the title if we don't. They can't finish above us. I refuse to entertain it.
Until it's impossible anything is possible.
I feel all warm and proud when I hear Pochettino speak about the values of his philosophy, of the club. The way the players and the supporters all belong to a shared ethos. All fighting for the cockerel on the shirt. Together.
"We keep going", said Harry Kane.
We're still winning the league. I refuse to let go. One final stand. I've just realised I'm not the crazy one. You can try to drag me away kicking and screaming. Bring a straitjacket. Best you wear it before your lobotomy.