Going to church on Sunday
Are you excited? I'm excited. Which is a minor miracle after the slog that was the 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Spurs with that title winning mettle in a season when the title is likely to again go to the leaders rather than the chasers. But here we are. Still in it. Still wanting it. Still believing. No matter what the remaining fixture list is suggesting (compare it pound for pound and ours is massively more difficult than theirs), we are not letting go. Which is reason enough to be excited. If you love Tottenham and love football, I can't see how it can get any better than this. Well, aside from perhaps an FA Cup final appearance. Ho hum.
I'm not going to waste time on player ratings and go deep into analysis. There is little need. Firstly, the games intensity as a spectator was magnified beyond the point of true enjoyment thanks to the necessity of requiring the three points. To also bounceback from Saturday and keep the impossible dream alive. It also gives us a quite spectacular foundation for Sunday afternoon. The narrative is deliciously implosive.
Draw or win and Tottenham Hotspur finish about the enemy for the first time since the 95 season. No last day nerves. No virus. No suspect goal-keeping displays.
We. Finish. Above. Them.
Now I hear you, there's no trophy for this but let's not pretend we don't care. Sure, it doesn't define our existence. If anything it's an emotional release to be able to gloat and brag, giving them a little taste of what it's like to be in our shadow for once. Irony not lost, they could still win the FA Cup. They might even turn up at White Hart Lane. Which would be a miracle for them considering how jammy they've been and how fragmented their moral is/was/who knows.
I guess that's where the doubt lingers for us. Having experienced far too many gut wrenching moments in the past. But there's no way I'm going to let any of the potential outcomes ruin my day by over-thinking them. I'm going to church and imma gonna drop some hallelujahs!
Finishing above them because we're finishing second is the real objective. To want to finish first. To define ourselves by improving rather than comparing. Mauricio Pochettino is right with his call to arms, to not care about others and to only focus on what we do. Because that's what we can control. Considering it will most likely be the last ever NLD at the Lane, on so many levels it will be incomprehensible in terms of occasion and atmosphere.
Win and it will be glorious. Lose and what we deserve, in terms of our progress and intent, will be left in bitter ruins. For Arsene Wenger, he's on a quite desperate path to redemption (which is insane when you put into perspective what he's achieved at that club over the past couple of decades). He's gone to three at the back (nigh revolutionary for him), beat City at Wembley and although they're not a finely tuned machine they're managing to get something out of the working cogs they have.
F**k history. F**k the apologetic failures. Physiologically, we need this. We have to have it. The players, the supporters. Everyone involved at the club. It's a monkey on our back and it needs getting rid of.
You hyped yet?
As for the Palace game? It was an infuriating experience. There was obvious baggage from the weekend before. Credit to Big Sam and his team. They got their gameplan spot on. Plenty of physicality. They got in our faces, closed down players and the space around them. It often got congested and narrow. Be it a mixture of the discomfort the opposition were dishing out and the 4-2 defeat still strong in memory, we also lacked the usual finesse. Spurs were, perhaps a little rattled with shape and application. Which made for untidy viewing. Lots of stray balls and disconnectivity with pass and movement.
The defence appeared uneasy, Zaha toying with the ball in and around the box. Andros also looking to cause damage. I thought at times Benteke wasn't trying that hard (in my head I was hoping he was going for the soft approach to appease our Belgium contingent). Yet none of this was in anyway a preview to an ominous collapse. It might have been had Wanyama got a second yellow. We got lucky. The referee was all over the shop, indecisive and erratic.
Poch made changes at half-time, removing Victor for his own protection and bringing on the much maligned Sissoko. Son replaced Dembele who looked out of sorts. Palace lost Zakho to injury and that was key to gradually disassembling their resolve at the back.
We dug deep. We slowly but surely pushed Palace back and took a grip of the game and dictated its tempo. When you don't play well and still win, you've got to be grateful it's a trait we have. After several limp efforts, Christian Eriksen scored out of nothing.
Look closer and it was crafted superbly well. Harry Kane, deep, grafting to get the ball out and Spurs pushing forward for Eriksen to take advantage of the space around him. He knew several seconds before what he was going to do. Head twisting, checking that he still had the room to line up a shot when he received the ball. It was subtle. He caressed the dipping shot towards goal. I almost froze trying to work out how easy it was before screaming out in unexpected delight. In an ugly game, we were blessed with something beautiful.
What I loved about this was...pretty much everything. This game, in its early stages, felt like West Ham away last season. A lull that would prove costly. Considering how buoyant Palace have been and how determined they were, this was a quality three points. Sure, they will argue about tired legs but Spurs were up against two foes; The home team and our often predicted fragile mindset when the pressure is on. Also Big Sam seems to think the extra almost dozen games we've played this season are somehow inconsequential.
Kane and our manager both stating how unbelievable it felt in the aftermath. The importance of it. Think of it this way, we're in a position these-days where this team has made every single game imperative to the course. Every single game matters. It's stressful, right? But it's no longer unusual. The hunger to achieve, even when Chelsea have practically been crowned champions half a dozen times this season, is relentless. In context, it was hardly DVD material but it was a good hard fought performance which provides us with the catalyst on Sunday.
Shout out to Sissoko. He did a number on Zaha that probably went unnoticed (someone had to point it out to me tbf) thanks to his usual leggy touch. I did enjoy his time-wasting late on. Walker didn't have a good one. Most of our players lost their individualism in amongst it but collectively they all pulled together the longer the game went on. So I applaud that. As long as this was the only dip in form we'll witness from now and the end of the season, I'll be content.
74 points. Eight successive league win. This season has seen us push on. Eriksen's stats and performances illustrate a new reality of consistency, something he was often criticised for lacking. Kane, a genuine all-round team player. Leads from the front, leads from the back. Dele Alli, that spark of energy in and around the box. It was all low-key at Selhurst but hoping for a white hot White Hart Lane. Surely there is no other viable option for all involved.
All we can do is win our remaining games. Mostly against teams that hate us. You know the tagline for this already. The hard way is the only way is the Spurs way.
Bring it on then. It's time for our own redemption. As much as this is about them lot down the road it's more about us moving on, finally moving on and burying all the misdemeanours and heartbreaks. Too often, we've given them a helping hand. Too often, we've let it slip away. But we've never turned away from any of it. We've never turned our backs on this club. We've never given up. We've always wanted a team, this team. A proper side that can turn up and fight and outplay. We don't just want to win on points, we want to knock them the f**k out.
Give me Sunday, give me the sermon. Preach and open up the heavens. Every single fabric of my existence is screaming for it.