The Autopsy and The Resurrection
Post-match: Don't even try to explain yourself Tottenham. You're sleeping on the sofa tonight.
Next day: Get back in my bed. I can't stay mad at you.
Who said football fans were fickle? Top of the world after we beat Arsenal. Dumbfounded after Friday night. Regardless, I'm in a forgiving mood.
We've only been in a position to contend for the title in the past two seasons and nobody expected it both times. Think on. Chelsea 'won' the league weeks ago but apparently we've bottled it for the second year running. The discomfort we cause everyone makes me erect. We made this into a race. Again. We applied pressure on the leaders when nobody else was capable of doing so. Again.
Nine successive wins on the trot closing the gap and, well, ultimately it's fruitless but damn it's made every game feel like jumping into a bath holding a toaster but not knowing if it's plugged in. Every game positively dripping with nervous energy. This is what it feels like to be in amongst it. Even if this exclusive club only has two active members currently (us and Chelsea).
We made this league relevant. Again.
It's great to be in a position where fans can think/believe that we could have still won the league, thanks to maths and hefty reliance on a team with experience to botch it up. Even if it proved improbable. Again. Arsenal fans should try it sometime.
Of course, it's a sharp reminder that until we're sat top and have to defend the position, we're not really getting the full monty. We need to burst some balloons. Showcase our crown jewels. Deliver the moneyshot.
27 points from 30.
That's girth. It was bound to go limp at some point.
If only we got silverware for stats, hey? Still, I can't help be triggered by the weakness of the banter aimed towards us. Bottled it is the new go to tagline for any team that happens to be involved enough for people to celebrate their failure when losing a game of football. Liverpool are the only genuine recent example of a team throwing away what they held in their hands, choking at Crystal Palace. If you're ahead, if you have it in your grasp and you lose it...well, I only wish we had that particular privilege of pressure. But that wont stop the detractors. Their mantra is simplistic. Watching tinpot clubs sing about 'our demise' is a cocktail of MDMA and Viagra. Veins about to burst in both heads.
Flirting with relegation. "You're shit"
Mid-table. "You're shit"
8th. "You're shit"
Europa. "You're shit"
5th. "You're shit"
4th. "You're shit"
CL. "You're shit"
2nd. "You're shit"
We change. Hate remains constant. They simply adjust to suit their own internal hunger to satisfy damaged self-esteem. We're all guilty of it. Very few begrudgingly credit their rivals. They fight against it even harder when they know credit is due. In many ways its indirectly complimentary. Do we even want them to nod politely in our direction, giving us a thumbs up and a wink? Do we want their respect? F*ck no. You (the Spurs supporter) simply have to acknowledge their mocking voices. You're going to need to look down to see where they're originating from. Squint your eyes a little and listen for the echo.
It is gutting though. To lose. To anyone. Being Spurs fans we called this 'every other week' for years and now we're so accustomed to winning, it becomes a national holiday when we fail. It was amazing seeing West Ham fans dancing outside their rented accommodation, iPhones out, beaming with delight. Although let's be honest, if Spurs were sat 10th, they'd do the exact same thing. The measure of success (in this case a 1-0 win against us) defines their satisfaction because of how much it hurts Tottenham. That was us X amount of years ago celebrating a draw away to a 'top four club'. It's disappointing to get beaten by them but it's equally (if not more) disappointing that the 'chase' for an unlikely title is done and dusted.
West Ham are getting abuse for celebrating and thus being called small time. They are small time. Nobody needs to pretend otherwise. They are 35 points behind us. Allow them this precious moment. They stopped a locomotive. Knocked it off the tracks. It's a huge deal for them. I'm not purposely attempting to be condescending here (seriously, it's impossible not to do it naturally). We are focused on bigger things but once more we've failed to deal with the little thing first.
Mauricio Pochettino knows these are the games we need to win, across the duration of the season, to make up the points to then be crowned champions. The difference makers. We can all see that for us to do this, we have to play well as a collective. Synergy is our superpower but it's also our kryptonite. We have to beat the tinpot clubs. For all the improvements, this ilk of mistake is still being duplicated. There's no hiding place now. The clock goes tick tock.
It also beautifully illustrates how bitterly savage football can be. Last Sunday, the Lane, pure glory. Spurs in imperious form, shutting down and containing Arsenal...class and a half above them across all areas of the pitch. Players focused and determined. At the athletics ground, everyone went missing. Looked off the pace, struggled with the hosts deep defensive play. It's that easy to taste the heavens one day and then choke on the fiery gravel in hell the next.
Two seasons now, we've missed out because we've lacked an edge. Leicester City and Chelsea both had no European distractions in their campaigns. Both had early season form. Both doing exactly what was needed to protect their lead on each occasion. To have us chasing whilst the teams around us all failed to ignite (bottle jobs). Two slow starts have cost us, even though last year nobody expected a challenge five games in. We are allowed to lose games (it's a forgone conclusion it will happen every so often). Dropping points where that missing edge would have made all the difference is why we're out of it now. Not too shabby a marathon I guess, with only three games left (even though it's been inevitable for weeks). We've hit the wall but still need to make the finish line without dropping another place.
For all the strength we have as a singularity, we need more than just occasional individualism (which many of our players are capable of). As much as a Gareth Bale type of player would elevate us into a position where we lead the table, what we also lack is a calming experience to bring equilibrium during match time. A robust, unbreakable mentality that helps to guide us through stormy weather. Helping to instil a deeper, more measured approach. Not just in a single game. This is about moulding it over many so that awkward fixtures are better navigated.
Still, nine wins on the trot. You can't deny that we've been excellent. We got ourselves in the same position we claimed last season. Gave everyone a narrative to latch onto. Including the rival fans that drip parasitoid larva, facehugging each other, chests erupting. It's hardly alien. For them and us. The bigger the stakes the bigger the disappointment if you don't get to tuck in and the bigger the relief for those watching on, fearful we might just do it.
Last season, the lessons were brutal. This one simply highlights that some of our flaws can't be fixed unless we add to the squad. That old chestnut. We do have the best foundation, the best team in the truest season of it being a brotherhood. On the pitch. For now. That's the crux. Money is football (unfortunately) so time is against us. We can't offer all players 200k per week, which means that regardless of how magnificent it all looks, it could fragment quickly if we don't consolidate and reward our football and fans with trophies.
I'm not stamping my foot here, livid, crying my eyes out, spat dummy half way across the room. Unlike some that embrace idiocy, we still have to get ourselves into a position where 'bottling it' becomes a genuine test of character. We need to do more than contend. We have to lead.
Two seasons we've challenged the leader from behind. Just about. Over-achieved even. That's no time at all in football and yet complacency can easily corrupt if people (players and the fans) start to believe that the big bad wolves outside of N17 will invade and huff and puff and blow our house down. That synergy is also our responsibility in the stands. Of course, we (the fans) are tested more than anyone. We can't just bemoan and look to blame. We're involved. We're actually involved. A measure of our 'success' is that we're despondent for not doing enough...TO WIN THE LEAGUE. So we support. We believe like our manager does. There is little point to any of it if we don't. If you don't you have to ask yourself, what is it exactly you want to get out of this experience?
This summer, like last summer was meant to be...THE summer. Then Chelsea turned up and reminded us of the gulf in depth that is possibly forever evident. It's that easy for them, the choice they have. The choice to purposely under perform and get a manager sacked to then being consummate clinical professionals. The type of integrity only an oligarch can afford. To their credit, they've been a machine in the league.
What can we do? What choice do we have? We can look to improve. Is there really any other?
Spurs need pace, a touch of electricity when breaking. Another midfielder in there too, possibly a Mousa Dembele 'replacement' or one that can deliver more end product (not to discount the graft and opportunity of space Mousa provides). Another forward? Possibly. When you look at our bench, we need every player sat there to be an option that can change the flow of a game. Or at the very least provide the same standard of quality seen in the starting eleven. Competition also helps to fight complacency. Imagine playing a cup semi-final and being able to bring on Harry Kane and Dele Alli, off the bench.
We have between ten to twelve lit players. Top drawer dons. Same as last season, our strongest eleven is sublime. You wouldn't swap any of them for ones from rival clubs (I'm exaggerating, but it isn't half as daft as it sounds). We can't rotate with complete freedom and efficiency and European football remains a bane, for now. The balance isn't right yet. Two years man, we are only two seasons deep in this project. Third time's a charm. It has to be.
Not that there's an official deadline. Not with the new stadium build being the prominent spearhead towards a new dawn. Poch will also want to prove his worth by claiming silverware (here or elsewhere, here preferably). The fanbase could have another mental spasm (much like after our first Champions League campaign) and demand the moon on a stick. The lack of patience in the dressing room and the stand can distort and destroy. Football is, after-all, as much in the mind as it is in the feet.
When do we admit it possibly won't work in its current form?
If it can't, is that simply because the club - as an entity - has to go through a behemoth metamorphosis to be able to offer the 200k a week? Does the new stadium reshape our entire internal structure to appease the modern day footballer? There's no guarantee that will work (ask our neighbours). Spurs will have to turn into a brand and in amongst all the organic growth we'll add GMO's that finally satisfy our hunger even if the taste is a touch superficial. Everyone else is feasting on it so why shouldn't we?
It's soul crashing and it's utterly unavoidable. It's the game at the top. We've qualified for the CL again, the transformation has already started.
That aforementioned refined ballsy experience appears to be imperative for the immediate future. We need a vdV / Carrick type of influence in the mix. Is it doable? Maybe. Should be. The last major window wasn't productive in terms of acquiring players that hit the ground running, providing those extra dimensions from the start. We say this every end of season but we can see the tangible progression of the team from the last to this one. We have got to be ruthless with our signings. They need to be cut-throat on the pitch. Both Daniel Levy and Poch have made mistakes (all transfer dealings are prone to them). The reality is these mistakes cost us more than say Chelsea who can loan out twenty players they sign and still not struggle.
We also have to deal with the flux.
If City sort out there defence. If Utd turn draws into wins. If Chelsea add to their already bloated squad of world class earners. If Liverpool find some consistency. If Arsenaa...haha, nah you're alright. If's and but's. The same can be assigned to us too.
If we buy the right players that slot straight in and instantly gel.
If we start the season like men obsessed.
If we turn Wembley into a fortress (gulp).
If we improve on our away form.
You see how f**king hard this all is? We think we're close to it. We were in terms of the mathematics. But there is so much that has to work almost perfectly to then fall into place. So much of that is also out of our control and down to circumstance. Yet based on our progression, we don't need to rely on luck or the fortune of others. Fix those obvious quirks and there's no holding us back. Fix'em quick. This isn't old Spurs. This is new Spurs with brand new box fresh problems. Ones that if solved elevate us to lofty heights we've not seen for a lifetime.
Last season and the present. The graft. The highs and lows. The ecstasy and the heartbreak. It's unavoidable. The journey is a necessity. All of it has to be enjoyed, consumed, digested. Even the despondency has to be accepted. Otherwise, there's nothing. A vacuum of self-entitlement, demanding end product as the only certifiable proof of achievement. Not to say that isn't the whole point of it all but what we're aiming to do here can't be compared to randomly winning a league cup a couple of times in twenty odd years.
We're not 'still in the title race' or have a chance to win it by sitting top and defending it because we're still not good enough. We are still outrageously good. Only one side in the league is better than us. Let's not pretend we don't know this and don't possess the players. It's the hope that kills but without it we're dead.
Loyalty. Togetherness. They are, in the moment, powerful. It can be stolen away because football outside of the needs of the supporters doesn't care for romantic notions. We are fighting everyone and time itself.
Dig in. Dig deeper. Roll with the punches.
We have to bring it again come August.
Doesn't matter what happens, what they say, what they think. They'll never be us. They'll never know or understand. We can never lose.