MARCH 31 — It’s that time of the year again for Spurs fans. The past few weeks have been difficult for us, especially the sequence of games when we were up against quite a few of the top six teams in the English Premier League (EPL) like Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Actually, it’s three of the traditional Big Four in the last couple of weeks.
If you’ve been a Spurs fan before we got a bit of hype from the media this year, then chances are you’ve been preparing yourself for this moment in the season, when Arsenal fans will come gloating and all you can do is sit back and be quiet. A 12-point lead against Arsenal was cut down to shreds in just a month and now we’re trailing them by 3 points, and when you add their 5-2 mauling of us in which we embarrassingly capitulated like we almost always do against the big boys, all that crowing by them Arsenal fans is just going to get louder.
Even when people were hyping us to challenge for the title I’ve always believed that our main target this season must be to get into the Champions League places. And when you see the kind of signings that Harry Redknapp made during the January transfer window, it’s pretty clear that challenging for the title does not seem to be on the agenda this year, because if that’s your target then you’d sign one or two superstars in your weak positions to propel yourself to being a contender, not two old players who are obviously there as short-term padding for a few holes in the squad.
And I’ve been dreading this difficult run of matches as we normally never do well against the big sides and that again seems to be the case this year. The only reason we’re up there in the Champions League places this year is because we seem to have corrected the fact that in the past few seasons we’ve always dropped points against the so-called “lesser sides” in the EPL like Wigan, West Brom, Fulham and the likes. We seem to have bucked that trend this season, even picking up full points against most of these teams away from home.
Now that the much-dreaded difficult run of matches is away and done with, and how I wish we could’ve picked up more points against Everton and Stoke seeing that we played quite well against them, the moment of truth beckons now for Harry Redknapp and his team as we enter the final stretch of the season with the remaining eight matches and most of them are against the so-called “lesser teams.” Third place is now Arsenal’s to lose as they’ve established a three-point lead over us and they’re now in an enviable run of form with seven wins in a row.
Unless they suffer the sort of results that we did in the past few weeks, there really isn’t much of a chance for us to overtake them, unless of course they lose some key players to injury and suspension. We’re still hanging on in there at fourth place with a five-point lead over Chelsea, but when even a 12-point lead can disappear like smoke over the space of a month, the long-suffering Spurs fan in me always tells myself to never be so sure about anything.
The only positive I can take from the past few weeks is that we haven’t really performed that badly, except for the traumatic capitulation at Arsenal. We actually played better than Manchester United but still lost because we patently lack the killer instinct and have worryingly failed to take most of our chances.
And our performance in our draw with Chelsea last weekend demonstrated a steely nerve and ability to sit back and defend that I’ve very rarely seen in this batch of Spurs players. In fact, we could’ve nicked the match from Chelsea had it not been for Gary Cahill’s last ditch clearance or Petr Cech’s last minute save, so there are reasons to be hopeful there.
What worries me the most is Harry Redknapp’s often baffling tactical decisions. While it is understandable that we’ve missed Aaron Lennon greatly because you can cause more havoc in the opponent’s defence when you have two flying wingers hugging the touchline simultaneously, it is more than strange when you decide to have your only winger playing out of position.
If we really don’t have much of an alternative to Aaron Lennon on the right wing, why not play Kyle Walker as a right winger instead, and have Younes Kaboul on right back? At least you’re putting someone with a good right foot out of position, yet still on the right.
Then again, I’m only a computer game manager, so what do I know, right? Whatever it is that Harry decides to do, these final eight games will define his tenure at Spurs if he really does get offered the England job and leave us at the end of the season. Let us hope for a happy ending this year for a change. Come on you Spurs!
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.