Tottenham are in desperate need of a big result. Back to back defeats at the hands of Monaco and Chelsea have dealt a serious blow to Spurs’ season, and while there is still a long way to go, a return to form prior to the all-important Christmas period is crucial. The victory over Manchester City aside, Mauricio Pochettino’s men are yet to hit the heights of last term, and I feel as though the unbeaten tag Spurs had in the league until last week was covering up a number of flaws. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a squad capable of challenging for the title, but the level of desire among the players appears to have dropped slightly, while the sloppy mistakes have most definitely increased. Spurs are still in a relatively healthy position of fifth in the Premier League table, the recent defeat at Stamford Bridge has left the club seven points off the top of the table and a victory this Saturday against a resurgent Swansea side is key.
The Champions League exit was unfortunate but expected by myself and the majority of Tottenham fans I have conversed with. Wembley was never going to work. This is a very young group of players with little to no Champions League experience. Critic can use the wages argument as much as they like, but expecting the team to be able to perform to the same levels in an alien environment was ludicrous. Having the home CL games at Wembley handicapped us massively and although the players have to take responsibility for the prospect of Europa league or possibly no European football for the remainder of the campaign, so do the hierarchy at the football club. We can take some positive from these group games however, should Tottenham manage to finish top four this term, the experience will have done the squad some good and this might well pay off at Wembley come next season.
Harry Kane signed a new long term deal at the club this week, the timing of which could really not have been any better. The presence of the Tottenham talisman makes this team so much stronger. Apart from the threat he provides in front of goal, Kane’s positive influence in the dressing room is particularly important. Mauricio Pochettino was critical of his players following the Monaco result, and did get an improved display as a result against Chelsea, even though Tottenham still can away defeated. Swansea gained a much needed win over relegation rivals Crystal Palace last weekend, but their defensive frailties were till apparent for all to see. I strongly fancy Tottenham Hotspur to put on a real show come 3pm Saturday and get back to winning ways in convincing fashion.
I saw a stat on Twitter earlier which I quickly passed on to my WhatsApp group, which is full of Gooners, Chelsea and Millwall fans. Basically, they all hate Spurs.
@BBCSport: Spurs have conceded the fewest of any team in Europe’s top five leagues so far this season.
I was quickly shot down, ‘You’ve played Cardiff and Palace and a load of teams with made up names that aren’t even proper football clubs in the Europa League.’
While that all may be true, Tottenham have started the season in impression fashion. The defeat at Arsenal, a game which arguably came too soon for this new group of players, is the only blip on Spurs record thus far this campaign. With Arsenal sitting top of the table, it doesn’t seem like such a terrible loss, albeit a painful blow for any Spurs fan to take.
So this Saturday at 12:45pm we kick off against Chelsea. This is the first time that I can remember the top online bookmakers putting Spurs in as favourites for a match against the Blues. Tottenham have a woeful overall record against Chelsea in the last couple of decades but, things have certainly improved in recent times with the home side having lost just five of the last fourteen encounters.
Although Chelsea returned to winning ways against Fulham last time, they aren’t exactly on fire. Jose Mourinho’s men have scored just six goals in their opening five matches which is their joint-lowest return at this stage during the last eighteen years. Admittedly, they are only two points off Tottenham and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table and a win at White Hart Lane would see them reach the helm at least temporarily.
This could be one of the defining games of Tottenham’s season and Andre Villas-Boas career as a manager. No matter what he is telling the media in the run up to this game, victory over Mourinho and his former club Chelsea would mean everything to him. Spurs have had a number of false dawns before but this is for me the best squad of players we have had since the Premier League began. Whatever the result, I just hope the players go out there with no fear and play with the freedom, passion and ruthlessness they have shown in recent weeks.
Former Tottenham and Arsenal boss George Graham is apparently a huge horse racing fan and perhaps he should stick to trying to predict the finishing order of the 2013 Kentucky Derby horses rather than voicing his unwanted opinion on Spurs in the press as he has been recently. Graham believes that both Chelsea and Arsenal will finish above Tottenham this season, meaning that we will once again miss out on Champions League football by the narrowest of margins.
“Tottenham will be the ones to lose out.
“They have a difficult run-in and they have played a game more than the others.
“But I want to stress that it would be anything but a disaster for them to make it a poor season. In fact, I would say the opposite.
“He (Villas-Boas) has been assembling a squad and has done well to be in such a high position in the league and still be involved in the Europa League.
“He can build on that. And I hope he can keep Gareth Bale – for the club’s sake and the player’s sake.
“It is unfair on Bale to compare him to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He would really benefit from another season in England.”
Although Graham isn’t completely negative about the club, he has always had a problem with Tottenham since his sacking back in March 2001. While some of what he says is true, Spurs have been improving throughout the campaign. A couple of bad results does not mean that our season is over and I’d be fairly confident that Graham was singing a different tune a few weeks ago. I truly believe it could well go down to the wire and with Spurs having Sunderland at home on the final day of the season, I’d say that would put AVB’s men in the driving seat. There is still a lot of football to be played before May 19th and many twists and turns still to come.
For more information on the Kentucky Derby visit www.kentuckyderbyonline.com
Saturday’s live lunchtime kick off on Sky Sports is the match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. With both sides in the running for a Champions League place this season, this could be a very important result as far as a top four finish is concerned. The upcoming European Championships could be in the backs of some players minds and could be having a negative affect on some while encouraging others to play well to try and force their way into the final squads. The Euro 2012 odds are sure to change on the back of these performances. Until recently, Tottenham were certainly in the driving seat being well clear in third place and even making a brief challenge for second spot, but following just three bad results in a row, the top of the table now has a completely different complexion to it.
Although there isn’t much between the two sides as far as their last six games are concerned with Chelsea having taken 8 points to Tottenham’s 7, the Blues definitely come into this match with the upper hand. Chelsea have won two of their last three Premier League games but also have momentum from victories in the Champions League and the FA Cup where striker Fernando Torres rediscovered his scoring touch. If Torres can continue to find the net for the remainder f the season, it will be like having a new signing for Chelsea. Spurs on the other hand look a bit flat and have lost their last three league games. The difficult FA Cup clash with Bolton this past weekend certainly won’t have helped matters.
Spurs do have a chance to pick themselves up on Wednesday night with a home game against Stoke City, while Chelsea travel to the fortress that is the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City. Depending on those two games, there could be a very different feel to Saturday’s match as a win for Spurs and a defeat for Chelsea would give the Tottenham a seven point cushion. As things stand currently however, Chelsea are the strong favourites to take all three points. The Blues were victorious in this fixture by two goals to one last season, and a similar result would not surprise me. I’m hoping Spurs can surprise though and get their season back on track.
Chelsea v Tottenham Head to Head
Chelsea Wins 60
Tottenham Wins 49
Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham
Current Form (Last Six Games)
Five points behind Chelsea, six off Man City. We haven’t scored in our last three games, haven’t won in five. Since the 16th January, our strikers have only scored six goals between them. Worst of all, Tottenham are highly unlikely to be playing Champions League football next season. A heavy defeat in the Bernabeu on Tuesday night would really finish us off. Even the biggest optimist would struggle to see us winning the Champions League and I’m worried whether the players will have the motivation as well as the threat in front of goal to go to Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool and get results.
Admittedly, we have three home games coming up in the League against Stoke, Arsenal and West Brom. Maybe things will look very different after that, but the fact we couldn’t manage to beat any of the bottom three sides in our last three games doesn’t exactly inspire me with confidence.
Tottenham’s destiny is most certainly still in their own hands. On top of the games at the Lane, Spurs also have to go to Chelsea and Man City. Having dropped so many points in recent weeks, the likely scenario now is that we go into those games desperate for a result. Had we managed to beat a couple of the relegation candidates, the pressure would have been on Chelsea and City to win their home games.
There have been a number of stages this season where we have dropped off the pace a little and I’ve been worried we would struggle to get back in the hunt for a top four spot, but every time the lads have managed to get back involved. I certainly wouldn’t be having a bet on Spurs at the moment and I just don’t like the look of the little gap that’s developing or the fact Man City scored the same number of goals in one game as Spurs have managed in their last six…
After seven games, things all look very rosy. I certainly would have taken 15pts and 4th place in the table at this stage if you had asked me at the start of the season. We can’t stop scoring and our only defeats have been to arguably the best two sides in the country. We are certainly improving and very much going the right way under Harry but for me there are still five teams in the league that are better than us and I don’t see what we can do about that.
It isn’t a term I like to use because it annoys me when pundits keeping banging on about it, but the fact is I don’t think we can break into the top four this season or any season in the foreseeable future for that matter. It’s probably too early to be making judgements like that especially when we are playing so well but if you look at the teams that are likely to fill the places this season, they just have too much about them.
Man City are nowhere near the finished article, but are already playing as well as anyone in the Premiership. They are only going to get better and I’ll be shocked if they don’t break into the top five this season, third or forth place would not surprise me either. Obviously, Man Utd and Chelsea aren’t going to finish outside the first three positions so our only chance is to displace two of Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City.
While Spurs don’t have the distraction of European football and can concentration on the Premier League, we will still fall just short. The defeats against Chelsea and Man Utd have shown our players don’t quite yet have the mental toughness I thought they did. To concede three goals in both games is a sign of a slight lack of belief rather than ability. I know we have been brushing lesser teams aside with ease but I worry we won’t pick up enough points against teams like Everton, Villa and even Sunderland.
Sixth spot and a cup semi final would be a good season as far as I’m concerned and that is more or less what I think we will end up with. Whether Harry can unearth enough in the transfer market to improve Tottenham past these achievements in future seasons is unlikely. Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea are untouchable and while I’d like to think Arsenal and Liverpool are on the downgrade, form so far this season suggests they aren’t.
It seems like we are reverting back to the Spurs of a few years ago with awful luck where players getting injured is concerned. After losing Bassong and Ledley on Sunday, our defence is literally in pieces. Woodgate has no imminent return date and although Dawson isn’t too far away now, him leading the line is something I don’t want to think about.
There is no doubt about it, Tottenham are left without a commanding presence at the back with the current defensive injury list. There is no real centre half that is fit for that matter other than the vastly inexperienced Dorian Dervite. Corluka and or Hutton are able to play in the middle but it isn’t their preferred position. We do have options at full back but again there is nobody I would call dominant or a leader.
The only plus point is the fact this has happened prior to a run of somewhat easy games. I realise no games in the Premier League are easy, but if you have to blood some youngsters, I’d prefer to do it against Preston and Burnley rather than Man Utd and Chelsea. Hopefully Dawson, King and Bassong will all be back by the time we go to Bolton a week on Saturday. Kevin Davies will have a field day against a Spurs defence full of inexperience and players out of position.
I’m am holding out in the hope Alan Hutton will come into his own now he’s put some of his problems behind him. He settled with the agent that has been giving him grief since his move to Spurs this week and he has had a fair bit of time to get back to full fitness after his long term injury. Hutton has never really played to his full potential since he arrived at Tottenham. Admittedly, some of that has been down to injury but there has also been personal issues holding him back. Now is really his chance to show what he can do and win a regular first team place in Harry’s side.
Unlike the Utd game I’m not going into this one full of optimism. Nothing to do with last week’s result though, just the fact I think going to Stamford Bridge is a much tougher proposition. I’ll be delighted to come away with a point. A defeat won’t be the end of the world.
Chelsea are playing like a well oiled machine at the moment. They have looked comfortable in most of their games thus far and still have a couple of gears to go. It just seems like they are able to find a goal when required.
The positive thing for us Spurs fans is our recent record against the blues. We’ve not lost to Chelsea in our last four meetings with them and we are also the last team to have beaten them in the Premier League, although that was at the Lane.
Harry’s been quoted as saying he doesn’t plan on sitting back;
“We can’t go there and nullify them for 90 minutes – we haven’t got the players to do that. I have attacking players who like to play and express themselves.”
Chelsea’s record at Stamford Bridge is quite simply awesome. Even when they play badly at home, they still normally win. The fact we are going there with an attacking approach is a positive for me. Like Harry says, I don’t think we have the personnel to go there and try and lock down for a point. Our best opportunity of getting something out the game is to score a goal. More than one would be nice!
Like I said earlier, I’ll be pleased to get anything from this game but if we do lose I won’t lose any sleep over it. We have a nice looking run of games coming up against Burnley, Bolton, Pompey and Stoke before Arsenal away at the end of October. If we are still sitting in the top 6 come the Arsenal game, I’ll be more than happy.