When your team has only lifted two League cups in the last 23 years; not finished above their biggest rivals since 1994/5; and consistently find a way to fail to live up to expectations, it should not be a surprise when there are bad times to be a supporter of that club. For us Tottenham fans, last weekend was a particularly disappointing one, starting with the Premiership match away at Chelsea that ended in all too familiar fashion, as we were beaten 4-0 on a ground that we have not won on since February 1990. In some respects, the final scoreline was slightly harsh on Spurs: just as had happened against Manchester City at White Hart Lane in January, a penalty and red card were awarded against Tottenham with the sending off later rescinded upon appeal, suggesting the original decision had been incorrect. When Younes Kaboul was adjudged to have fouled Samuel Eto’o in the box, the visitors were already a goal behind after the Cameroonian striker had been played in by Jan Vertonghen’s awful attempted backpass, but the game was all but killed off when Eden Hazard converted the penalty to give Chelsea a two goal edge to go with their man advantage.
Even if there was some decisions that went against Spurs, they could only have themselves to blame for the poor performance, due to individual mistakes from players – both of Demba Ba’s late goals were also a result defensive errors – and a ridiculous lineup that Tim Sherwood had sent onto the field. Despite playing a 4-5-1 system, five defenders were in the starting lineup, while Vertonghen (at left-back), Kyle Walker (right-wing) and Aaron Lennon (left-wing) were all played out of position. The inept Nabil Bentaleb was once again started in the middle of the pitch alongside the beast that is Sandro (who was the main reason the score at half-time was 0-0 as he made several important tackles and interceptions) while Paulinho – who has a good partnership in the midfield with his Brazilian teammate, was only introduced after Kaboul had been sent off.
A fellow Tottenham supported sent me a message after the game stating that “I hate to admit it, but we really miss Bale” and I could not agree more: when our talisman from last year was sold for £86m last summer, it was claimed that the battery of players who were brought in with that money offered a more balanced side – but where were they against Chelsea? Paulinho did ultimately come on, but Erik Lamela (who has failed to make any impression at all) and Vlad Chirices were injured, as was Christian Eriksen, though for some reason Sherwood has not been starting him even when he is fit. Roberto Soldado – who we all cheered finally scoring a goal from open play against Cardiff, but who should be offering more for the £26m fee that was paid for him – and Nacer Chadli were unused substitutes, meaning every single member of the starting XI was in the squad prior to the sale of Gareth Bale. We could have still had the Welsh wizard at our disposal, all it took was to stand firm, look how successful Luis Suarez has been at Liverpool this campaign, despite him also wanting out last summer, but Chairman Daniel Levy decided to cash in because Bale said he wanted to move to Real Madrid. Last Saturday, had he been in the squad, the starting lineup could have looked a lot more balanced: Bale and Lennon on the flanks, Walker restored to right back with either Naughton or Zeki Fryers at left back, allowing Vertonghen to play at centre back alongside either Michael Dawson or Kaboul. The pace and threat of the Tottenham wingers would have forced Chelsea to adopt a more defensive approach…then they would have caught us on the counter-attack and we still would have lost 4-2, but at least it would not have been as bad as the poor showing that actually happened.
To exacerbate the situation for Spurs supporters, last weekend also saw Arsenal end their trophy drought as they claimed the FA Cup, their first piece of silverware since 2005. They did so by beating Everton 4-1 in the quarter-finals of the competition, so admittedly they still have to go through the formality of winning two more matches in order to get their name engraved on the trophy, but when Wigan beat Manchester City at the Etihad last Sunday – matching their feat form last season’s final and joining only Bayern Munich and Chelsea as teams who have won away at City this campaign – the chances of the Gunners not winning the competition dropped to almost zero. Arsenal will now face the Lactics in the semi-finals, while the other tie will be between Sheffield United of League One and Hull City, neither of whom will pose many problems for Arsene Wenger’s men when they reach the final.
So, while Tottenham were being officially eliminated from the top four race, Arsenal were winning the FA Cup and guess what, they get to pile on the misery this weekend when the two teams meet in the final North London derby of the season, with the Gunners having the opportunity to complete the treble over us this year. Normally I would give a lengthy preview for one of the biggest matches of the campaign for Spurs, but really this time around we have very little to gain with a victory, since Champions League qualification is beyond us and the only thing to hope for is to ruin Arsenal’s title chances. The reality is, with Sherwood as manager and a shower of underperforming players, there is no hope of anything other than another thrashing this Sunday. If you do not believe me, consider’s Tottenham record against the current top 4 this season (all competitions): played 7; won 0; drawn 1; lost 6; scored 2; conceded 24. This could get messy.
Elsewhere in the Premiership last weekend, Fulham are running out of managers to blame and might just need to accept relegation, as they sank further into the mire with a 3-1 defeat at Cardiff, who had started the day second from bottom; Manchester United kept hopes of European football at Old Trafford next season alive with a 3-0 victory away at West Brom; Crystal Palace were beaten 1-0 at home by Southampton; while Norwich and Stoke shared the points with a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road. This Saturday, Manchester City play their first league match since February 22nd as they travel to Hull; Alan Pardew will start his seven game touchline ban (the first three of which he is also barred from going to the stadium) for head butting David Meyer as Newcastle travel to bottom side Fulham; Aston Villa host Chelsea; Cardiff are away at Everton; Southampton play Norwich on the south coast; and Stoke entertain West Ham. There are also a couple of key matches in the relegation battle as Swansea face West Brom and Sunderland return to Premiership duties after their cup exploits, as they take on Crystal Palace; while the evening kick off is between Aston Villa and Chelsea. On Sunday, alongside the North London derby there is also the small matter of Manchester United facing Liverpool, with the visitors favored for the first time in a long while as the two most decorated clubs in English football meet at Old Trafford.
Finally, in European action the news was not quite so good for Arsenal as they could not overcome the 2-0 deficit from the first leg of their tie with the reigning Champions League holders, as they drew 1-1 away at Bayern Munich but exited the competition 3-1 on aggregate. Manchester City had also lost their home game 2-0 against Barcelona and were beaten 2-1 on the night in the Camp Nou, as Lionel Messi scored the opening goal that effectively killed the tie off with a clever left-footed finish over Joe Hart. In the Europa League, Tottenham’s last hope of a first trophy since 2008 will be tested by Benfica, whom they meet in the first leg of their last 16 matchup in a few hours time, but I consider that game far more important than Sunday’s fixture against Arsenal, since it represents the only chance Spurs have of actually winning something meaningful this season.
Last week, 1-4; Season, 142-139
Home teams listed first
Hull vs Manchester City – Draw
Everton vs Cardiff – Home win
Fulham vs Newcastle – Away win
Southampton vs Norwich – Home win
Stoke vs West Ham – Away win
Sunderland vs Crystal Palace – Home win
Swansea vs West Brom – Draw
Aston Villa vs Chelsea – Away win
Manchester United vs Liverpool – Draw
Tottenham vs Arsenal – Away win, 1-6