April 24, 2010

Belief, bouncebackability, beating the big boys, and Bale.

Even if we don’t take 4th this season, the fact that we are arguably in pole position at this late stage is, to me, so, so impressive. I have been saying since the beginning and throughout the season that I fully expected us to end up 6th or 7th. This hadn’t changed until after the Chelsea game. A quite remarkable week of results. In fact, remove the Sunderland blip (and erase the memory, god we were poor that day) and we have done exceptionally well in the league since the away defeat at Wolves on February 10th, especially whilst juggling a cup run, and with injuries to key players:

Chelsea (H) – W 2-1
Arsenal (H) – W 2-1
Sunderland (A) – L 3-1
Portsmouth (H) – W 2-0
Stoke (A) – W 2-1
Blackburn (H) – W 3-1
Everton (H) – W 2-1
Wigan (A) – W 3-0

Seven wins in eight games….magnificent.

I wrote earlier in the season regarding our issues with “bouncing back” in games, and I still have concerns over our mental strength within games. That said, our ability to bounce back after poor results has markedly improved. No longer do we seem to slump for what seems like half a season. Instead, we bounced back after the Wolves defeat by thrashing Wigan. We bounced back after the semi-final defeat by beating two of our biggest rivals. Whether we have Redknapp, his coaching staff, or a little of both to thank for this new-found belief, I salute them – it’s been a long time coming.

Regardless of where we finish, this season has seen us take huge strides in the right direction. Not only have we “earned more points (61), conceded joint-fewest goals (33) & won more games (18) than in any Premier League season” (optajoe), but we’ve finally ended our “Big Three” hoodoo! Another opta stat: “During the “noughties” [Tottenham] won just three of their 61 league matches against Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd, but have now won two in the space of four days and face United on Saturday.”

All this whilst remembering last season, where we had how many points after how many games, Harry?

In all seriousness, we aren’t getting the attention that we deserve in the press. This is probably partially because Spurs fans have notoriously been seen as cocky, despite a poor PL record, and also because most people (wrongly) see the top 5 as our natural position, based purely on our recent spending. According to transferleague, we have the 4th highest net spend in the Premier League years. Of course, that doesn’t take into account that our wage bill is, for example, approximately half of Arsenal’s.

Our Premier League finishes to date have been:

08/09 8th
07/08 11th
06/07 5th
05/06 5th
04/05 9th
03/04 14th
02/03 10th
01/02 9th
00/01 12th
99/00 10th
98/99 11th
97/98 14th
96/97 10th
95/96 8th
94/95 7th
93/94 15th
92/93 8th

Quite remarkable that we have only finished in the Premier League’s top 6 three times, only qualified for Europe three times, and are still seen as expected to finish in these sorts of positions. Wherever we finish this year, we should not underestimate Redknapp’s achievements.

Finally, a special mention to Gareth Bale. With Lennon out, a number of players have stepped up to the plate and shown glimpses of their ability – Modric , Kranjcar, and even Bentley have, in fits and starts, allowed us to cope without Lennon. But nobody has stepped up to quite the same extent as Gareth Bale.

I think most Spurs fans knew that he was talented and hoped that one day he would come good, be it at left back or left midfield (still the debate rumbles on). But I don’t think that anyone could have predicted the impact that he has had. I don’t think it’s over-egging it to say that he has almost single-handedly won us points, and he has been an absolute pleasure to watch.

That said, I submitted my Player of the Year vote this week, and opted for Michael Dawson – an absolute rock for us who should, without a shadow of a doubt, be travelling to South Africa this summer. To think that anyone believes that Matthew Upson is a better player than him is quite worrying.

I pray that our form continues against United today – some points at Old Trafford would be an unexpected delight. COME ON YOU SPURS!

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