Eriksen just scored a worldie. Will that goal matter, though?
It’s going to happen again. Spurs are winning every single game; they’re coming off as the most complete, most organised, most motivated side in England. They’re having virtually no weaknesses; no important players injured or suspended. They defend tenaciously; they boss the midfield confidently; they score goals almost for fun. With just three defeats since the start of the season, a +47 goal difference and a state-of-art home record, they seem to be better than everyone else in about every aspect of footballing craft imaginable.
And they’re still not getting their hands on that trophy, are they?
Probably not. A year ago, This fantastic team build for a relatively budget price, based on young, success-hungry individuals, came agonizingly close to sealing their first domestic title in 55 years. In a season of massive failures by the big clubs and ridiculously unpredictable results, Spurs were the outlet of consistency, stringing 14 games without a defeat in the first half of the campaign and then going on to win six consecutive matches in January and February. Harry Kane flourished; Dele Alli has been maturing with every single game; Christian Eriksen glued the team together with his passing, as he normally does.
Alas – it wasn’t enough. The same footballing sides that gave Tottenham the hardest of times have also unanimously decided to bend over in front of Leicester. The ultimate underdogs had more luck, consistency and resilience than anyone else and managed to keep a five-point advantage over Pochettino’s team even despite it’s marvelous run of form. Frustrated and unable to get a helping hand from other teams, Spurs players lashed out violently, resulting with Alli’s suspension earned against West Bromwich and the infamous London derby brawl, which resulted in nine out of their thirteen outfield players getting booked.
The last hope for a title vanished – and, in the end, the team choked the second place too. It all happened in Newcastle, during an embarrassing 1-4 defeat. Magpies, already relegated, have become the only team to steal all six points from Spurs that season. To make things worse: with this shocking win, they’ve sent Pochettino’s lads below Arsenal in the league table, resulting with yet another, consecutive Saint Totteringham’s Day – the 21st one, in fact.
This year, it’s all set up to repeat – only without the part where Arsenal finish above their North London rivals. As it stands, the best Gunners can come up with at the end of the season is 78 points – only four more than the tally Tottenham are enjoying right now, with five games still ahead of them. This London rivalry has already been settled and, for the first time in two decades, the club in white and navy blue will be on top.
However: this success can hardly be called an achievement in a year when everyone gets hammered by yet another team in blue shirts, equipped with tireless N’Golo Kanté in the middle of the park! After a three-game slump back in September, Antonio Conte’s machine has won 22 out of 27 league matches, cashing in three points even from the notoriously inhospitable grounds like St Mary’s, Etihad and King Power Stadium. This week, even though they finally got to taste an exhausting, mid-week fixture, they’ve won again and Eden Hazard scored a crucial goal despite being left alone against five or six Southampton defenders!
For Spurs, this has to be the hardest pill to swallow: the realization that no matter what kind of performances they pull off, there would again be someone else to pick up the silverware ahead of them. Last weekend, they had a golden chance to at least undermine the main rivals in a FA Cup semifinal – and they failed again, sunk by two, otherworldly goals from Hazard and Nemanja Matić. It was an excellent game of football in which both sides would go toe-to-toe with each other – yet, in the end, Tottenham have returned to their position of losers.
The game against Chelsea was a terrific one. And pretty rough too.
A year ago, such outcome would have certainly ended their season once and for all. Alas: yesterday, they went to Selhurst Park; the lair of a team responsible for beating Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal in this month alone. Another win for a rejuvenated Crystal Palace team would push them above the 40-point mark and effectively seal their safety from relegation. In short: they were at home, in-form, well-prepared and aware of the big stakes they’re playing for – possibly the worst combination the team put in front of them could hope for.
But Palace have lost. It was a fight, sure; it was a contest – they’ve lost it anyway. The raging Christian Benteke who, until this point, has scored five goals in April, managed only one shot on target, thirteen minutes in, when his low-corner effort has been smoothly collected by Hugo Lloris. Later on, this shot has proven itself to be the only accurate attempt by The Eagles in the entire match! Sam Allardyce’s team, traditionally set up for sturdy defending and the counterattacks, this time had little to offer beyond holding onto the 0-0 scoreline; in 90 minutes, they’d only complete 157 passes with a revoltingly low, 59% success!
Obviously, stifling the rival is one thing; putting a winning goal past them is another. Kyle Walker didn’t manage to do that when he dragged his long shot wide; neither did Harry Kane with an awkward header. It took Christian Eriksen and his sensational strike to beat Wayne Hennessey. It was the Dutchman’s fourth and final shot of the match and he placed it perfectly with just twelve minutes remaining until the final whistle. With this shot, he took his 2017 tally to five goals and fourteen assists in nineteen appearances. Yes: he had his hand on exactly one goal per each game since the New Year’s Eve. Simply impressive.
The only sad thing about this important victory is what is probably going to happen next. Chelsea are going to visit in-form Everton at Goodison Park and are quite likely to drop points there. Assuming Tottenham continue their perfect home streak and beat Arsenal, this will take Spurs within one or two points behind the leaders. And then, with their backs against the wall in the final phase of the season, Antonio Conte’s team will easily massacre the likes of Middlesbrough (pretty much relegated already), West Bromwich (nothing to play for anymore), Watford (see above) and Sunderland (absolute tail-enders).
The prospects aren’t looking good for Tottenham here. Hosting Arsenal and Manchester United already looks like a problem, as Wenger’s team has found it’s new life in a more and more fashionable, 3-4-2-1 system. Also, Mourinho’s Red Devils have just boosted their confidence by outplaying the team Spurs are attempting to catch. As for other fixtures: Pochettino has also rather unpleasant visits to West Ham, Leicester and Hull ahead of him. Foxes have already snatched a 1-1 draw from White Hart Lane; Hammers nearly won there, until two late, Harry Kane’s goals have reversed that dramatic November match. And Tigers? Marco Silva is currently on 41 home games without a defeat, a record that goes back to his days at Estoril…
What’s worse: this could be the last chance for us to see this side succeeding. Dele Alli’s sensational streak has already sparked rumors of him moving to Real Madrid, who do seem to have a thing for poaching top Premier League talents. Meanwhile, Kyle Walker appears to be on Manchester City’s radar and Inter Milan would love to hire Toby Alderweireld as a part of their summer transfer campaign. Even the future of Mauricio Pochettino is not so certain: he might’ve denied any links with Barcelona, pledging his loyalty to Espanyol, but should a suitable offer land in Daniel Levy’s office, it would be hard to stop the Argentinian’s from taking charge of the biggest footballing team on the planet.
And if Spurs somehow manage to dodge all these man-management pitfalls? Well, there’s one more big issue left. The new stadium. It’s ongoing construction will force the team to depart from the old, good WHL and relocate to Wembley for the entire course of the next season. This means that they’ll be kicking the ball on the same ground that saw them losing to Leverkusen and Monaco this season; the same place, which has been conquered by K.A.A. Gent in Europa League; the same place that used to freak out other footballing sides in the past. Just think about West Ham and their nasty adventures after erecting the London Stadium – it could happen again.
Tottenham need a sporting miracle. Immediately. Not even a huge one; not even the one that occasionally happens to the undeserving. Over the last 20 months or so, they’ve worked hard enough to deserve at least one piece of silverware; the one moment of glory that would make them more than just a footnote in the future sports’ almanacs.
It’s a pity. Because they probably won’t even be getting that.