After almost a month without a win, yesterday’s result showed that, every now and then, Spurs can take advantage of their top four rivals slipping up. There’s still a lot of damage to be repaired, but a weekend that ends with Tottenham sitting back in the Champions League places, or be it on goal difference, cannot be belittled. And, on paper at least, fourth place should now be ours to lose – with games against Bolton, Villa and Fulham to come, whilst Chelsea and Newcastle face each other in a crunch game on Wednesday night, we will only have ourselves to blame if we end up outside the top four.
Of course, the trouble with this assumption is that it is still grounded on the basis of the Tottenham of the first half of the season, who for the most part swept aside all in their path. The Tottenham of the second half of the season have been equally predictable, but in an entirely more disappointing way. With Redknapp now seemingly having been overlooked for the England job, though, perhaps with his focus fully on the task at hand, we can resurrect our early season ruthlessness. Certainly, there were glimpses of the old Spurs lustre yesterday, through the tarnish of the past few months, and it can be hoped that they will come to the fore in the vital remaining fixtures.
The Quality of the Opposition
The important thing is not to get carried away after yesterday’s result. It gets us temporarily out of our slump, and technically puts us back in pole position for fourth place. However, it was a result that came against a Blackburn so devoid of ambition that it’s hard to assess its true use as a way of evaluating the Tottenham team. Any casual viewers could have been forgiven for assuming that Steve Kean’s side had already reached the late season nothing-to-play-for realm of mid-table, such was their reluctance to attack. For a team struggling to maintain their Premier League status, failing to register a single attempt on goal (the first team to do so in a Premier League game since West Brom vs. Manchester City in 2004) is unforgivable. It also makes them the first team this season in Europe’s top five leagues to fail to take a single shot in a match.
A Goal From a Direct Free-Kick
After the madness of seeing Spurs score from a corner in consecutive matches a couple of months ago, we were this time treated to the rarest of spectacles – a goal from a free kick. Spurs had last scored from a direct free kick in the 2009-10 season, when David Bentley actually scored two in a matter of months. After literally years of watching the team blast them against the wall, over the bar, or wide of the post, yesterday Kyle Walker casually strolled up, and, with only his second shot on target of the season, scored his second goal of the season, and in some style. Looks like we found our free kick taker for the next few games – or at least until he starts blasting them over like everyone else.
Van der Vaart and Bale
Considering the current form the team is in, precisely what we didn’t need right now was players getting restless and starting to make eyes at other clubs before the end of the season. Sadly, Gareth Bale clearly missed that memo, and proceeded to state going into the weekend that he’d have to ‘consider his future’ if Spurs failed to make the Champions League. We’d put forward for his consideration that if, in fact, he spent more time concentrating on his football, and less time worrying about which Champions League team he quite fancies a move to over the summer, he might improve on his current poor record of 48 attempts without a goal and counting.
At least, in Bale’s defence, he did provide the assist for Van der Vaart’s goal, though Lennon must also take credit. It was good to see Van der Vaart back amongst the goals, and also becoming the first Spurs player to score 10+ goals in consecutive seasons since Keane and Berbatov in 2007-8. One of the most likeable players at the club, he’s one of the only ‘big names’ at Spurs to state that he will be at the club next season whether they make the Champions League or not. Perhaps Bale and Modric would do well to look to his example, especially with the prospect of Champions League football next season still a very real possibility.
Sandro – Back on Form
Sandro himself would probably admit that he had a shocking few recent appearances, but he made up for those yesterday with an indomitable defensive midfielder masterclass. The Brazilian put himself about the pitch with an impressive industry, winning all 11 of his attempted tackles, and running the midfield in Parker’s absence. At times, there have been questions as to whether Sandro is the man to fill Parker’s boots once the ageing Englishman retires – this performance, however, shows that he certainly has the potential, and could be an important player for Spurs for many years to come.
Harry and England
As a parting thought, it’d be impossible not to mention the England job in passing given the developments over the past 12 hours. With Redknapp looking like being overlooked for West Brom’s Roy Hodgson, a decision that few saw coming, the implications for Redknapp and Spurs are manifold. An article taking a closer examination of the situation will be on its way as soon as Hodgson’s appointment is confirmed as seems likely, but meanwhile it will suffice to say that Redknapp could well find himself out of a job in the summer if he fails to land Spurs a top four finish – a scenario that seemed an impossibility four months ago.
On Twitter: @AEFSpurs.