Yesterday, during Spurs’ must-win match against Manchester City, the home side looked anything but Champions League contenders for the first hour. In a highly drab affair, Emmanuel Adebayor continued to frustrate with both Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson proving to be ineffective. Even Gareth Bale, deemed fit to play after an ankle injury, represented a forlorn figure, unable to stamp any authority in the game.
In the movie Jerry Maguire, the character Rod Tidwell expresses a deep desire to earn his ‘Quan’ – when a professional sportsman receives “love, respect and money – the whole package”. With 30 minutes left to play, Andre Villas-Boas demonstrated his tactical nous which went a long way to yielding his own Quan by the final whistle. Without doubt, the Portuguese will have already amassed considerable riches during his short career but his talent has always been questioned since his short-lived Chelsea tenure. At Spurs, despite a slow start, he is well on the way to regaining the love and respect which he enjoyed at Porto as his stock at White Hart Lane is steadily rising.
Yesterday, the introduction of Lewis Holtby and Tom Huddlestone, replacing Sigurdsson and Scott Parker, revitalised the Londoners. From being on the back foot, Huddlestone nonchalantly sprayed the ball accurately across White Hart Lane, whilst Holtby snapped at opposing ankles driving his teammates forward. The formation changed too, transforming into a more fluid 4-3-3, where Bale was instructed to play on the right – a move which galvanised the odds-on favourite for Player of the Year. Ten minutes later, the final piece of the puzzle was added as Jermain Defoe replaced Adebayor – a move met by loud cheers from the Spurs faithful. In the space of just over six minutes, Dempsey, Defoe and Bale turned a certain defeat into a famous comeback win, thanks to AVB’s changes. Ironically, the last time Manchester City lost a Premiership game after they opened the scoring was 16 months ago, against Chelsea, with AVB at the helm.
With Everton losing to Sunderland on the weekend, they trail Spurs by five points and have played a game extra, which effectively rules them out for top four contention. Meanwhile, London’s most famous trio are separated by just two points and will be used to Champions League tussles if last season is anything to go by. Back then, the race for the top four involved the Gunners famously overhauling a 10 point deficit against the Lillywhites but both North London clubs lacked focus during the run-in, evident in home defeats against Wigan and Norwich respectively during their last few games of the campaign. Although Spurs did scrape through in fourth position, their Champions League slot was awarded to sixth placed finishers Chelsea, following their surprising Champions League triumph. This season that harsh scenario cannot repeat itself.
AVB has worked “tremendously” (his most used word) hard this season to mend his reputation and interestingly Chelsea and Spurs, who both have a game in hand on Arsenal, play the catch up game against each other at Stamford Bridge on 8th May.
In contrast to last season, AVB’s Spurs have amassed 61 points after 33 games compared to 59 points for Harry Redknapp’s Spurs after 34 games. With more ups and downs expected along the way, the Battle of London is likely to go down right to the wire.
THE RACE FOR THE TOP FOUR:
3rd – 63 points – Arsenal: Man Utd (H); QPR (A); Wigan (H); Newcastle (A)
4th – 62 points – Chelsea: Swansea (H); Man Utd (A); Tottenham (H); Aston Villa (A); Everton (H)
5th – 61 points – Spurs: Wigan (A); Southampton (H); Chelsea (A); Stoke City (A); Sunderland (A)