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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A Nightmare Relived?

It doesn't take a positive like jumping 7 points ahead of your neighbours to hear whispers of events that occurred last year. Not even whispers, but more uncomfortable conversations that bring back the repercussions of a season that offered so much promise for it too only drop off the edge of a cliff in spectacular Spurs style. It's still a crime scene in North London. The suspect lost his job and, with him, players fled the area. The Champions League was robbed for the second time and we grabbed disappointment from the jaws of hope and, admittedly from a few, borderline expectation.

An inconceivable disaster? Yes and no.

We're approaching our final 10 games of the season. Whether you're looking above or below us in the league and whether we're being chased or in fact doing the chasing falls to your philosophical outlook on life. Those that regularly read my posts or follow me on Twitter will know that I'm your common pessimist. But that's just me. Running alongside our final 10 games is the question we all beg. Will we cope? Mentally and physically. You tie in a Europa League run and the final flourish looks daunting. The fixtures on paper would keep many up at night, giving nightmares to others.

Last year epitomised the rollercoaster that Spurs fans jump on at birth and remain on every season. Deep down we all love it, despite this not always being immediately obvious in the heat of the moment. It'll carry you with anticipation then fall in free flow, making you feel a little queasy at times on the way.

"We've definitely got more belief this year. We didn't have much of the ball for the first 20 minutes against Arsenal but we showed grit and determination. After we gave them the goal back so early in the second half, we showed fighting spirit and commitment that you need to win matches." This quote came from Michael Dawson post-Arsenal but effectively sums up our season. I've mentioned in the past that, fundamentally, the players are believing that they'll pick up three points in each game. Our mentality isn't the fragile China Dolls we became accustomed to last season. The abysmal sight of seeing Arsenal pull one back so early could only have us thinking the worst. For us to not concede for the rest of the game showed fantastic strength mentally. We stood our ground and were there to be counted.

We finally have fire in the belly of the players. A prolonged fire. We've seen little signs of burnout as of yet but, of course, 2 defeats and suddenly you invite the uncertainty you'd fought off for so much of the year. I'm not expecting Spurs to wrap anything up prior to Sunderland on the final day, it's not the way we do things. But I am under the opinion that AVB's got the matches and the appropriate tools to keep this fire burning. It's been duly noted that Villas-Boas has applied the same system he applied at Porto; this included conditioning the players and preparing them to play 2 games a week. This had always been something we'd struggled to become accustomed to.

Our strongest side has, to the day, remained out of reach. Never have we once had the option to field what many would regard as our 'first 11'. If anything, this season has allowed us to become more adaptable. The rotation - or lack of rotation - that was so desperately missing last year has proved key in keeping the squad fresh and able. Substitutes don't look short of match fitness and uncomfortable when drafted in. Every player seems valued by the staff and each one is proving their importance as the season has worn on. There was a weight of expectation for Holtby to deliver in the Arsenal game yet he didn't play a minute. This underpinning the benefits of sufficient squad rotation.

Sigurdsson is one that has shown further signs of improvement as a demanding season has worn on. There's no doubting the technique on the player but he always struggled to fit into a side that thrives on speed and counter-attacking. I've always felt his positioning was second to none at times, his ability to make space for himself and others is a feat that shouldn't be underrated. He's not got a bad pass on him as well. The continued faith that has been placed in him seems to be paying off as he has proven more influential in the last 2 weeks.

Our season starts now. We're lucky that the season has thrown up a consecutive opportunity to grab a position in the holy grail of Champions League football. It's fair to give the summary that although we did blow (rather spectacularly) the safety of 3rd spot last year, we were still unlucky to have Champions league football robbed from us. It was great, especially for AVB, to smash our unbeaten record but this is where opportunities need to be grasped and remain grasped until the the final whistle in the 38th game.

Ben - You can follow me on Twitter here