So we didn't reinvent the wheel. In all too typical Spurs style we managed to redefine the phrase 'limping over the line' in one evening. I still don't think the emotions have fully settled in from last night. I've a pounding headache from the mental stress it caused, not from alcohol consumption - I'm sure. Brain cells marginally picked off by the second as we looked more and more anxious as the game wore on. We knew it, it was destined. We were so heavily favoured to proceed to the quarter-finals that the inevitable lay so casually on the horizon. We fucked up, monumentally.
Complacency was of course going to be an enemy we had to keep well-clear of our system. But we didn't look complacent. We played a sensible game that involved keeping the ball and forcing Inter to do the leg work. The issue was that with Dembele thrown out wide in a 442 that really should've been a far more compact 4312, we had no ball retainer and effective distributor in midfield. Parker was busy forming crop circles. Livermore played with his eyes closed. The gap between defence and midfield was larger than the one Spurs threw away to Arsenal last season and it was almost like we'd decided to un-thread all our hard work this year and return to unhappier times. Uneducated times. Yes, the start of the season. We threw away everything we'd learnt and royally 'Spursed' it up.
What's thankful is that AVB seems to have focused more on acknowledging the abysmal performance rather than attempting to paper over the cracks by revelling in the fact we proceeded.
The few that regularly read my posts will note how forward I am when praising the mental strength and belief that this side has played with this year, especially in 2013. On paper, the defeat at Anfield on Sunday was not too abysmal (although the way in which we grabbed the defeat was) but it always brought interest as to how we'd react to it. I hoped for a victory against Inter to reinstate my belief that we can drown out the negativity of a defeat and learn from mistakes. To have to go into extra time after losing a game 3-0 against a side that was so poor last week has inevitably brought queries as to how quickly we can we deal with defeat. Is it a simple jump up and brush down job or will we need more assistance to find our feet again?
No doubt the physical drain on the players will be the immediate affect. Fulham will take positives from this. We may find ourselves lacking that extra half a yard that could prove the finer margins between picking up three points or one. Our biggest test will be our response from here on. We've a gruelling fixture list papered out but at no point will sides look forward to playing Spurs. Rotation has brought many perks this season. Bar one or two, we seem to have less of a 'fringe side' as the season has worn on. Players have been in and out all season. It's also been promising to see the likes of Tom Carroll playing in the first-team this year. Introductions for him have not been when we're cruising at 4-0 (when does that ever happen anyway?) but in situations that require immediate attention; ie, we're chasing a goal or need to avoid conceding. The experience from playing in these high-pressured, intense environments will only add more steps to a long learning curve for the boy.
Our attack almost needs refreshing. Defoe & Adebayor have looked primative, one dimensional. Saying they've been poor this calendar year is an understatement, they look more and more laboured in each game. I'd love to see Shaq Coulthirst given PL game time. We're severely lacking both energy and fight in the forward position. An 18 year-old eager to rubber-stamp his mark in the Premier League could be just the finish we need to do effectively what we did last night and limp over that finish line for 4th.
Ben - Follow me on Twitter here