|photo by SteveR-
Correspondent James is pretty pumped up by the happenings at White Hart Lane:
"Spurs never win a game in hand." This piece of conventional Spurs' wisdom was repeated more frequently over the last few weeks as supporters confronted the surreal quality of the Lilywhite's superior form in the Premiership since August against the innate pessimism ingrained over 51 years of frustration and heartbreak. It was the latter of these two sentiments that predominated heading into yesterday's key "game in hand" clash with a Toffees side that, while lacking firepower, is usually disciplined and well-prepared under David Moyes. And so, we prepared for the harsh removal of the "game in hand" that we had wrapped ourselves in like a warm blanket since the first chilly days of autumn.
There were also more tangible reasons to be pessimistic: namely, injuries in the center of the field. With both Sandro and Parker gone, the key role of holding midfield would fall to the promising youngster Jake Livermore. Moreover, as now both William Gallas and Ledley King were down, the center half pairing with Younes Kaboul would be Michael Dawson, just returning from a long-term achilles injury and playing in preference to the erratic Sebastien Bassong.
Alas, as has been the case with Spurs all season, the need for pessimism was non-existent. Spurs turned in a very solid 2-0 win yesterday in which Dawson displayed very little of the rust one would expect after such a long lay off, and third choice holding mid-fielder Livermore turned in a poised man-of-the-match performance. That designation would be challenged by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who turned in a wonder strike from thirty five yards out to put Spurs up two in the 63rd minute, and Rafael Van Der Vaart, who, for the fourth straight game, ran his Dutch socks off and pin-pointed sublime passes all over the field. Perhaps more impressively, no one on the squad possessed the jitters that appeared to predominate amongst the crowd at the Lane. Rather, they played their typical composed and flowing game, dominating possession and getting by far the better of the chances.
Even more impressively, each week has seen Spurs appear to notch ever closer to embracing the classic Dutch style of flowing football. The key to this appears to be Gareth Bale's new found proclivity for drifting into the middle and creating chances from there for himself and others. This in turn brings Assou-Ekotto charging up the flank to create numerous crosses or even, like yesterday, opportunities for himself. Meanwhile, Kaboul now seems to charge up the middle with great frequency, Van der Vaart and Luka Modric roam all over the field, Emanuel Adebayor hustles up and down the field holding up play and forwards as a whole sprint back to cover on defense. Meanwhile, Spurs can insert youngsters like Livermore or veterans like Dawson, just returning to the lineup, to reliably anchor the back while everyone else attacks. Not even Spurs' leading goal scorer Jermaine Defoe can consistently make it onto the pitch. As Uncle Harry said yesterday, if you can't enjoy watching this then there's something wrong with you.
And now we sit after the official end of the "festive season" three points out of first, with the Manchester clubs appearing suddenly to falter, the Chelsea/Leverpool/Arsenal troika looking decidedly mid-table and with talk of Daniel Levy opening the purse strings to pursue the likes of Christopher Samba and Loic Remy for a truly historic push. Not even the most optimistic Spurs fan could have envisioned this after the disastrous start of the season. To be true there has been luck. Not having to lose Adebayor and Assou-Ekotto to the African Cup for one, Dawson returning just in the nick of time for another. But such luck is the stuff upon which historic seasons are potentially made. There are also vulnerabilities. What happens if Bale goes down? Or Dawson (without the arrival of a reliable center half)?
So far, though, Spurs have walked this tightrope almost to the top of the table. "Spurs will never be level on points with United..." the conventional wisdom may hold. This season, however, has been anything but conventional.
Now, if we can only beat Wolves this weekend in trap game before the journey to the Etihad the following weekend. Type of game Spurs have floundered in for years. Feeling worried about that one....
This is farlieonfootie for January 13.