If you’re a Tottenham-inclined footy fan, that headline might seem a bit strange to you at the moment. We’re currently sitting 6th in the league table, four points outside the Champions League positions. We’ve not won a league match in our last four attempts, including losses to both Arsenal and Leicester. On top of that, we’ve already got as many losses in the league as we had the whole of last season…and we’re only 15 matches into the 2017-2018 campaign.
Makes for pretty poor reading, doesn’t it? One could be forgiven for believing our season is essentially over already. As frustrated as I am over our recent dip in form, however, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add some much-needed perspective. Now, this may not achieve any more than temporarily staying the rage every Spurs supporter felt while watching our most recent, referee-enabled stumble at Watford. But hey, it’s worth a shot.
Same story for Spurs as last year
Let’s turn the clock back to December 5th, 2016. Spurs were sitting in 5th place in the league, three points behind Man City and the Champions League spots. They had won 7 matches, drawn 6, and lost 2. In the month of November, they were only victorious in 1 of the 5 matches they played across the league and Champions League; a 3-2 win over 10-men West Ham. Their other results were 2 UCL defeats against Leverkusen and Monaco, a league draw with Arsenal and a league defeat against Chelsea. The Champions League losses in particular were significant, as they signaled the end of Spurs’ campaign at just the group stage.
Spurs’ top players were as out of form in November 2016 as they are this year. Losses to two major title rivals no doubt wound up costing us the trophy later on, especially the 6-pointer to eventual champions Chelsea. The only difference between those 2016 Spurs and today’s team is we’ve lost two more games than they have. Otherwise, the form and league position are just about the same. By the end of the 2016 season, though, we had made second place our own in convincing fashion. While I certainly realize that 2nd isn’t a trophy, I think most of our fans today would bite the proverbial hand off if they were offered that right now. Champions League qualification is, after all, paramount for any ambitious club.
December renaissance inbound?
To continue my comparison with this season and last, let’s examine what we may have to look forward to in the final month of the 2017 calendar year. Spurs’ 2016 December results were nothing short of exemplary; they won 5 of their 6 competitive matches both domestically and abroad, with the only loss coming via a narrow 1-0 defeat to Man United. Their list of vanquished opponents, meanwhile, included the same types of “lesser” sides (Hull, Swansea, Burnley) that 2017’s Spurs have so far struggled to overcome.
Spurs’ 2017 schedule looks quite similar to last year’s in terms of opposition strength. League leaders Man City are the only top 6 side we’ll face this month; the rest of our league schedule is populated by the likes of Southampton, Brighton, Burnley, and Stoke. Our Champions League duties, meanwhile, will be considerably less strenuous. We’ve already sealed first place in our group, meaning our December 6th tie with Apoel is little more than a formality. I expect Poch will rest quite a few of our big players to refresh them for our league duties.
In all honesty, I expect City will beat us. They’re in scintillating form at the moment and our defense has looked miserable without the injured Alderweireld. But if we can win the rest of our league matches, we’ll take 12 points from a possible 15 just like last season. Given many of our rivals will have a more difficult month due to league cup duties adding a fixture, the opportunity is ripe for us to regain the ground we’ve lost with recent performances.
Don’t flip the panic switch…yet
I realize that quite a few people who read this aren’t going to be receptive to the message. We’re a team with high aspirations, yet we consistently let ourselves down in the pursuit of success. The truth is, though, almost every team has a patch like this during the course of a season. Title winners don’t, and it’s tough to see City failing to win for a month. But the rest of the league will make mistakes and drop points. If we’re prepared to capitalize on those moments down the stretch, a poor November won’t make much of a difference.
Sure, a few of our more important players are badly out of form right now, and that makes it easy to pile on and criticize the direction the team is headed. That said, does anything truly believe that guys like Dele and Eriksen will stay poor for an extended period of time? Seems very unlikely to me; quality will eventually tell. Unfortunately for us, we’ve got multiple players out of form at the same time; a statistical improbability that is making our performance issues look worse than they really are.
If we find ourselves still adrift come April, I’ll be just as panicked as anyone. But with over half the season to play, I’m not quite prepared to think negatively about our prospects. If we wind up 3rd or 4th and having made a good run in Europe come the end of the year, no one is going to care that we tied West Brom a few months into the season. Stay calm fellow yids…the league is a marathon and (thankfully), not a sprint.