From one cup final yesterday to another this evening, our return to Upton Park after a season’s absence sees us renew our participation in the bubble-blowers’ favourite match of the year.
Ah yes, it’s the one which usually involves our seasoned mockney friends from the good ‘ol affluent Essex East End spending 90 minutes trying to convince us that we should despise them more than Arsenal. It’s good fun, isn’t it?
Obviously we do take it a little more seriously than we all like to make out. After all, there’s nothing worse than your Spammer supporting work colleague (usually a Football Factory infused version of Finchy from The Office) reminding you how good Carlton Cole’s pea-roller was for the rest of the season.
But for us, this one really is a little more serious than we’re letting on. Our game against Sam Allardyce’s side preludes ties against both Arsenal next weekend and a trip away to Liverpool in the following fixture. For those who didn’t circle it in on your calendars, today marks exactly a year since we lost 5-2 away at the Emirates last season. And more importantly, a year since we last lost three league games on the bounce.
We all know what happened that time. A ten point lead was unceremoniously shredded to just the one and although the Arse ended up showing title-winning form towards the back end of the season, we did of course only have ourselves to blame.
Now the point here is that if we have any serious designs on finishing fourth, we simply cannot see anything nearing a repeat of last season. The initiative is with Villas-Boas’ men, but we were in a far, far stronger position at exactly the same part of the season last term. This isn’t to be the voice of doom, but for as weaker as Arsenal may be this term without Robin van Persie, it’s a bit too early for supporters to start claiming we’re not likely to stuff it up again this time around.
Come out of the next three games unscathed and we can all really start to believe. But whatever happens tonight, it’s absolutely imperative we don’t get sunk.
Stripping the emotion away from this weekend’s north London derby isn’t much fun I know, but for all the issues Arsene Wenger’s men have had this term, they’re still going to be one of the strongest teams that have visited White Hart Lane this season.
It goes without saying that we all want to give them a hiding, but head into that game with three points from this evening and a point against Arsenal still leaves us four points clear with ten still to play. Draw against the Hammers tonight and given the harder run in that we’ve got compared to the Gunners, taking all three points against them looks to be more of an imperative, as opposed to an optional extra.
There’s a lot of football still to play and a lot of capacity for things to change, but make no mistake about it, tonight is a massive stepping-stone on the journey to a top four finish. An away game against a bunch of well-organized, hard-working opponents when the pressure is on, is the sort of game that Spurs traditionally melt in. A lot’s been made of our newfound ability to grind games out and win without playing at the top of our game. If the steely resolve is there, then now’s the time to show it.