A hard-fought 2-1 win over a handy Swansea City side might not exactly have us cracking out the champers, but with seven cup finals still remaining, perhaps we can at least give ourselves a nice pat on the back after success in our first one.
Indeed, with the team now carrying a crushing Andy Reid-sized weight of expectation and pressure upon their shoulders, yesterday’s visit to the Liberty Stadium was all set up for another devastating fall.
But far from writing our own obituaries just yet, we managed to overcome what was a very tricky hurdle indeed against Michael Laudrup’s side yesterday. The nature of the task in hand suggests we really can only take it one step at a time, but perhaps we shouldn’t be handing out invites to our campaign’s funeral just yet.
Because if Andre Villas-Boas’ side were supposed to have gone into this game like condemned men, they certainly didn’t look like it. We played some great stuff during the first 45, pressing well and finally showing a bit of forward intent to the crisp passing that’s felt somewhat absence over the last couple of games.
The goals themselves were of course superb and we can maybe now treat ourselves to the self-deprecation of being a two-man team, rather than just the one.
It seems staggering that we’re now in a position where few of us are surprised to see our central defender pull off the sort of technical mastery that one Jan Vertonghen produced yesterday. But despite casually scoring a goal neither of our strikers would probably be capable of putting away and setting one up in the process, it’s worth noting he was also the best defender out there by quite some distance yesterday.
Likewise, aswell as producing what is now a par for the course moment of magic, Gareth Bale’s truly magnificent last minute block to deny Nathan Dyer in the dying moments was arguably just as important as the really quite ridiculous goal he’d slammed in the top corner 70 minutes earlier.
Did we actually learn much from yesterday’s game? Probably not.
The return of Aaron Lennon gave us the same sort of feeling you get after finally unblocking a sinus after a week of gasping with a blocked up nose and the relief he offered this side was predictably palpable.
Up front, we still look woefully short as we have done all season and we probably will continue to do so until the bitter end. The situation regarding Emmanuel Adebayor has now gone past the point of sympathy/abuse/footballing logic, but despite anything else, he simply looks like a man so low on confidence, it’s become difficult to watch.
And again, defensively, when we manage to concede a goal from a winning position, we seem to harvest the same amount of confidence you imagine Jermain Defoe’s missus feels when he goes out for a ‘quiet few drinks’. Swansea certainly forced the matter, of course, but this habit of sitting so incredibly deep following a goal has lingered around like a bad smell for far too long. Yet similarly to our striking woes, this isn’t anything new and if we’ve coped up to now with these problems, we can cope until the end of the season.
Make no mistake about it, following the Arse’s win here last week and the fact they had a shoo-in for three points against Reading yesterday, there was massive, massive pressure on us to go out to Swansea and win. And however you want to frame it, the fact we’ve come back from Wales with three points shows we’re not rolling over and self-destructing just yet. Well, not for the moment, anyway.
AVB said before yesterday’s game that he reckons we need six wins from our last eight games to secure Champions League football. Going on that logic, let’s make that one down, five to go then.