Spurs face crucial Utd test

by Dan Kilpatrick

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Winning the title at White Hart Lane may seem a distant memory for Arsenal fans, but they can at least reflect that Sunday’s win put paid to any slim hopes Spurs harboured of claiming their first championship since 1961.

The 5-2 demolition leaves Spurs ten points adrift of Manchester City and eight behind Manchester United. With twelve games remaining, consolidating third place – a position they have held since 18 December – must now be the priority and both Harry Redknapp and Rafael Van der Vaart have admitted as much.

There is no shame in conceding the title at this stage. Chelsea and Arsenal both long since gave up on hauling in the Manchester duo and automatic qualification for the Champions League and bragging rights as London’s top club – not achieved by Spurs since 1995 – would represent a fantastic season, particularly given that few gave them hope of such successes in August.

A touch of regret may yet linger; there is a compelling argument that Spurs are unfortunate not to be even better placed. There can be no excuses for Sunday’s defeat, outclassed and outfought as they were by Arsenal. But Tottenham can count themselves unlucky that they faced both Manchester clubs in their opening two fixtures, with an incomplete and unsettled squad. Had they played weaker opposition, they would surely have put some points on the board before Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor signed and Luka Modric stopped sulking. Then there was the refereeing debacle at Stoke and that miss by Jermain Defoe at Eastlands.

As it is, Spurs face the unwelcome prospect of being hauled into a scrap for fourth place. Rather than minding the gap, Arsenal have set about eroding it to seven points in recent weeks and Spurs will now be looking down rather than up.

Their clash with Utd on Sunday could still have a significant bearing on the title race but avoiding defeat, rather than going all out for victory, has assumed critical importance for Redknapp’s side. A loss would dent Spurs’ confidence ahead of tricky league fixtures away at Everton and Chelsea and hand renewed impetus to the chasing pack.

Redknapp will be disappointed with Spurs failure to take points off the teams immediately around them this season. Against the clubs also currently in the top four, Spurs have taken just 3 points from a possible 15 – a solitary 2-1 victory over Arsenal in October.

Tottenham supporters will be the first to point out that they simply do not beat Utd – their winless run stretches back to May 2001 – but it will count in their favour that matches between the Premier League’s top clubs have hardly been predictable this season.

Spurs will also take heart from the inconsistencies of their rivals. The last time Tottenham conceded five, they put together a run of 10 wins in 11 games, while none of Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle or Liverpool have looked capable of replicating such a feat.

It will be crucial to bounce back in similar style against Utd or Redknapp could find himself with an uncomfortable run-in and the realistic possibility of slipping out of the top four.

Such is the fickleness of football that a win could reignite talk of the title, however.

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  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Mystical Mike

    As an Arsenal fan I’m hoping United will do some serious damage on Sunday. Thing is, United are noting special yet they pull it out of the bag every bloody year.

    I thought Redknapp got his tactics completely wrong on Sunday, I’ve always thought he was a great man manager but tactically a bit naive, I think he proved that on Sunday.

    If, and its a massive if, Arsenal do win at Anfield, and United at WHL, then I’m 100% confident Spurs will crumble and fall out of the top 4!

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