For much of last season, as we tried to hunt the Foxes down, Spurs, their manager and supporters could take some solace in the fact that we had the second-best away record in the league. We only lost three times: bookend defeats to open (Man Utd) and close (the debacle at Newcastle) the campaign—only a loss in our final appearance at the Boleyn Ground beyond those. There was a stretch of 11 away games on the spin during the fall without a loss. Add to that two cup away wins and two losses out of five away games in Europe, and Spurs lost only five times in 26 trips away from the Lane, winning a dozen and drawing 9.
We’ve already lost 6 times this year, and after Tuesday’tepid display joined by seven draws and six wins. (NOTE: I am counting the three Wembley games as away affairs—certainly they are a far piece from home fixtures) Those negative results include games vs the likes of Sunderland, Bournemouth and West Brom in addition to the Wembley failures against Monaco and Leverkusen. And we have been unable to defeat the top sides in the league away this year—settling for draws vs Arsenal, City and Everton while losing to Chelsea. The games at the Etihad and Emirates could both easily have been defeats—in neither did Spurs show the type of road swagger they were able to muster at various points last season.
Now it is also undeniably true that White Hart Lane in its last visage has become a bit of a fortress for Spurs. No losses in 14 games there—only two draws (Leicester and Liverpool) and none since October. We’ve scored multiple goals in every home fixture since the Leicester draw. (I believe I’ve just jinxed the Boro game this Saturday) So take the good with the bad, I guess—it just works out different this year.
But it shouldn’t—if Spurs are going to finish top four, whether a title challenge is still possible or not, they simply cannot afford to drop points away like they did last night. Anfield is a legitimate challenge in ten days, and a draw would not be unwelcome. But games at Palace, struggling Leicester, Hull, Swansea and West Ham must be converted to victories. Only the Burnley contest (third best home record in league– behind Chelsea and Spurs) would seem likely to result in dropped points, but Spurs are still a far better side than the Clarets and could just as easily win that game. But if we lose to Liverpool, and draw one or more of the others, top four is hardly a guarantee and will require a unblemished mark at the Lane, including the two late season games vs Arsenal and Man Utd.
Last year under Poch we dropped points in three of the four final away games—a frustrating draw at Anfield, the Battle of the Bridge, and the walkabout at St. James Park. Did his merciless training regimen leave them out of gas at the end? Will history repeat itself?
Tuesday’s torpor must not resurface. This team will either flourish away and finish Top Four, or head back to Europa.