Spurs are in a position where 5th place is a realistic target; a finishing position that would represent salvation from what has been widely perceived as an underwhelming season.
Put simply, 6th place in the league is not, nor should not, be considered an option. And here’s why.
The run-in is kind and includes 7 homes games where we should expect to score 14 points; Fulham, Sunderland, Cardiff and Southampton should surely be seen as wins whilst home draws against Everton and Villa aren’t exactly aspirational, if probable. I fully expect us to lose to an Arsenal side who I believe will still be involved in the title challenge when they visit White Hart Lane in a few weeks.
On the road, the fixture list is more troublesome. Being conservative, I don’t expect any return from trips to Stamford Bridge or Anfield, whilst I think that our performance away to Hull at the weekend points to the fact that we might struggle away to Norwich, Stoke, West Brom and West Ham. Still, given the stage of the season and our form, 6 points from those games would be an acceptable return.
The result? 66 points; good enough to finish 5th in three of the last 4 seasons.
Whether 5th is a good enough return on the investment of nearly £100m is debatable, but few would have predicted Liverpool’s form.
In many ways, it is the unexpected quality of the Anfield side that has seen Spurs’ exclusion from the top 4, rather than any specific aberration of our own. I mean, look at the results of the AVB era; yes, the City, Liverpool and West Ham defeats look heavy (especially the latter) but, in all honesty, the most that we would have expected from the City and Liverpool games was a combined total of a point. We lost to Arsenal away; again no massive surprise.
In contrast, Liverpool have been sublime and have enjoyed their best season in many a year. It wasn’t just the red half of Merseyside that caused us problems either; Everton, by virtue of a solid defence and the early season form of Lukaku, went on an obscene winning streak. Gradually, we’ve caught, as their paper thin squad suggested that we would. Be warned, Sunday’s game at the Lane is crucial; lose and the four point gap is a little too big for my liking.
Our best players are back
So it’s down to Tim to guide us home. Slowly, he’s getting players back too. It was great to see Jan Vertonghen back; possibly the best piece of business we have done for years. If nothing else, we have an alternative to Danny Rose now….
I’m also glad that the Dembele-Bentaleb axis in midfield has been broken up, Moussa being replaced, albeit because of injury, by the more pragmatic Paulinho. For all his promise, Bentaleb, right now is just that. The partnership with Dembele, for me, doesn’t work. We look to open, don’t seem to get forward to support Adebayor from central areas and don’t get enough quick ball to our wide men. Paulinho will solve the first two of those problems. With Sandro and Townsend to return, things look positive. Really positive.
So, the fixtures are kind enough and the side looks to be playing well enough (at least in one half of most games) to get the points we need. We have some of our better players returning after long absences. So we should be hopeful, dare I say it, demanding.
5th place is achievable and realistic. Anything lower is a failure.
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