The Breakthrough – At Long Last

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(NOTE: 90% of the following was typed on New Year’s Eve here in the states. I just knew… COYS)

I am typing these words more than 15 hours before Chelsea and Spurs take the pitch for the first fixture of the New Year at White Hart Lane. Yet I am strangely confident that one of the most bizarre anomalies in modern professional sport is about to come to an end. (Oh, did it!! To be perfectly honest, I assumed 2-1. Never in my wildest dreams did I forecast the actual score line) The fundamental facts are these: Spurs have had miserable success against all the big clubs better than them the past year and a half, while playing nearly as well as those same clubs (and better away from home) vs everyone else.

If we define “class” as last year’s Top Four, and then for this season substituted Manchester United for Liverpool, Spurs have played 45 league games vs. everyone else. Their record?

30 wins

7 draws

8 losses

Total: 97 pts, or nearly 2.2 pts/game.

Man Utd vs. those same 15 teams, substituting Spurs for themselves last year have the following record:

26 wins

10 draws

9 losses

Total: 88 pts, or 1.9 pts/game

 

Liverpool vs those same 15 teams, substituting Spurs for themselves this year, have this record:

30 wins

9 draws

6 losses

Total: 99 pts, or exactly 2.2 pts/game

 

Arsenal vs. those same 15 teams have this record:

30 wins

9 draws

6 losses

Total: 99 pts, or exactly 2.2 pts/game

See a lot of difference? Spurs have been better than United vs. the rest of the league and not quite but almost as good as Liverpool and Arsenal. (The other two have the best records, of course: Chelsea have won 2 more points at 101; Man City the best at 108)

And yet in the 12 league games vs the class, plus the FA Cup defeat last January to the Gunners, Spurs have but 3 draws, 10 losses and an embarrassingly poor Goals For/Against mark of 4 to 40. That’s right, up until today’s victory at WHL, we had scored just 4 goals in 13 games against the Premiership’s crème-de-la-crème vs 40 goals conceded. Meaning that the typical game this season and last has been a 3-0 defeat. (Not any more) I have watched professional sports in two countries now for more than 40 years—never have I seen such a disparity in how a particular team plays against one level of competition vs another.

Whether this is a case more of Spurs overperforming against the dregs, as opposed to being underwhelmed against the top, is immaterial now. So are critiques of AVB’s tactics, or same for Four-Four-Tim, or our collective heart (or lack thereof), or how and why our defenders have been so consistently exposed. Tonight we are winners—finally. Whether or not this overdue victory propels us on to a cup or European trophy and/or Top Four placement is another day’s story. For now, let’s celebrate the Lilywhites and the biggest win in at least three seasons.

ADDENDUM: Is Harry Kane the best player in the Prem right now? The fact that this is a serious question speaks volumes for what he—and his manager—have achieved in the past month. With the results in Southampton and the Britannia, who knows which of 6 four sides will finish 3rd or 4th? This was the finest moment at WHL in many a year)

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Paul is a respected U.S. political pollster (Democrat) based in Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles. His love for Spurs began when the Premier League games started appearing regularly in the U.S. and an American lover of football had to choose a side. Bale, Rushdie, Adele, Shakespeare, the Spurs faithful, The Lane, etc. were all irresistible attractions and have made Maslin a Spur for life.

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