We here in the States were not afforded the chance to witness what from all accounts was a rather pedestrian Spurs performance at the Lane last night, punctuated by one glorious Vertonghen to Soldado hook-up that caused the Blades to make the games’ only fatal mistake. But a win is a win, and a win without conceding an away goal is as close to golden as is the trip crosstown to Wembley which now looms.
Failure would involve either a 2 goal away defeat or a 1-0 loss that ends in penalties next Wednesday. The only two sides who have afflicted Spurs with the former this season are the two league leaders—Premier League that is, not League One—and the only away team that defeated Tottenham 1-0 was Besiktas in the one Cup/Europe fixture that really didn’t matter. Sheffield United tain’t City or Chelsea, and next week’s game in Yorkshire definitely does matter.
And coincidentally or not that loss in Turkey was also the only time out of 14 silverware games that Pochettino’s men have come up short… One can quickly point to similar success for AVB in Europa competition, or excuse Tim Sherwood’s Cup tie failures a year ago to newness on the job (the Hammers) and a brutally hard FA opener (at the Emirates). But the truth is that the Argentine is moving his various pieces around the board in such a manner as to have Spurs alive and reasonably well in all four trials under his watch. This is a deep if not mega-talented roster, and despite injury, suspension and AFCON, the manager has his team poised to break through in several places.
A win next Wednesday brings a Wembley showdown probably vs. the team Spurs so remarkably undressed just three weeks ago. A win this weekend over the Foxes sends Spurs into the final 16 of FA cup play, as would a victory in Michelangelo’s city combined with at least a draw in London for Europe.
Make no mistake—if not Goliaths, Spurs are hardly Davids with only a sling over their shoulders. This is a team whose back four is growing firmer and more dependable with each week. This is a side that now has at least three, and perhaps a quartet of holding midfielders that while they may lack for creativity they compensate with grit and persistence. This is a side with two different forwards capable of producing magic, and another three capable of running down the wings or into the center with aplomb and pace. So we don’t have two veteran strikers that score goals—it hasn’t prevented an overall record of 21 wins in 36 games.
I don’t know if Spurs are capable of beating out two among Arsenal, Liverpool or Man United—let alone the Saints—to finish Top Four. I don’t know, assuming success at Sheffield, whether they can defeat Chelsea twice in succession, or for that matter Liverpool for the first time in two years. I don’t know if they can keep winning knockout FA Cup fixtures. I don’t know if they can win four more home-and-home legs on the Continent (or possibly Merseyside) followed by a win in the finale at Warsaw.
But what I do know is I’m dying to find out the answers to each question and I would not bet against this manager or this collection of players achieving a breakthrough somewhere in that mix. I believe Poch is a winner—and the proof is coming soon.
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