At face value, last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to 19th-placed Crystal Palace seemed a bitterly deflating result. Spurs had just come off of battering league-leaders Chelsea at White Hart Lane in a match no one expected them to scrape even a point from, and confidence must have been at a season high. Palace, on the other hand had just swapped managers, and remained near the bottom of the Premier League table prior to kickoff.
But football is a funny game, and it certainly unfolded in a funny manner at Selhurst Park. The first signs of worry were there in the form of Spurs’ unconvincing midfield play. Ironically, the lack of youngsters Mason and Bentaleb proved a big problem, and their more established peers Dembele and Stambouli failed to control the game. Up front, few chances were created, though credit to the once again excellent Harry Kane for creating and finishing one for himself early in the second half. Defensively, Spurs didn’t look too terrible despite a minor first half scare that Lloris bailed his dealt with by rushing off his line. Over 90 minutes, though, old problems came back to haunt Spurs. By playing down to the competition, failing to take chances, and sitting back to absorb pressure at 1-0 up instead of seeking to kill the game off, they contributed to their own downfall.
That said, I’d be remiss to blame Spurs entirely for the way the match turned on its head in twelve frantic second half minutes. Referee Anthony Taylor didn’t exactly cover himself in glory, though he did manage to provide pundits with their prodigal son Alan Pardew narrative. How Taylor saw fit to give Palace a penalty for what appeared to be almost no contact on Ledley is baffling. Stranger still is the sudden fit of blindness that prevented him from affording Spurs the same courtesy after Ledley clearly tripped Kane at the other end. Manager Mauricio Pochettino may have taken the high road after the game by refusing to blame the referee’s performance for his team’s collapse, but I certainly don’t have to. Taylor’s poor decision-making opened the door for Palace with the phantom penalty, and to their credit the hosts made the most of it to steal 3 points they probably didn’t deserve.
So…should Spurs be in panic mode after such a dismal result? A few days ago, I may have been of the opinion that yes, they should. One can only watch his team perennially take a single step forward and then two steps back so much before reaching the breaking point. That this loss came after such a pleasantly surprising and key victory over a top class team made it even harder to swallow. However, a clearer head and a glance at upcoming fixtures brought some cause for optimism.
Spurs continue their journey in one of the 3 cup competitions they are still involved with by hosting Burnley in an FA Cup replay Wednesday. The visitors are mired in a relegation fight of their own at the moment, and have a thin squad ill-capable of coping with the extra games a cup run inevitably brings. I don’t expect them to be much of a threat to a reasonably well-rested and likely partially rotated Spurs side who will be eager to put the Palace mess behind them. The weekend brings Sunderland in the Premier League, a team most would expect Spurs to beat, also at home. Then it’s two games a week apart against Sheffield United for a chance to book our place in the final of the League Cup. Again, most would fancy us in that two-legged tie.
All four of the above matches over the next two weeks are very winnable. Doing so will allow the side to build confidence ahead of our next series of consistent Premier League fixtures, which includes West Brom away, Arsenal at home, and Liverpool away. These will be three vital matches that could go a long way towards deciding where we wind up come the end of the season. Personally, I think Champions League is a long-shot at best, unless achieved through winning the Europa League. But if there’s anything about Spurs, it’s that as they showed against Palace, they’re completely unpredictable.
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