Everybody plays everybody else twice in the Prem— but it certainly matters when you happen to play certain sides. A team desperate to avoid relegation in April or early May might be a much tougher nut to crack than the same side in the midst of a February chill. Likewise catching a team on the trot in October is generally a tougher proposition than that same side stretched thin by holiday fixtures.
So what to make of the slumping Spurs’ journey on Sunday to Villa Park? Are the Villains just the tonic for a Tottenham club that must now be doubting whether in fact they are even Europa League material, let alone Top Four? After all, our opposition this Sunday have now failed to score in five consecutive league fixtures—a dubious honor made even more embarrassing by their failure last night to crack the suddenly tight defenses at Loftus Road—the same back four that had surrendered a league most 18 goals through the previous week. And, come to think of it, which still lead the Prem. in goals conceded.
Let’s examine the record a bit more closely. That last Aston Villa score came in an Anfield stunner—a 1-0 victory that had propelled them to 2nd place after Week Four. (Ahh… Remember August, when we were top??) Then, in succession, they played the Gunners at home (0-3), Chelsea away (3-0), the holders at home (0-2), and away Merseyside again at Goodison (0-3), before the awful showing last night. Gauntlet: Meet Lambert/Keane. That was certainly the toughest four week stretch any of the twenty clubs have faced so far this season, and might not be bested over the next six months. They can be forgiven a brief hangover in West London.
Do we really believe that Spurs have the quality to keep these Villains—Benteke at the front—off the scoresheet for one more week? Their home crowd will be desperate, Lambert must be feeling some heat—but I would contend this is precisely when a side is most dangerous. A loss to Spurs and they could fall into the drop zone and begin to contemplate a repeat of last season with a desperate survival battle on their hands. So if at least one goal from Villa is in the offing, that begs the obvious question—from where will we find at least two? In nine league games, Spurs have exceeded one goal just twice—with the August explosion vs. ‘Arry and the frustrating draw at the Stadium of Light. They seem like distant memories after the failure to score vs the Baggies and the four consecutive one-goal affairs since. I think this is the time for Pochettino to make whatever move(s) upfront he believes might unleash whatever scoring force this squad possess: whether that means subbing Kane for Adebayor, playing them both together, replacing Mason or Capoue with an offensive-minded Dembele, or some other stroke of brilliance none of us have yet thought of. If there is to be any hope of advancement this season, it had better start with the coming of November.
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