As a club we have been in a battle for a while now. A battle against an enemy who has been our nemesis at the heart of every disappointment we have suffered.
A foe that exposes our weaknesses when our strengths are most required, who without warning can coax calamitous stupidity out of our players, who leaves us looking inferior to opponents we appear to have the beating of and who we have to face in every minute, of every match in every competition.
Yep, you’re already there. It’s ourselves.
I think the reason Sunday was so frustrating was how encouragingly un-Spurs like so much of the team’s behaviour has been this season. Taking 4 points off Manchester United was, in itself, extremely un-Spurs like but even the manner in which the results were achieved felt different. One of the key flaws in our collective psyche is the ease with which we accept shifts in momentum as definitive, how unquestioningly we acquiesce to a narrative that seems to be pointing towards it not being our day. So when Nani scored early in the 2nd half at Old Trafford,scoring so soon afterwards was pivotal. Not just in the context of the game but in demonstrating a defiant refusal to accept it was going to be another one of those days. Another vintage United comeback, another vintage Spurs collapse. They scored again, but we held on. Similarly in the home game another familiar story began to unfold. A spirited and determined Spurs outfought and at times outplayed United yet they were disciplined and ruthless and through a fine finish and clean sheet looked set to get the points. But again we dug deep and again we changed the narrative. The plucky losers got a deserved equaliser and re-cast themselves as dogged, determined achievers.
The same ‘un-Spurs’ characteristics were found in the second leg of the Lyon tie, West Ham away, the long periods of frustration at home to Swansea and away to Fulham, West Brom away, Sunderland away. All games which had the hallmarks of ‘those days’ yet victories were secured. Both Redknapp and Jol’s sides were easier on the eye and more likely to get you out of your seat than this team but both men allowed their teams to accept it wasn’t their day too quickly. There has been a leaner, less flashy, more disciplined aura to this Spurs side. It might not have dazzled to everyone’s taste but more and more it felt like this was a price worth paying for reliability, discipline and fortitude.
So the return of THAT Spurs on Sunday hurt. A lot.
One defeat doesn’t undermine the progress we’re making under AVB or make the fans recent belief in his management unwarranted. But it changes what this week is about and ramps up its importance. Momentum is everything at this stage; we’ve learnt that to our cost before. Had we won on Sunday, the game at Inter would have been an exercise in not doing anything stupid. As long as we got through, there wouldn’t have been a huge inquest had we lost on the night. Now it’s a test of our powers of mental recovery. Even a disciplined draw could be crucial in isolating the Liverpool game as a blip. Conversely a defeat, particularly one featuring lapses in concentration and defensive errors, would, even if we go through, suggest mental deficiencies and a familiar storyline would present itself just waiting for us to play the part in which we’ve become typecast. The Fulham game has changed as well. It could have been a home banker where we reinforced a handsome lead over the rest. Now, for momentum, confidence and points, it is a must win game.
There’s a battle on. It’s us against us. Spurs versus Spurs.
This could get ugly.