The real challenge starts now

Tottenham Hotspur players celebrate a goal
After beating Arsenal last weekend, Spurs are 7 points clear of their bitter rivals. But with 10 games left to play the real challenge for Spurs starts now.

The result was deserved, the victory was sweet and we all enjoyed Arsenal’s misery. But we all have to come back down to earth and see the game for what it was. A great derby day victory, but still only worth 3 points.

A Premier League season is a marathon, not a sprint. We all should know that so well by now after Spurs’ horrendous nosedive in the last couple of months of last season. With 10 games left to play the margins between second and sixth place are still too narrow to write anyone off at this point, including Arsenal and even Everton.

First let’s have a look at the final 10 game run-in of all 5 clubs that are in the mix for a top 4 finish.

Man CityTottenhamChelseaArsenalEverton
Everton (A)Liverpool (A)West Ham (H)Swansea (A)Man City (H)
Wigan (H)Fulham (H)Southampton (A)Reading (H)Stoke (H)
Newcastle (H)Swansea (A)Fulham (A)West Brom (A)Tottenham (A)
Man Utd (A)Everton (H)Sunderland (H)Norwich (H)QPR (H)
West Brom (H)Chelsea (A)Tottenham (H)Everton (H)Arsenal (A)
Tottenham (A)Man City (H)Liverpool (A)Fulham (A)Sunderland (A)
West Ham (H)Wigan (A)Swansea (H)Man Utd (H)Fulham (H)
Swansea (A)Southampton (H)Man Utd (A)QPR (A)Liverpool (A)
Reading (A)Stoke (A)Aston Villa (A)Wigan (H)West Ham (H)
Norwich (H)Sunderland (H)Everton (H)Newcastle (A)Chelsea (A)

Now let’s break it down in games against the league’s current top 6 and top 9, and the top 5 in form teams and bottom 5 in form teams.

 Man CityTottenhamChelseaArsenalEverton
Games against Top 633324
Games against Top 955545
Games against Form Top 522314
Games against Form Bottom 514312

Of course this is a snapshot at this point in time. Teams could suddenly hit a run of form or suffer a dip in form. But right now, the figures seem to show that Arsenal have the easiest run-in of all 5 clubs. However, Spurs are playing the highest number of out of form teams (4) in Wigan, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland. Unfortunately, Spurs will face these teams in the last 4 games of the season, a period in which these struggling teams will be fighting tooth and nail to avoid relegation.

Considering their run-in it’s pretty clear Arsenal are still a considerable threat. The defeat against Spurs is a massive blow to them, but to completely rule them out at this point is both dangerous and mathematically false.

Many call it a distraction, but staying on track for European silverware by eliminating Internazionale could be a major confidence boost for Spurs. Thursdays 3-0 victory was thoroughly deserved. The team didn’t really have to get out of third gear to cruise past the Italian outfit, hence the fatigue coming into Sunday’s game against Liverpool will be minimal. However, the big games will come thick and fast in April:

7 March 2013Tottenham v Inter
10 March 2013Liverpool v Tottenham
14 March 2013Inter v Tottenham
17 March 2013Tottenham v Fulham
30 March 2013Swansea v Fulham
4 April 2013Europa League quarter-final - 1st leg
7 April 2013Tottenham v Everton
11 April 2013Europa League quarter-final - 2nd leg
14 April 2013Chelsea v Tottenham
21 April 2013Tottenham v Man City
25 April 2013Europa League semi-final - 1st leg
28 April 2013Wigan v Tottenham
2 May 2013Europa League semi-final - 2nd leg
5 May 2013Tottenham v Southampton
12 May 2013Stoke v Tottenham
15 May 2013Europa League final
19 May 2013Tottenham v Sunderland

With the right amount of rotation any team should be able to compete in at least 2 competitions simultaneously. Fixture pile-up seems to be a typical English excuse. You hardly ever hear German, Spanish or Italian clubs complain about playing 2 games in a week.

The fact that Man City, Spurs, Chelsea and Everton are also still involved in one or more cup competitions means they will face similar fixture pile-up like Spurs. Now that Manchester United are knocked out of the Champions League, they won’t have any reason to field a weakened team against Chelsea and Arsenal either, which is a huge bonus from a Spurs point of view. It’s all these little things that could make the difference if a club finishes in second, third, fourth or fifth place.

A prediction on the points from the last 10 games and the final league table:

League finishPoints from last 10 gamesTotal points
2. Man City2382
3. Tottenham2276
4. Chelsea2375
5. Arsenal2067
6. Everton1661

At first glance, things seem to be going great, but slipping up once or twice against the lower ranked teams and this prediction goes straight out of the window. Estimations are that Spurs will need to win at least 5 of their last 10 games to secure a top 4 finish, or at least 7 to hold on to their current third spot. In a 10-game run-in anything can happen. It is key that Spurs prevent suffering in a similar slump like they did the last two seasons at all costs. To reach the Champions League whilst Arsenal could miss out is probably the biggest blow ever to Arsenal’s supposed dominance in north London.

A win against Liverpool will see Spurs stretch their unbeaten league run to 13 games, winning their last 5 games on the bounce. This will be a massive confidence boost going into the last months of the season. That’s why the real challenge starts now.


Dutch Spurs fan, football connoisseur and ambassador of free-flowing attacking football.

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