The proverb has it that every cloud has a silver lining, but if you’re a Tottenham Hotspur fan, bar a spot in the next quarter finals of the Europa League you can’t imagine there was an awful lot of positives to take out of last night’s 4-1 mauling at the hands of Inter Milan.
Indeed, the train wreck that was Spurs’ hammering at the hands of Andrea Stramaccioni’s side was a chastising experience for all involved, with not a single Spurs player – or their manager, for that matter – coming out blemish-free from the San Siro.
Yet within the grander context of Spurs’ season, last night’s defeat marked only the third time this season that Andre Villas-Boas’ side have lost more than once on the spin, following their 3-2 loss at the hands of Liverpool last Sunday. And as we head in towards the final push of the 2012-13 campaign, that might be more of a blessing, rather than a curse.
Because in recent weeks, for a team that have traditionally been plagued inconsistency, Spurs have begun to develop an incredibly uncharacteristic steel to their performances.
It’s not very often supporters have been able to lay claim to an unbeaten run that’s stretched into double figures within the league, but when Tottenham fans claim to have not been able to remember a time when the side last showed such remarkable resilience, they weren’t joking by any means – defeat at Anfield on Sunday saw the end of a 12 game unbeaten streak; a club record within the Premier League era.
Now while it might seem naïve to suggest that supporters were getting carried away with recent events on the white side of North London, for all the new found confidence and resilience that might have been forged out of this recent run, a lot can be said for looking to keep one’s feet on the ground.
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It may sound strange, but for as vitally important as that 12 game unbeaten run has been to the club, it’s the recent couple of losses that could prove to be just as important in propelling them towards achieving success both at home and abroad.
Following the 2-1 victory over Arsenal in the recent North London derby, it’s difficult to remember a time when confidence had risen quite so high within the Spurs camp. A fitting reminder would perhaps lie within the 10 point gap they amassed – only to blow it come the end of the season – over the Gunners last term. But if patience is short within the beautiful game then memories are even shorter and the side’s recent success under Villas-Boas has done an awful lot exorcise the demons that resided after last season’s self-destruction.
Although even if last season’s scorching experiences have felt somewhat distant to supporters, then the last seven days should serve as a genteel reminder that the job is far from finished this season.
Contrary to popular belief, Tottenham aren’t Champions League qualifiers-elect within the Premier League and to a slightly lesser extent, their name most definitely isn’t on the Europa League trophy, either.
The sight of Arsene Wenger’s men trudging off at White Hart Lane looking like beaten men catalyzed a cascade of headlines crowning Spurs as the new top dogs in the north of the capital and further still, perhaps even the kings of London all together come the end of the season.
Seven days later however, and should both Chelsea and Arsenal win their games in hand, then they can end up placing one point ahead and four points behind Spurs respectively. With only nine games to play in the Premier League, there’s still the capacity for plenty more fluctuation and everyone from those on the pitch to those sitting in the stands would do well to remember that.
And within the nature of both the defeats to Liverpool and Internazionale, Spurs were handed a fitting reminder that there is simply no room for complacency or sloppy error – both within the playing staff and the management.
The feeling after the defeat at Liverpool was that the pain of the defeat was eased as a result of their downfall being mainly induced by a couple of one-off individual errors, as opposed to being systematically outplayed. But regardless of a seven-point gap or not, there is never any breathing space in this league and the 3-2 loss served as a chastising reminder of that. Before kick-off, they were shoo-ins for the top four. 90 minutes later and they’re back to where they started before they kicked off against Arsenal.
Within the Inter defeat, too, for as much maturity and adaptability that Andre Villas-Boas has shown this season, to turn up the San Siro and set the side up the way he did – regardless of the aggregate score – was incredibly naïve. The four goals that i Neazurri put past Brad Friedel were a brutal reminder of how quickly fortunes can fade and with Spurs having conceded seven goals in two games, the onus will now be on the Portuguese to shore up a rearguard that’s not without its faults.
But far from feeling overly dejected after the last two games, the fact remains that despite the nature of the defeats, Tottenham still remain well on course to achieve both a top four finish and a run to the final stages of the Europa League.
The last week might not be one fondly remembered for its results, but should it give Spurs the shot in the arm they require to try and get back on the horse and rack up another unbeaten one, it could prove to be one of the most poignant of the entire campaign.