Spurs: Consign The Loss To Liverpool To The Bin & March Onto A Top 4 Finish
If there’s anything that sums up the worst things about modern culture, then the obsession with the phrase ‘Keep calm and carry on’, a phrase used in wartime posters when, to be fair, there were genuine reasons to panic occasionally. In the last two years it’s morphed from a gentle slogan to an industry in itself. There are now shirts, mugs, duvet covers, almost anything big enough for a slogan has been flogged to people with ‘keep calm and chill/eat lettuce/get drunk/play Pokemon/listen to Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s Greatest Hits/support Arsenal etc emblazoned on the front of it.
As tiring as it may be though, the players, coaches and supporters of Tottenham Hotspur would do well to keep calm and carry on after their self-inflicted 3-2 defeat to Liverpool at a bitterly cold Anfield. The New Spurs that were on a 12 game unbeaten run and were showing hitherto unseen levels of toughness, resilience and resolve contrived to turn into Old Spurs and throw away a 2-1 lead with two of the silliest, most stupid, most unnecessary errors you could wish to see on a football field. The sort of mistakes that lead to coaches ranting like this. If Kyle Walker and Jermain Defoe don’t sleep badly after their howlers, then they probably should.
For the first hour of the match, Spurs were excellent. Missing the injured Aaron Lennon and going down early on to a superbly taken goal by pantomime villain Luis Suarez, they responded with vibrant, penetrative football that wrought control of the game from Liverpool’s shoulders. Jan Vertonghen with a combination of head and possibly shoulder equalised just before half time from a wonderful inswinging cross by Gareth Bale, and the technically superb centre back scored again shortly after a break, when a free kick wasn’t cleared and in a melee the Belgian stabbed home.
In recent months, in tough away games, Spurs have hung on to these leads. Yesterday, they looked likely to increase their advantage, Liverpool playing with all the authority of a boxer hit hard and struggling desperately on wobbly leg and the Tottenham midfield looking rampant, Gylfi Sigurdsson almost making it 3-1. It only took one bad backpass from Walker, a poor hack at an attempted clearance by the otherwise excellent Hugo Lloris and Liverpool from nowhere had equalised.
Even after those two errors, Stewart Downing, graced with an open goal was lucky to see the ball go through Vertonghen’s legs and not be cleared off the line. Jermain Defoe’s bizarre punt back into the Liverpool area after a free kick had been headed clear was the coup de grace, sparking a Benoit Assou-Ekotto barge, Liverpool penalty and a win Brendan Rodgers could barely have expected at the hour mark.
The natural response for Tottenham followers after such a frustrating loss in a game they should have won is to panic, criticise the players, lash out. This is exactly what Spurs must not do. Andre Villas-Boas saying afterwards the match was a ‘wake up call’ was precisely what needed to be said. Calmness, a refusal to buckle under pressure, a desire to learn lessons and a re-affirmation that despite the defeat they’re still in an excellent position is what’s required.
Their next two fixtures should help them recover their composure. Thursday night sees a visit to the San Siro, as Spurs go into the 2nd leg of their Europa League clash holding a 3-0 over Inter. Barring miracle and catastrophe, a comfortable 90 minutes that sees the Lilywhites safely through to the quarter finals should hopefully soothe fraying nerves. Sunday sees an eminently winnable home game against Fulham. Good results in those two fixtures, and Spurs should be able to consign the loss to Liverpool to a metaphorical dustbin.
While such a loss and the manner of it will hurt and needs to be eradicated from players heads, lessons have to be learnt. Complacency was probably not the reason for Walker or Defoe’s mistakes, but still the defeat should get rid of any of that for the rest of the season. Levels of intensity and concentration must be kept to the max. No mercy should be shown to opposing teams.
Spurs are a good side, playing cracking football who were it not for a couple of errors that will surely not be made again, would still be on their long unbeaten run. A seven point gap (admittedly having played a game more) over Arsenal in 5th with less than ten games left is an excellent position to be in, much better than even the most optimistic of Tottenham fans would have expected. Losing to Liverpool at Anfield is not a disaster. It’s this sort of positivity that Villas-Boas needs to espouse to his players, and which will avert the sort of collapse that happened last season and instead see Spurs marching on to a Champions League finish at the end of the season.