When all is going well for Tottenham Hotspur, it can get a little tedious. Great for the fans, but for those writing about them, it’s easier when things are going bad for the club, not that I’m complaining.
Heading into the encounter on the back of two impressive league wins – a 3-1 win over West Ham United was followed by a nervy 2-1 victory against Liverpool – and it’s no shock that confidence is high. Nevertheless, when the two teams strolled out at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon, many were apprehensive about the upcoming encounter.
Heading into the London derby, Tottenham Hotspur hadn’t lost in four Premier League games between the two sides, winning all and conceding just twice. On top of that, Fulham were on the back of six Premier League games without a win.
But this is Spurs – anything can happen when they emerge from the tunnel and onto the pitch. After a drab first-half, my fears subsided when Sandro smashed home from 35-yards, before a Jermain Defoe double secured the three points as the visitors mustered only their second clean sheet of the season.
However, there are underlying problems afoot for Tottenham Hotspur. I’m not talking about Andre Villas-Boas or the goalkeeper situation; that’s all resolved as far as I’m concerned. Injuries have previously played their part for the North London side in the past and today there was the possibility that the curse could strike again.
Both Michael Dawson and Gareth Bale hobbled off either side of half-time, the duo clutching their respective hamstrings forcing Villas-Boas into changes. Fortunately, news on Saturday evening suggested both players won’t be out for more than two weeks, which is a huge relief it has to be said.
The pairing have been impressive during the last two Premiership encounters and it’s fortunate that neither will be joining Scott Parker, Younes Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto for an extended stay in the treatment room, the trio of which are yet to return to first-team training.
Spurs have certainly soldiered on in recent weeks and despite a poor turn of form following the win over Aston Villa, still find themselves in joint third behind Chelsea on goal difference. Credit must go to Villas-Boas, who was left short upon the close of the transfer window following the sales of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart and the retirement of Ledley King.
Granted, Mousa Dembélé, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Clint Dempsey and Jan Vertonghen were all brought in to replace the trio, but it can be argued that the departures performed to a higher standard than the arrivals.
The loss of Dembélé, in particular, was felt significantly and it’s no surprise that the return to winning ways, West Ham aside, has coincided with his recovery from a hip problem. At present, with Bale and Dawson only ruled out for a fortnight at most, it’s fortunate that two key squad members won’t be out for longer.
But how long until a long-term injury completely derails the campaign? Dembélé’s loss was hard felt, with no adequate backup to cover for the Belgian. If he’s ruled out again, the form will drop. The same can be said in the front-line, with only Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor the two registered strikers available to Villas-Boas.
With the latter departing for the African Cup of Nations in January, another front-man is pivotal. On top of that, signing a ball playing midfielder to provide the creativity from deep is also essential. Dembélé has done an astute job in the position alongside Sandro, but many are of the opinion that the 25-year-old would be better suited further forward.
It’s echoing the calls that investment in January is essential. With teams around Tottenham Hotspur faltering at present, the chance to capitalise is all but within their grasp. Villas-Boas has previously insisted that he is after a top four finish and that can be achieved.
However, if injuries once again rear their ugly head, it could all but end the pursuit for Champions League qualification. Saturday left the heart of many a Spurs fan in their mouth, fortunately finding out the initial prognosis isn’t as bad as first feared.
But it is a warning of what could happen. Tottenham Hotpur haven’t invested to their full capability over recent January transfer windows. If not, the club could be ruing the opportunity not to do so, especially if injuries to key players leave them sidelined for a substantial period of time.