The Tottenham Revival Starts Today: Why Liverpool Hold The Key To Resurgence
On the face of it, Tottenham’s season is all but over. A campaign that promised so much has fizzled out in the most inconspicuous of manners. After the thrashings dished out by Liverpool, Manchester City (twice) and Chelsea that have left such an indelible mark on Spurs’ 2013/14, it is the Lilywhites’ drab failures against the Premier League’s lesser lights that looks set to consign them to Europa League football for yet another season.
Insipid performances against the likes of West Ham, Newcastle, West Brom and Norwich have cost Spurs points they could not afford to drop were they to have any real chance of attaining the holy grail of Champions League qualification. February’s defeat at Carrow Road in particular had a decidedly ominous feel to it with regards to Tottenham’s European aspirations.
And after having recently exited the continent’s second tier competition, despite a heroic display in the intense atmosphere of the Estadio da Luz, it seems there is nothing my club can salvage from this season.
But that’s not entirely the case.
Spurs are currently enduring the mother of all ‘Transitional Seasons’. Every new breakthrough has been followed by a cataclysmic new low and it is this inconsistency that has blighted their season. To add to the sometimes circus-like nature of proceedings, their new manager Tim Sherwood, whom they tied down to an eighteen-month contract mid-season, is widely expected to be sacked come the end of the current campaign. This is a most strange state of affairs.
The worst part of the last seven months is that the fans just haven’t felt good about Tottenham Hotspur. The atmosphere at White Hart Lane has been its poorest in living memory (thanks partly to the unusually lethargic style of play on offer) and no-one concerned feels they have a club to be proud of any more. It is the fractured nature of this season, especially since Andre Villas-Boas’ departure in December, which means the remaining seven games are no dead rubbers. A pick-me-up is urgently needed. Starting against Liverpool on Sunday. Right then.
Over the course of the last year, Liverpool have grown to embody everything I wish Tottenham were: stylish, exciting, built on a core of young British talent and on an upward trajectory back to where they belong – at the top of the English game.
In addition to this, they win an awful bloody lot. This is why Spurs should be relishing Sunday’s game. Imagine the confidence booster to be gained from taking points off the country’s form team on their own ground. It’s painfully unlikely, I’ll grant you, but the players have to believe. After all, this game means so much more than just three points.
Tottenham’s run-in is theoretically amongst the least troublesome in the division and a good display at Anfield could provide the team with the impetus they need to finish the season extremely strongly. Wins and good performances are all the N17 faithful are hoping for in the remaining fixtures and in a season where attacking cohesion has been at a premium, some more spontaneous football would not go amiss at all.
With some extremely talented (and expensive) footballers at Spurs yet to justify their huge summer transfer fees, some signs of progress in the dying throes of a season that has otherwise been a car crash would also be nice (just one game where you’re fit and firing, please Erik Lamela...)
But perhaps it is the manager for whom the culmination of this season is the most important. Under the constant aforementioned threat of losing his job, Sherwood is in desperate need of proving to Daniel Levy and Joe Lewis that he is capable of leading a club of Tottenham’s size and stature towards the Promised Land – and doesn’t he just know it.
Sherwood is a divisive character. While some have welcomed his no-frills approach to management, both on the field and off of it, there are those who claim that he is just tactically and mentally out of his depth – and at times it’s hard to disagree. That’s not to say results under him have been abysmal: the energy from a blistering start has dissipated into some more run-of-the-mill results and displays (and some a bit worse than that) but the points total has generally been good, all things taken into consideration.
But questions still remain. Some of his team-selections and specific game strategies have been questionable to say the least and his temperament has been brought into doubt on more than one occasion – the altercation with Benfica’s Jorge Jesus a case in point.
At the end of the 4-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge, Sherwood looked a broken man and didn’t hold back in his post-match interviews. His frank honesty will have won him a lot of fans (although I’m sure he knew it would; the cynic in me thinks the whole thing was calculated from the moment we began to fall apart).
In recent weeks, Sherwood’s temper has calmed and results and performances have picked up slightly but one still gets the impression the confidence of the squad is on a knife-edge. Another humiliation against an elite side would surely leave Sherwood a sitting duck.
And all of this is why Sunday’s game is just so important for Tottenham. Liverpool, chasing down a first league title in over two decades, will have the bit between their teeth and Tottenham will have to be at their most alert to assure the Reds don’t run riot. If they can upset the odds and leave the north-west with something to show for their efforts then it could prove to be the catalyst for a Tottenham revival (just as Arsenal’s win in Munich last season sparked an upturn in their fortunes).
Despite having never properly replaced their crucial triumvirate of Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and, most achingly of all, Gareth Bale, Tottenham still have an extremely talented young squad with the potential to flourish under the right organisation. Whether that be under Sherwood or someone else remains to be seen – Sunday’s match could go some way to determining how long he has left to leave his stamp on the team.
Even after this disaster of a season, I’m still optimistic for the future. Over the last few years, Tottenham have proved that they can mix it with the best in the Premier League and in Europe. I’m confident we can get back there and that the style that has been so deep-rooted in the way Spurs have done things in their history will return.
In fact, comparisons are easy to draw between Tottenham and Liverpool. Just a few years ago, Liverpool had stagnated. They were going nowhere under Kenny Dalglish and they were carrying several players labouring under the pressure of enormous transfer fees. Their progression since then has been remarkable.
Tottenham must sit up and take notice. What better place to start than at Anfield on Sunday. Get ready to see the new Tottenham. Maybe.
Follow Jack on Twitter, @MadAsAChatter