For Spurs There Will Be Days Like This
Take one goalkeeper who ordinarily is considered good for one game playing at a world class level, a manager that considers victory as not losing and then add to that a defensive and highly physical formation that players hate playing against, then you have the typical West Brom side that Tony Pulis is well known for shaping and more importantly keeping in the Premier League.
Tony Pulis has never managed side that has been relegated, but he also has never managed a side that got into the Top 10 positions of the Premier League. This is not a team that is designed to win things, it is a team designed to stop other teams from winning things.
Last year Tottenham can look at the points they threw away that could have at least guaranteed a runners-up spot, never mind a potential shot at the title. Last year they lost inexplicably to teams like West Brom and this year they at least showed they could rescue a point, on the verge of losing the only unbeaten record in the Premier League.
When organizations use team sports as metaphor for business leadership, the reality is that many business organizations are set up more like Tony Pulis and less like a top club, than industry leaders would care to admit. Why supporters would pay for an expensive ticket to watch teams they know are simply built to survive is their own personal choice. It is as irrational as a human resource department putting up victory slogans and team building exercises when surviving is the actual name of the game.
Spurs sold Nacer Chadli to West Brom, and Spurs fans do not need to be psychic to have the horrible feeling that their ex-player may play a decisive part in the game. He did. After West Brom soaked up waves of attacks and Ben Foster made world class after world class save, the writing on the walls was, that it was going to be another one of those days. This is what a West Brom cheers for, the rare smell of victory even though they know it will be a victory against the run of play. This time West Brom was thwarted.
Deli Alli continues to shine as the rough diamond that Spurs sharpened up. It is not much more than 2 years ago that Alli was still plying his trade in the lower leagues with Milton Keynes Dons. Alli is a life long Liverpool fan, yet inexplicably, Liverpool passed on this player. Had there been some good sense at Anfield to be willing to pay a fraction more, what this player would have brought to Liverpool is a heightened certainty of winning a league title.
It is Liverpool and not Spurs who in the last 50 years were the team expected to win silverware, and back then Liverpool played at what was called "Fortress Anfield", while Spurs played pretty football down at the "Lane". This year marks the last year that Spurs will play their football at the old White Hart Lane stadium. Already there is a small corner section of the ground that has been removed, as the larger 61,000 seater stadium begins to take shape.
The higher capacity from 35,000 to 61,000 will definitely be a welcomed addition for the Spurs team, but it is not building new stadiums that is the real challenge, the challenge is to build the psyche of a football team to think of itself as teams that can walk past and dismantle teams like West Brom. Such is the transformation in the Spurs team, were industry and a will to physically exhaust oneself is an attitude that has been instilled by Pochettino, that one has to go back half a century to find a Tottenham team this full of vitality and talent.
So much so, pundits expected Spurs to be too strong for West Brom. They were strong but not finding the goals that should have come from exerting so much pressure. A tightly locked defense and a great keeper is just an unfortunate reality, but getting creative in front of goal, to unlock such defenses is what title winning teams are about. On days like this the successful teams know how to eak out a result against stubborn resilience. Title winning teams even win games they did not deserve to win, and this has been the case with Arsenal so far.
After 21 seasons of always falling behind Arsenal in the league, Spurs may end up finishing a gallant 2nd place finish but it would be galling to Spurs supporters to see their North London rivals pip them to the title. That reality becomes more real when Spurs end up with a drawn game against West Brom and Arsenal hold out to beat teams like Swansea 3-2.
The only hope is that teams like West Brom can take more points off other title challengers, even if that only provides a 1pt advantage for Spurs. Arsenal will play more struggling teams in the next two weeks from the North East of England, and then comes the Arsenal vs Spurs match up on November 6th. Spurs next game is against a very confident and well playing Bournemouth side, a team who on the weekend polished off Hull City with a 6-1 thrashing, and Eddie Howe continues to do management miracles for this small South coast team.
November is a tough fixture month for Spurs and playing hot teams in addition like Bournemouth only make the fixtures that much more trickier. Next for Spurs is a Champions League match in Germany, as they look to get back to winning ways with a double-header set for Leverkusen, who return in 2 weeks time to play a group game at Wembley Stadium. The weekend saw Spurs hold on to the undefeated status in the Premier league, but they have already lost one game in the Champions league group stage. Tuesday night should be better, a reminder that the kind of Spurs team Pochettino has crafted is ready for big league action.