2 March ~ With the orange glow of Blackpool receding into the distance, Tottenham headed to Dubai for a spot of warm-weather training and the chance to think about three points dropped to a team that had only managed four from the previous 27 available. They return with yet another crocked star in their midst as Jermain Defoe checked himself onto the injury list with a knackered ankle, his chances of taking on Wolves this weekend and Milan next Wednesday slim at best.
When Defoe pulled up for England last September, his loss was felt keenly at Spurs. Fast-forward six months, and the main man has failed to find the net once in the league, his woeful finishing at Bloomfield Road a key reason why last season’s fourth-placed team failed to pick up at least a point. And yet, for all the bitter complaints, Spurs still sat fourth before Chelsea’s victory over Manchester United last night. That’s the same Spurs that lost at home to Wigan Athletic, fell to one of West Ham’s worst sides in recent memory and offered a truly insipid display against Liverpool at the Lane, before hitting back to win in the 92nd minute.
This is a Spurs side whose goal difference is a measly plus seven. That’s substantially less than Manchester City and Chelsea, not to mention Arsenal and Manchester United. And yet still, it’s the fifth best in the entire league. As a Spurs fan, I revel in the idea of us qualifying for the Champions League for the second year running. But if we do pip Chelsea to the post, it won’t be down to stellar performances.
It’ll be down to the fact that the 2010-11 season has been the worst Premier League for years. The media’s insistence that Spurs have turned in pulsating performances week in, week out is simply not true. My trips to the Lane this season have seen us smash four past Blackburn, before shipping two pathetic goals. The Wigan fiasco was undoubtedly a nadir. And while we battered City, they left with a point thanks to Joe Hart.
There’s no denying Spurs have now got some backbone which has led to a slew of last minute goals, efforts against Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers really standing out. But the quality of opposition this season has been utterly woeful. Freak results throughout the league have proved that defences are nowhere near as tight as they should be, Spurs included.
From my perspective, while excitement at a weekend of 43 goals was understandable, it just showed how far things have slipped. Mistakes were as much a key factor as class. Arsenal and Newcastle epitomised this. Sure, it’s entertaining, but if the specious claims of this being “the best league in the world” are to continue, then surely it’s about time throwing caution to the wind was also backed up with some defensive nous.
And so we come back to Spurs’ injuries. With Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart, Tom Huddlestone and Defoe all missing, there’s no way we should still be near the top. But thanks to a continuing slip across the league, our chances of making it into the Champions League once again are pretty high. The Premier League may have been the best league in the world once. But in 2011, it would be ludicrous to claim that it’s number one. Joe Minihane joeminihane.com