15 April ~ This was going to be our year, the time when the balance of power in London and beyond finally shifted in Spurs' favour. Here was the team everyone wanted to see, the one strangers would sit and talk to me about. Wonderful players at last fulfilling their potential with performances of thrilling attacking swagger that took the breath away. Instead we are fast in danger of conforming to type – fancydan poseurs choking when the pressure is on, unable to sustain a challenge over an entire season. Chelsea and Newcastle are poised to overtake. Arsenal and third place having long since disappeared into the far distance. If I cover my ears I can barely hear the laughter.
The pressure is apparently unsettling our manager too. In a disconcertingly surreal post-match interview after Monday’s wretched incompetence against Norwich, Harry Redknapp attributed his selection to mysterious voices telling him we play better with two men wide in a 4-4-2.
He acknowledged that is wrong but appeared powerless to resist. "Miles too open," he said. Sure, but Harry, you picked the team. What catches the eye does not necessarily win matches. Spurs are better all round with a 4-2-3-1 that provides a solid platform for our hugely talented front players to cast their spell.
Scott Parker and Sandro can protect the back four and thwart Frank Lampard and Juan Mata in their search for space and time around the edge of our box. Fearless covering in his own area and with the drive and momentum to turn defence into attack, a fit Sandro could make all the difference. But unfortunately he is struggling for form following a leg injury.
Increasingly Jake Livermore has become Harry's go-to man when we need energy and stability in centre midfield. A good technique, quick feet and an appetite beyond his years for taking responsibility have led to a fine season. This young unsung hero could yet have part to play in the season's climax.
This set-up enables a midfield three of Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale to interchange and unsettle Chelsea’s redoubtable defence. Van der Vaart's ability to play his best football when the heat is on could turn the game but we have to get more men into the box to take full advantage.
The width comes from pacey full-backs Benoît Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker, who likes to sneak up at the far post. Bale is a constant threat and is dangerously unpredictable coming inside but he should make that the exception rather than the rule. This can leave Spurs exposed out wide, which Salomon Kalou, Daniel Sturridge and Mata will be itching to exploit. The match may hinge on the way this fine balance tips.
Centre-back selection is easy – whoever can stand up and kick a ball will play for Spurs. Michael Dawson is out, Younès Kaboul was injured on Monday and the mighty Ledley King has finally been rendered mortal by his dodgy knee. Such vulnerability is enough to make Didier Drogba feel young again. Still, William Gallas is so bloody minded, he always does well against his former clubs. Ryan Nelsen fills a shirt the size of a two-man tent but his experience is invaluable. We are back to that midfield protection again.
The thrill and expectation of a Cup semi-final is slightly tempered by the unpleasant, bitter edge to this rivalry that has developed in recent years on and off the field. The ludicrous 6pm kick-off will only make things worse. Part of the Spurs stereotype is that we are formidable in the Cup. Thoughts of a trophy plus the impetus for the season’s finale should be incentive enough. Redemption awaits. Alan Fisher TottenhamOnMyMind