And so Tottenham’s resurgence following their point against Chelsea and solid win against Swansea proved to be nothing more than a false dawn.
The mood that engulfed White Hart Lane, particularly after the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, was one of positivity. Harry Redknapp Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart all extolled the virtues of a team that had turned the corner. Arsenal would feel the full force of a Spurs side back up to speed, they said.
And when the Gunners slipped up against QPR while Spurs were picking up a first win in six games against Swansea to bring the two sides level on points in third with Chelsea and Newcastle five points further back last week, few stopped to look back at the abyss behind them.
What difference a game makes. If the staid 0-0 draw with Sunderland was vaguely acceptable – Martin O’Neill’s well-drilled side appeared almost impossible to break down as Spurs poured forward, especially in the first half – then the defeat against Norwich represented a genuine low point of the season.
Norwich were full value for the three points at White Hart Lane. In becoming only the third team to secure a win in Spurs’ back yard after both Manchester clubs, Paul Lambert’s side out-fought and out-thought a side that should have been more than capable of dealing with a team still in their Premier League infancy.
Only Chelsea’s draw with Fulham on Monday night kept them in the top four. At the moment, Spurs must be grateful for small mercies.
Worryingly for the White Hart Lane faithful, after Elliot Bennett’s eventual match winner, there was little hint that their side were capable of mounting a comeback that would salvage at least a point.
Even before Bennett’s fine effort there was little hint of spring in Spurs’ step, with Gareth Bale’s effort against the crossbar and Benoit Assou-Ekotto one on one with John Ruddy the only real moments of trouble for the visitors in an otherwise convincing display. Even Jermain Defoe’s goal that bought the scores level before half-time was on the break.
If, over Christmas, Spurs were in their lauded as title contenders as they embarked upon a eleven game unbeaten run culminating in the comfortable 2-0 win over Everton, then Easter has been a far from fruitful festive period for the north London club as they took just a single point from two must-win games, looking increasingly jaded in the process.
Since the giddy optimism that that was stopped in its tracks with the crushing defeat against Arsenal after a period of purgatory which took in draws a draw with Wolves and defeat against Manchester City, the suspicion has been that this is a Tottenham side running on fumes.
Against Norwich there is no doubt that Redknapp’s side were flat; perhaps feeling the effects of a long, hard season played in Spurs incomparable style.
And the figures do not make pretty reading for those hoping for a return to the wins of mid-season that carried Tottenham to the brink of a genuine title challenge.
Only six players from the top ten teams have played more games than Bale and Luka Modric, while the likes of Kyle Walker, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Emmanuel Adebayor all occupy a spot in the top 15 when it comes to Premier League appearances for outfield players this term.
Both Bale and Modric are also in the top five midfielders when it comes to minutes played this season.
While Redknapp was initally lauded for his consistency in finding a settled line up at the start of the season, it appears as though he is now struggling to find a balance within his squad, something not helped by his January dealings which saw Sebastian Bassong, Vedran Corluka, Steven Pienaar, and Roman Pavluchenko depart.
Tottenham base their game on pressing, speed, width and directness, all of which requires great reserves of energy, but only 16 players have played more than five Premier League games this season for the Lilywhites, compared to Arsenal and Chelsea’s 19 and Manchester United’s 23.
Against Swansea for example, their only league win in eight games, Spurs used great reserves of energy to secure the win, with Parker in particular going through 90 minutes worth of work inside the first half alone, with every ounce of exhaustion etched across his face.
Indeed Parker, a man with 27 league appearances to his name despite his advancing years and all-encompassing style, reportedly told the club doctors before the game against Norwich that he couldn’t play for fear of tearing his hamstrings. Redknapp admitted he would have played him if the former West Ham man had raised no issue over his fitness.
While Parker has moved to the verge of injury through his exertions, it appears as though Bale is also feeling the pace, such is his dramatic drop off in goals in particular.
A peripheral figure against Norwich – and in many of Spurs’ recent Premier League games bar the win against Swansea – the Welshman has gone 812 minutes without scoring since his strike against Wigan in January.
The warning signs have been there for some time as well. After their lacklustre 1-0 win over Sunderland back in December, Adebayor warned Spurs "felt heavy" and the games were proving to be 'tough' on their fitness.
Against Stoke and Sunderland more recently they have appeared unable to raise the tempo and apply the finishing touches; at the end of March they averaged the third most shots per game across Europe’s top five leagues (18.6) but have only managed six goals in their last eight league games, a sure sign of heavy legs affecting the end product.
However despite all the doom and gloom that surrounds Spurs all is not lost. Level on points with Newcastle and two clear of Chelsea, Redknapp has admitted the focus has switched from beating Arsenal to securing a top four berth.
Their remaining five games, all ‘must win’ according to Redknapp, come against supposedly lesser opposition (not that that counted for much against Norwich). Chelsea and Arsenal must go head to head while the Blues also play Liverpool amidst cup games against Spurs and Barcelona, while Newcastle play Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton in their last three fixtures.
There is still plenty to play for in this twisting and turning campaign, but Spurs are a long way away from the unbeaten 11 game that has propped up much of their season.
From somewhere they must muster one last giant effort for their remaining five league games and secure the Champions League spot they so desperately need.
If they can, then along with their FA Cup exploits then there is still scope to end the season on a high. Then, when the season ends, they deserve one hell of a break.
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