The historical stats used to be so unkind to Tottenham. Not won at Manchester United since Gary Lineker was leading the line, yet to win at Anfield since Klinsmann’s days, never won at the Emirates and could not hold a 3-1 lead at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool, the original ‘Big Four’ regularly picked up the win against Spurs. The three points were a formality.
Then things started to change. Tottenham started to compete in the Premier League. First they started winning the big games at home under Martin Jol. Then, under Harry Redknapp, the Lilywhites added a comeback win over Arsenal at the Emirates, having previously come from 4-2 behind with only injury time remaining to claim a draw in Redknapp’s second game in charge.
A 2-0 win with goals from the now departed Rafa van der Vaart and Luka Modric ended the Liverpool/Anfield hoodoo, and of course there was the famous win at Eastlands that secured Champions League football for Spurs at Manchester City’s expense.
The tide was changing, but Spurs will still the underdog. Maybe that was a by product of Redknapp’s management – his reverence for the established giants of English football was a way to lever pressure and expectation off his side. His Tottenham team were sent out to give them a good game, if things go well, we might win. It was the right mentality given where Spurs were at the time.
But under Andre Villas-Boas there is a different thought. With the belief that the epic 3-2 win at Old Trafford gave the players, fans, and most importantly the media who had been on AVB’s back, Spurs now believe they can take the game to the opposition – any opposition. The process is yet to be complete, but in a perverse way the manager can take some comfort from the fact that Tottenham were the architects of their own downfall at Anfield.
Villas-Boas said after the game: "We made a couple of mistakes, which we normally don’t do, but we can’t be very, very negative because this team has done ever so well recently.
"We keep jumping back from setbacks and I think we will do exactly the same after this one.
"We had a good chance to make it 3-1 which could have meant we’d get the three points and then the momentum shifted.
"It’s a little bit difficult to take. We lost control of the game when it was in our hands."
So rarely have Spurs been in control of games away at the bigger teams. Often they have set up not to get beat, maybe nick something on the counter attack, or hope the match turns into a typical end-to-end high on effort low on quality Premier League affair.
Under Villas-Boas, Spurs look a lot more composed, the two errors against Liverpool being an exception rather than a rule. They have taken leads at City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool, and the ex-Porto and Chelsea manager will be disappointed his side have not held on to more of them.
Individual errors cannot be planned for, but overall Tottenham continue to make progress. Ultimately, the season will be judged on whether they qualify for the Champions League, but under Andre Villas-Boas Spurs look ready to aim even higher in the near future.
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