The end of the season looms ever closer, and the specter of another campaign in the Europa league lurks over our shoulder. A torrid run of form has seen Spurs drop points in three out of their last four league matches while crashing out of the Europa League in touching distance of everlasting pseudo-glory.
But they say the night is darkest just before dawn. And while scientifically that's a bunch of crap, metaphorically it sounds rather nice and so for our purposes we're going to pretend it's true, because otherwise Spurs are probably screwed.
Six games left to define our season. And thanks to Arsenal's midweek nap against Everton, it's up to us to forge our own destiny from those matches. Win our game in hand, match or better Arsenal's results going forward, and 4th place is ours. A return to the Champions League beckons. Will we be the nearly team for the third straight year? Or will we something something about marching and glory and seizing the day, etc.
I don't know if I have the energy for this.
This was supposed to be a rousing call to arms, one last heroic charge into the breach. But man, there's nothing like being a Spurs fan to put you through the emotional wringer. I want fourth place so badly, and I'm terrified to let myself hope for a minute that we'll get there. How did it come to this?
Around this time last year I wrote this piece. Since none of you read it in the first place, and probably won't read it now, let me summarize. It was about the miserable and heartbreaking expectations that come with success, and how much happier I was when we were merely striving for a chance to be great. It was about watching your team fly too close to the sun and seeing them burned and burn you along with them. It was about the gut-wrenching devastation of seeing your season collapse.
And I don't know if I can take that again.
So there's two ways around it. One is for Spurs to kick these last six matches square in the balls and climb over the corpses of our rivals as we surge gallantly up the table back into third place where we belong. The other is for me to manage my hopes and expectations. Since the first scenario is beyond my control, maybe there's some solace in the second.
Let's be realistic. This team isn't as good as last year's. It just isn't. We lost two of our best players. We haven't adequately replaced them. We lost our coach, who, for all his faults, had us playing some seriously sexy football within touching distance of the title at one point. We've never had a comfortable 10 point gap while sitting in third place. Last year we were clearly the third best team in England. This year? We're not as good. So maybe we shouldn't expect so much.
And we've got a tough run-in. Chelsea have a tough run-in too, but maybe enough of a lead that it doesn't matter. Arsenal have an easy run-in. It's going to be hard to overtake one, let alone both, of these teams.
We put together a great unbeaten run for a minute there. Some of you want to think that those 12 games represent the truth of our team, while ignoring the other 20 matches that were decidedly more up and down. But it's not. It's a measure of what this team could be, and it's a lovely promise, but we're not there yet.
When AVB signed on in the summer, we were all prepared for a project. He had players to replace, a system to implement, and needed time to mold the team in his image. We've got some wonderful new players and are building the foundations of something great for the future. Lloris, Vertonghen, and Dembele have been brilliant acquisitions. Siggy and Holtby are only just now showing a hint of what they might be capable of for us in the future. Tom Carroll and Andros Townsend could be legit future stars for this team. Younes Kaboul and Sandro will play football again. Gareth Bale may actually be the Welsh Jesus. We can take comfort in these things. The future is bright.
But why can't the future start now?
Why do I have to wait until next season to start caring again? Fuck that.
What is the point supporting a football team if you're not going to pour your soul into willing them to win every single match? I refuse to politely applaud not good enough. I refuse to temper my expectations. I refuse to make myself not care. Because I do care. I care a lot. And if caring hurts like hell, bring it on anyway.
I choose the first choice. The one with the ball-kicking and the corpse stomping. That's the six games I want. My expectations aren't the problem. Meet my expectations, Tottenham Hotspur. For me, for the fans, for yourselves. You can do this. All you have to do is be better than Arsenal for six games. You've been better than Arsenal for most of the past two years. You can handle six matches.
Yes, we're still a work in progress. Yes, the project is only just underway. I don't care. Progress in the summer. Work on your project when the season's over. Even if that unbeaten run isn't the true measure of who we are right now, it's an accurate reflection of who we can be. The components of a fantastic, legitimately top-four side are present and in place, even if time is still needed for the completed and perfected picture to come together. Players as talented as Gareth Bale, Hugo Lloris, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Mousa Dembele and Lewis Holtby deserve better than to have second-best levels of achievement on their collective part accepted with a shrug. For twelve games we showed that this current side can play like champions. Now go prove it again for another six.
This is not the time to be making excuses. This is the time to take what's ours.
No fate but what we make. So let's make Arsenal fans suffer for a change.