The dream is over. Leicester City's 1-0 win over Southampton at the King Power Stadium very likely was the final nail in the coffin that is Tottenham Hotspur's Premier League title ambitions. The win gives Leicester a seven point lead over Spurs with six matches to play, a virtually unassailable lead barring a completely unprecedented (and likewise improbable) collapse.
Oh sure, it's not a done deal mathematically, but for all extents and purposes it would take a miracle to close the gap at this point, considering current form and the remaining games on the schedule. And that's not even speaking of the lurking horror of Arsenal, skulking just behind.
|@ Sunderland||Manchester United||@ West Ham|
|West Ham||@ Stoke City||Crystal Palace|
|Swansea||West Brom||West Brom|
|@ Manchester United||@ Chelsea||@ Sunderland|
|@ Chelsea||@ Newcastle||@ Manchester City|
Leicester would need to lose at least one game and draw two others in the run-in while Spurs win out, including wins at Stoke, Chelsea and Newcastle. This is beyond difficult, and is an unreasonable expectation. It's Lloyd-Christmas-possible, not possible-possible.
If you're like me, right now you're vacillating between twin impulses: the desire to rage against the unfairness of it all, and the knowledge, deep down, that we Spurs fans' don't have a whole lot to complain about. After all, it's not like Leicester are a bad team. They're not. They're a very good team, deserving champions with an astounding story. They took advantage, the same as Spurs did, of a bizarrely improbable season that saw the major title contenders fall away, leaving room at the top. The 2016 Leicester City championship will go down in history as the greatest and most improbable championship campaign ever, certainly in Premier League history and possibly in English top flight history. It might not be equalled for a very long time.
How can we begrudge them that?
But again, if you're like me, that's maybe the thing that's the hardest to swallow in all this. After all, we're the club to which this story is supposed to happen. Are Spurs not the team forever downtrodden? The club with a storied history that has been lost to the mists of time? Sisyphus, pushing that boulder up the hill? This was shaping up to be the year when we could emphatically banish those Spursy demons forever keeping us from realizing our potential. Chelsea were uncharacteristically awful. United were lol. Liverpool were floundering. City were uninterested after the Pep Guardiola announcement. Arsenal were... well, Arsenaling. We were right there. All we had to do was wait for those plucky upstarts at Leicester to finally start losing.
But to whom are supposed to direct our anger? At Leicester? They won more games than we did. They beat us fair and square at the Lane. It's hard to argue that any of their results were unfair. Lucky, perhaps. But not unfair.
At Tottenham? Spurs played remarkably well this season and exceeded almost every expectation of them at the start of the year. Talk to just about any Tottenham fan at the beginning of the campaign and they would've gnawed their arm off to be in an actual real-for-sure Premier League title race in April, or even to "merely" finish fourth. In a preseason poll of Cartilage Free Captain writers, not a single one of us picked Spurs to finish higher than fifth.
At God/Fortuna/Piers Morgan? Sure, why not. As good a target as any, knock yourselves out.
But even amidst my grief for the Spurs Premier League title that never was, there's a lot to celebrate from this season. Tottenham Hotspur, under Mauricio Pochettino, went from a team playing decent attacking football with a terrible defense to a team playing great attacking football with the best defense in the league. Harry Kane has shrugged off one-season-wonder status and become Tottenham's future at striker. Toby Alderweireld was perhaps the best signing in the Premier League this season. We got to watch the emergence of Eric Dier and Dele Alli, two young English players with incredibly bright futures. We watched Mousa Dembele finally find his role in this Tottenham side and become the lynchpin of Spurs' midfield. And yes, we are almost certainly going to be playing in the Champions League next season.
Tottenham is young, vibrant, flashy, a lot of fun to watch, and most importantly, in the ascendancy. If you believe in this year's team, then there's no reason to expect that they won't continue to get better under Mauricio Pochettino in future seasons.
That's not to say that it's going to be easy. It seems unlikely that Chelsea will continue to be as poor as they were this season. Liverpool look to be a team on the rise as well. City still have more money than God, and Arsenal will always be very good, if rarely great. There may never be a better opportunity for a Tottenham title run, which doesn't help anything, I know.
It hurts. I get it. I'm hurting too. We Tottenham fans are feeling right now what fans of every runner-up feel at the end of the season. I'm not going to tell you not to be angry about the way things ended, or – mathematics aside – to abandon that last fleeting hope that Spurs can still end up top of the league. I could very well be wrong to bury Tottenham with six games to play. I sincerely hope I am.
But regardless of the final outcome, let's not let our negative feelings define us as a fan base. Let's remember that the Tottenham story was a good one too, and deserves to be remembered, even if it is overshadowed by the best damn Hollywood ending in Premier League history. Amidst the disappointment, let's remember to enjoy this.
There's that quote. We all know it, attributed to Bill Nicholson, but probably uttered by Danny Blanchflower, about ambition, and success, and failure. In the ultimate Tottenham season of almost, of nearly, of might-have-been, it's never seemed more appropriate than right now.
"It's better to fail aiming high, than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory."