It’s safe to say that not all is right in Tottenham Hotspur-land. The irony is that Spurs need two wins in their last two matches at Wembley Stadium and they will finish in third place above rivals Liverpool and Chelsea, but supporter morale hasn’t been this low all season. After derping away a 10 point lead over the Blues with six games to play, it sure doesn’t feel like Tottenham are in a good place.
Leave it to Mauricio Pochettino to try and provide some context. In an unusually verbose manner, Pochettino responded to a press conference question about Tottenham’s progression during his tenure by trying to balance the significant progress his club has made with the recent string of poor form and the fans’ insatiable appetite for success.
“For me, it’s an amazing progression. First of all because you need to compare every season in context, not out of context. Last season at White Hart Lane we played 19 games in the Premier League and we won 17 and drew twice. The team was complete, unbelievable with the fans, without the corner, remember, at White Hart Lane. We were playing fantastic, we were very confident about winning. After, you move to Wembley.
“You finish second in the league, you move to Wembley and of course there’s a lot of fears because the Champions League wasn’t great the previous season. If you analyse all in context I think it’s an amazing season - to have the possibility with two games left to finish third, I think it’s massively successful. But I understand people want more. We want more. We’re ambitious.
“That project started maybe not four years ago but sure two and a half year ago, trying to provide Tottenham with the best things to try to compete and fight for big things. Like in football, sometimes you need patience to play, to build from the back, to find your best position on the pitch, to grow down the opponent. In that situation, in this project, it’s the same.”
In some ways, Pochettino’s comments are a Rorschach test for how you perceive Tottenham fandom. On the one hand, Poch is absolutely correct that Spurs have come a very long way in a very short time. It’s easy to forget where Spurs were at the end of the AVB/Tim Sherwood tenure compared to where they are now.
And yet there’s still a huge amount of frustration from supporters. Nerves are admittedly raw after another season of “almost”. The Champions League loss to Juventus, the FA Cup semifinal loss to United, and the current string of results that has seen Spurs feeling like they must win in order to be assured of a top four finish are all contributing to a weeks-long feeling of malaise and dread over Spurs’ status in the Premier League hierarchy.
The answer, says Poch, is patience and perspective, two words that no football fan ever wants to hear.
“We need patience, we need to work hard. Sometimes we’re disappointed. Sometimes you need to start again. Sometimes you need to be focused on maybe doing some different movements.
“For me it’s like a marathon, to create a team capable of winning, to build a winning mentality is like a marathon. It’s not an explosive 100m, standing and stopping in nine seconds. It’s 42km and it’s a long-term development and trying to… sometimes with ups and downs but always going up, and I think that is the progression of the club and the team. I am, sure, disappointed of course if we don’t achieve in the next few years a title – of course – but what we cannot do is to forget from where we came.
“I think today to be competitive, to arrive in this moment with the possibility to be third, I think if you look at the past and the history of the club, I think this group of players deserves a lot of credit, and the club of course for making all that situation happen. Of course it’s never enough in football and I always told the players, after working hard for two hours in a training session ‘yes well done but it’s not enough, it’s not enough’. You can see that it’s not enough to have the possibility to fight for the Champions League. The people want to win, but we are the first that want to win, only we need patience to win.”
Poch also called Spurs’ current status “an ideal situation,” which is true if you look at their current position in a vacuum and ignore the poor play that has led to them dropping a bunch of points lately. I don’t think I’m saying anything unusual by suggesting that if Spurs win against Newcastle tomorrow it would go a long way in dispelling this uneasiness. It may not be as easy as what it sounds — Spurs will be fielding a somewhat makeshift midfield with both Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele set to miss the match, and there’s no guarantee that Spurs won’t step on a rake. Pochettino’s statement — steady on, keep your eye on the big picture — would be more successful if the club can find a way to keep their forward momentum by qualifying for the Champions League, even if they only do it by backing their way in.