Ouch. Spurs fans everywhere are still smarting over today’s 2-1 loss to Liverpool at Anfield, a well-played match ended by a gut-punch in the form of a 90’ own-goal off the legs of Toby Alderweireld. The loss dropped Spurs into a tie with Manchester United with 61 points, and the reality that they could slip behind Arsenal tomorrow if the Gooners beat Newcastle at home.
But it’s not all doom and gloom according to Mauricio Pochettino. The Spurs gaffer was in the stands for this match, serving the second of his two match ban for saying mean things to Mike Dean, but afterwards said that despite their poor run of form lately Spurs still have their top four destiny in their hands.
“In the last ten minutes [of the match] I only saw a few minutes because I went downstairs and saw on the TV. My reaction is that it’s football. You should win the game but if you don’t score and after you concede what are you going to do? Nothing.
“The most important thing is to recover our feelings. In the second half I thought we dominated and played much better than Liverpool. Overall I think we were better than Liverpool. Disappointed, very disappointed but at the same time it’s difficult to explain but I am proud of the performance, proud of the recovery of that feeling we lost against Southampton and Burnley.
“I think we were talking a lot and we were talking now in the dressing room that we are in the top four, in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. I think we have ahead seven games in the Premier League. We need to forget everything and be focused that we have ahead a mini-league that starts on Wednesday in our new stadium and that must be a big boost for everyone. It’s in our hands to be in the top four for next season.”
As fans we will obsess over minutiae here at the end of the season, endlessly poring over not only Spurs’ schedule but also the run-ins of the clubs around them like Arsenal, Chelsea, and United. Pochettino calling the last seven matches a “mini-league” is appropriate here, and I like it. Spurs face Crystal Palace and Huddersfield at home, an away trip to City, home ties against Brighton and West Ham, a trip to Bournemouth for a team that could be on the beach, and a season-ending match hosting Everton.
That’s five matches at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium, and at least one winnable road game. Running the table would of course ensure that Spurs finish top four, but even if Spurs drop points to City a strong showing means they are still favorites to finish in a Champions League position. FiveThirtyEight still has Spurs with a 63% chance of finishing top four, even after today’s loss. Arsenal, Chelsea, and United probably aren’t going to run the table either.
But honestly, forget the Gunners, Blues, and Red Devils. Forget everything except the teams on the pitch that you are playing. That’s what Pochettino is referring to. Spurs may have lost today’s match, but they looked in that second half about as good as they have all season. Play that way, and there aren’t many teams that can beat them.
It’s now a seven match league run. Get your points. Win and advance. Put the past behind you. This season isn’t over, not by a long shot.