It is not fun to watch this team. It is not fun to write about this team. Yet aside from the fact that most of us are imprisoned Tottenham Hotspur supporters that seemingly cannot step away, the faint, but non-zero chance of Champions League next year has given reason to still pay attention to this infuriating season.
That final glimmer of hope could easily come to an end this weekend, though, with essentially three points required against Newcastle United. Spurs sit six points behind third (with an extra match played), and three points behind Toon for fourth, who also has an additional fixture remaining. Closing the gap this weekend keeps hope alive, but even a draw is likely not enough.
Tottenham has had plenty of chances to jump into the tour four — or even top three — but has squandered them every single time. There is little reason to think that changes now, and with contests against United and Liverpool over the next week, the death of this season might be a swift one. Asking for nine points from this stretch is laughable, but that is the miracle required.
Newcastle United (4th, 56 pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (5th, 53pts)
Date: Sunday, April 23
Time: 9:00 am ET, 2:00 pm UK
Location: St James’ Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
TV: USA Network (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)
I suppose, this was the whole point of the Newcastle takeover, to break into the top four. The Magpies have benefitted from poor Spurs, Chelsea, and Liverpool seasons, though the latter might catch them yet in the race for Champions League football. Either way, this will be the club’s best finish by miles over the past decade.
Success starts at the back, with Newcastle conceding very few goals, especially at home. No team has allowed fewer total goals this season, though Aston Villa did put up three on the scoreboard last weekend thanks to an Ollie Watkins brace. Asking the visitors to repeat that effort is a recipe for disappointment, however, and even if the attack is limited, Newcastle has repeatedly been very organized defensively.
- Oct 2022: 1-2 loss, home (Kane)
Two first-half goals proved to be too much in the reverse fixture, and falling behind again will be an even bigger detriment at St James’ Park. Though Spurs have a pair of goals in each of their past two matches and 11 total over the past five, this is the league’s best defense and opportunities project to be limited.
Tottenham and Cristian Stellini might as well just go for it, and the personnel is almost forcing the decision anyway. Should Clement Lenglet still be out injured, the number of centerback options for a back three is questionable. With limited pure midfielders and a theoretical strength in attack, might it be time for a 4-2-4 type of setup?
Odds are Stellini will play it safe and keep it familiar, but now is as good of a time as any to be bold and actually be the aggressor. A late-season surge against top competition is extremely unlikely, but if the club is going to go down then might as well make it exciting. Another disorganized, lifeless failure on Sunday would not be any sort of surprise, and that is the problem.