Kenny Archer: No one is laughing at Tottenham any more - The Irish News
Football/Soccer

Kenny Archer: No one is laughing at Tottenham any more

Tottenham, with talents such as Dele Alli, are flying high and setting their sights on topping the English league.

LADS, it's Tottenham. When Roy Keane revealed that three-word 'team talk' given by Alex Ferguson in his time as Manchester United manager, it was a devastating dismissal of their visitors from north London .

Keane, like Fergie, didn't see the point of any great tactical advice or requirement for motivation against that particular opposition and the Red Devils duly took all three points – as usual.

Around 18 months ago, just after Brendan Rodgers was dismissed as boss at his old club, Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher also launched a sideswipe at Spurs, saying:

"Liverpool are becoming Tottenham, think they're a big club but the real big clubs are not too worried about them - who they buy, what they're going to do - that's the situation as it's become for Liverpool, even when I was there at the end."

Both Liverpool and Manchester United have beaten Tottenham in the League this season – but right now both clubs would still swap places with Spurs in a heartbeat.

The only other side that has beaten Spurs is Chelsea and even the league leaders are not laughing at Tottenham now. The days of their fans talking with utter confidence about trips to 'Three Point Lane' are gone.

Chelsea are still top of the table, still strong favourites to take the title, but they must now be seriously worried about the threat from their London rivals.

Spurs have lost the lowest amount of games, those three mentioned above; only Manchester United can match that and their problem is that they've mostly turned Old Trafford into 'The Theatre of Draws' (copyright some wag on Twitter).

Spurs haven't lost at home; even Chelsea have been beaten twice at the Bridge, by Liverpool and recently by Crystal Palace.

Spurs are almost the top scorers, with only one goal less than Liverpool, who have played a game more.

Spurs have conceded the fewest goals, just 22, lower than both Chelsea and Manchester United (and everyone else, obviously).

Mean at the back, free-spirited and free-scoring up front is a great combination.

Spurs are looking very good – but they were last season too.

Let's be honest, Spurs choked a little at the tail-end of the last league campaign, taking just two points from their last four matches, including losing 5-1 to relegated Newcastle, who had been reduced to 10 men midway through the second half.

Admittedly that defeat and the home loss to Southampton came after Leicester City were crowned champions – but THAT only came about due to Spurs letting slip a two-goal lead at Chelsea.

Losing out on the title to Leicester looked like a massive missed opportunity for Spurs. The big clubs that Carragher was talking about – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, maybe even Arsenal – would surely get their act together.

Chelsea have, but, whisper it, they've been showing signs recently that they might be 'doing a Tottenham' (as people used to say…)

The greatest shock at Old Trafford on Sunday was the quality of Manchester United's performance, not so much that Chelsea lost. After all, it was the Blues' 10th consecutive league game without a clean sheet.

Spurs, in contrast, have kept eight clean sheets in their last 13 league games, conceding just eight goals over that period. Not too surprisingly, they've won 10 of those games, including their last seven in a row.

Still, the usual late season micro-analysis of remaining fixtures suggests that Spurs have a much tougher run-in.

Certainly Chelsea's schedule appears easier, not least because they have four home matches, but they do have to travel to Everton and West Bromwich Albion, both tricky teams to visit.

Besides, why would Spurs worry about playing almost anyone? Sure, they have to deal with three London rivals in their next three league games - Crystal Palace (a), Arsenal (h), then West Ham United (a) – followed by Manchester United (h), Leicester City (a), and Hull City (a) – but they are better than all those teams.

They just have to prove that.

The real test of Tottenham's nerve could come from the fact that four of their last six fixtures will follow Chelsea's games.

The exception (apart from the final round of games, which all have the same kick-off time) comes over the first, long weekend of May. Even then, when Spurs play first on Friday May 5, they have to go to West Ham – who hate them – while Chelsea, although they must wait until Monday May 8, will host Middlesbrough, who may well be relegated by then.

Chelsea's other games are against teams who have nothing – or probably will have nothing – to play for: Southampton, Watford, and finally Sunderland.

Chelsea could choke again, as they did in 2014; it's largely been overlooked that they led the league in February and March and were even top in April that season with five matches to go, before finishing third.

Yet it's unlikely; Chelsea and their manager, Antonio Conte, do have title-winning experience.

Such question marks do hang much more over Spurs. Even this season, in the Champions League at Wembley, their knees went all trembly.

They do seem much stronger than last season, but doubts will remain until they win a major trophy. I'm old enough to remember them winning the FA Cup, but that was way back in 1991.

Spurs have to show that they have changed, that they are no longer joke material.

The worst aspect of last season's finale for Spurs was not just that didn't win the title, not that they didn't even finish second, but that they slumped to third behind Arsenal, of all clubs.

The greatest amount of laughter aimed at Spurs has come from their north London neighbours.

Gunners fans even created the concept of 'St Totteringham's Day', which, rather like Easter, is a moveable feast, celebrating the time every year when it is mathematically confirmed that Arsenal will finish above Spurs.

Arsenal, amazingly, enjoyed that superiority again last year for the 21st year in a row.

Chelsea will probably still have the last laugh this season but, given the low age profile of the Spurs squad, soon it might not just be Arsenal that Spurs are finishing above – it'll be everyone else in England.

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