Two things happened this past extended weekend (Fri-Mon) that all but sealed the Premier League title race. First, Spurs slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat away at West Ham Friday night. A few days later on Monday, Chelsea made predictably short work of Boro at home, dooming the visitors to relegation and all but confirming themselves as league champions. It was a bitter and rather unceremonious end to what was always a very long-odds title chase for Spurs, but recent chatter about Tottenham bottling the league is misguided. After all, if it wasn’t for Pochettino’s men, there wouldn’t have been a title “race” at all.
A few weeks ago I expressed belief in the chance of Spurs catching Chelsea. That belief was, unfortunately, founded on the idea that Everton would put up some sort of fight at home and swipe some points off the Blues. Once they failed in that task, though, it was going to take a miracle for Chelsea to drop 4 more points than Spurs over their remaining fixtures. While it was West Ham that likely nailed the proverbial final nail in Tottenham’s coffin Friday night, the truth of the matter is that the race was over in practice as soon as the final whistle blew at Goodison.
Since we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the West Ham game for a moment. I’ve seen that ugly word “Spursy” bandied around quite a bit in both the media and my soccer-inclined social circles to describe the narrow loss, but I don’t feel it’s accurate in this case. West Ham actually played us very well, even if their solitary goal was the result of the same kind of penalty box ping-pong that I’d smash a controller against a wall over had it happened to me in a game of FIFA. Still, despite the hosts’ good performance we had more than enough opportunities to win the game. Had Adrian not stood on his head for much of the match in the West Ham goal, or had we just taken our chances with the same ruthless efficiency you just know Chelsea would’ve, the result might’ve gone our way. That’s really been the difference between us and the Blues over the course of the season, though; they find ways to score from minimal chances while we regularly struggle to convert from a bunch of good opportunities.
Aside from West Ham’s unexpected competence and our unfortunate profligacy in front of goal, I’ve also got to give a shout-out to my man Anthony Taylor for his supremely poor refereeing. I don’t like criticizing officials because it almost always comes off as sour grapes, but he had a real stinker of a match in the center Friday night. There was just absolutely no consistency to his management of the game. In the first half, he saw fit to give Kyle Walker a yellow for a 50-50 tackle in which the Spurs defender was actually the man who got fouled. Meanwhile, he was more than happy to allow the likes of Fonte and Collins to clean Kane, Eriksen, or Dele’s clock anytime they got near the West Ham penalty area. The amount of times one of our attacking players was whacked from behind trying to receive a ball on the edge of the area was infuriating, and as the fouls piled up with nary a glance from Mr. Taylor I knew the game just wasn’t going our way.
At this point, it’s almost inconceivable Chelsea will drop any more points, let alone the 7 required to give Spurs a chance at catching them. Even if they did, Spurs still have United and Leicester to play, much harder games than those that await the Blues for the remainder of the season. It’s tough to admit, but I’m ready to graciously concede the league to Conte’s men. They’ve won when it mattered, and showed no signs of buckling to the pressure even as Spurs tried to make a late challenge. Their recent casual demolitions of both Everton and Boro served to further demonstrate that they deserve the league’s highest honor.
But does Chelsea’s impending coronation cancel out Spurs’ excellent campaign? Does it overshadow the huge strides taken by this squad in such a short amount of time since Pochettino took the managerial reigns? To hear some pundits tell it, you’d think so. Apparently, a (likely) second-place finish for Tottenham represents a disaster of a season. Fans of the other top 6 teams who’ve watched their own clubs under-perform for most of the year are gleefully joining in the criticism as well. I guess when you’ve been staring up the table at our Lilywhite arse for the better part of 2017, all you can do is take pot shots at the better side. That’s fine with me. If Spurs are to become a dominant force in the next few seasons (as I expect us to), it certainly won’t come without plenty of eager detractors watching our every move and waiting for a mistake.
Facts are facts, though, and the important one going into the next round of fixtures is that a win against United mathematically locks second place for us. No trophy will be awarded for such a finish, but it represents huge progress for a club that has never placed so high over back-to-back seasons in the Premier League era. Given that our tilt with the injury-riddled Red Devils will be the final game played at the Lane, where we haven’t lost a game in ages, odds are we’ll get the job done and give the ground a proper send-off. With a largely tournament-free summer on the horizon, our players can rest up well and prepare for next season’s journey, a season in which silverware of some kind will be expected from this talented squad.
So take heart, fellow Spurs fans…this season has been nothing short of incredible. Don’t let a dodgy night in West London and Chelsea’s indomitable title march convince you otherwise.