For anyone who has been reading (enduring) my blog for more than 12 months, you will already be well acquainted with my rather skeptical attitude towards Australian Christmas, or “Chrissy” as the locals so eloquently put it……normally whilst simultaneously chugging a beer and/or uttering something casually racist to a passing tourist. It is not that I have anything against the holiday per se, it is just difficult to muster up much festive cheer when your plastic Christmas tree is quietly melting in the corner of your living room and you are struggling to fight off the onset of some sort of pavlova induced coma. I think Australian Christmas gave me diabetes. As if that wasn’t enough, I am also really struggling to get any sort of return on investment from my previously impressive collection of novelty Christmas jumpers and I cannot use any of the candles that I was so thoughtfully given in the office Secret Santa, as there is currently a nationwide fire ban. Of course there is. This country just doesn’t “get” Christmas…….I swear, if the baby Jesus had somehow been born in Australia, a dingo would have had him away in an instant! Anyway, in recent years, as I have tried to come up with ever more increasingly creative and believable ways to decline the offer of festive shellfish, the one thing that has made this rather bizarre time of year a little more bearable has been Tottenham’s seemingly perennial run of good form over the Christmas break.
Whilst the rest of the European leagues prepare to wind down for a hard earned Winter Break, the Premier League fixtures, much like Donald Trump in a speed boat, are coming thick and fast. On average, Spurs are playing a game every three days right now and if you thought that this was tough for the players…..try to spare a thought for those of us who have to get up in the middle of the night to watch them play! This always seems to be the time of year when I become a temporary insomniac and I think that my work are starting to suspect that I might have a meth problem, as every other day I stumble into the office looking more and more like Christian Bale from The Machinist. Little do they know, the meth is the only thing keeping me awake right now! Obviously, I am kidding……stay in school kids!
Even though our excellent recent run of form technically started back in November when we beat Chelsea at Wembley, I had already put my Christmas decorations up, so I am counting it as a festive fixture. Interestingly, since that rather humbling defeat, which also ended their unbeaten start to the season, our Soviet backed friends from the South appear to have become increasingly racist (even by their already lofty standards) towards opposing players and teams, both at home and abroad. Clearly, this sort of behaviour cannot be condemned because, much like a midget with learning difficulties who has been caught masturbating in an elevator……..it isn’t big, it isn’t clever and it is wrong on so many levels. Thanks, I am here all week. We followed this impressive result up with another massive win, beating Inter Milan, again at Wembley and in the process, began to lay the foundations for a miraculous escape from a seemingly insurmountable Champions League group. But we will get to this later on. Then, from what I can tell, absolutely nothing happened for about a week and everyone went on holiday and no one talked about or even played a game of football……certainly not in the North London area.
Once that short, never-to-be-mentioned-again break was over, we got right back to winning ways, comfortably beating Southampton 3-1 in Ralph Hasenhüttl’s first game in charge of the Saints. Ridiculously, this guys name roughly translates to Ralph Rabbit Hutch in English…..which already makes him my second favourite manager in the league, behind Poch of course. With the games now coming quicker than a Mormon on one of his many wedding nights, Pochettino decided to rest Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen for our trip to Leicester and we still managed a comfortable 2-0 win against the former Premier League champions. Thankfully, we could still turn to the likes of Heung Min Son, who scored yet another Christmas cracker and the unplayable Dele Alli, to secure yet another routine victory away from home. During the process, Dele Alli also managed to score his 50th goal for Spurs which was, rather bizarrely, absolutely identical to the 1st goal he ever scored for the club. They were both diving headers at the far post, against the same opposition at the exact same stadium and against the exact same goalkeeper, except this time it secured us the 3 points. And do you know what else has 3 points? That’s right. A triangle. Dele Alli…..Illuminati confirmed.
So, with a number of key players rested and a couple of confidence boosting victories under our belt, we were more than ready to take on the mighty Barcelona…….B team. Regardless of who did or didn’t play for the already qualified Catalans, it must be noted that both Ousmane Dembele and Phillipe Coutinho, who both started, cost more than our entire first XI put together. And despite going 1-0 down to another early goal, we absolutely outplayed the Spanish Champions in the second half, becoming the first team since 2006 to beat them in a possession battle, which is really quite astonishing when you think about how they have dominated European football over the last ten years. As a result, we deservedly grabbed an equaliser with 5 minutes left to play, after Poch bought Lucas Moura off the bench to influence the game, which he did to obviously devastating effect. Now, all we needed to do was to hold on to what we had……not something that Spurs have been particularly adept at in the past. In snatching this late equaliser, we had also managed to match the scoreline between Inter Milan (a team that are affectionately known as the Spurs of Italy for being…..well, more Spursy than Spurs) and PSV Eindhoven and were forced to endure what felt like nearly ten minutes of injury time in Italy before the final whistle confirmed that we had completed a totally unexpected, yet nonetheless miraculous “great escape”. Somehow, we had come back from the brink of certain elimination, having only had one point to our name after three games, to qualify for the knock out stages of the Champions League where we will now face the German Winter Champions, Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of next year. Not to mention the fact that we also managed to outclass and outplay Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the process. Not bad for a night’s work.
But then, just three days later, we were bought back down to earth with a bump as we welcomed Burnley and their very specific brand of Rugby Union to Wembley Stadium. Predictably, as they do most years, they parked the bus and decided to waste everybody’s time, clearly hoping to settle for a draw. But what Burnley didn’t count on was the fact that this season, we draw about as often as Tony Hart does. Which is never. Because he is dead. You know it’s a good gag when you have to explain it. Still, you don’t win games if you can’t get any shots away and Moussa Sissoko, despite his recent upturn in form, was by far the main culprit. I swear, I have seen conscientious objectors who are more likely to pull the trigger than this guy! But we still love him (until we don’t again) and he is a shoe-in for this year’s Ballon d’or, so I guess we can forgive him for being crap in front of goal. Anyway, having heavily rotated the squad once more, Pochettino again turned to his bench for inspiration and threw on Christian Eriksen, who scored in the 94th minute and effectively saved our Danish bacon for the second time in as many weeks. Having done something very similar in the must-win Champions League clash against Inter Milan, Eriksen now officially has more successful late shows to his name than James Corden! And I suppose that if there was ever a time of year that we could rely on a Christian, it would most certainly be over the Christmas period.
So, with the exception of the North London derby that never was, we have had a cracking run of results in a period that was always going to be testing for an already small squad with already tired legs. However, the difference this season, certainly from my perspective, has been the way in which Mauricio Pochettino has approached this sudden glut of fixtures. This year, he has rested players where necessary, rotated the squad depending on the opposition and most importantly, has used his substitutions much more effectively than he ever has in the past. And in doing so, he has defied the majority of his critics by proving that, much like a dyslexic sweet shop owner, he certainly knows a thing or two about tactics! And there is no better example of this than the Barcelona game, which ultimately saved our Champions League campaign and may well have signalled a watershed moment for Spurs this season and hopefully beyond. And as we get to the end of December, a time when the majority of people will start to reflect on their lives and set themselves New Year’s resolutions to be better people, maybe the Christmas miracle of our result against Barcelona will have the same effect on Poch and the boys…….and maybe it will be Nou Year, Nou Spurs? COYS