Season Over? Pffft.
It’s okay, everyone can relax now. Natural order has been restored. After a few months of panic, the top four has a reassuringly familiar look about it. Spurs, Villa, City, and any other uncouth band of gatecrashers with the nerve to sneak in the back door while no-one’s looking have been well and truly rumbled. The game’s up. Now all we can hope for is the dignity of being allowed to wait outside in the rain; occasionally pressing our noses against the window, gazing at the all the beautiful people on the inside.
*long drawn out sigh*
You’d be forgiven for buying into this rather gloomy outlook. Seemingly, now, a point advantage in this business is tantamount to an unbridgeable gap. It’s the small margin that Liverpool find themselves ahead by, yet there’re some quarters who’d have you believe it was twenty, such is their state of deflation. The media are having fun with it, too. Sky Sports went with the rather dramatic ‘Spurs and Villa Suffer Self-Harm’ in their reaction to the weekend’s frenetic stalemate. Sure, I was disappointed, but self-mutilation? That’s a little too far, wouldn’t you say? Blimey.
Call me old fashioned, but with thirty-nine points still up for grabs, I’d suggest there was still plenty left yet to play for. Thirty-nine points. That’s enough to save a club from relegation. Imagine if Hull fans resigned themselves so quickly- Phil Brown would have more luck turning the Humber Bridge into white gold if that was the extent of their patience. It’s no different at the other end. S’Ralex doesn’t slide a gun in his mouth and concede the title in February when things start to wobble. He battens down the hatches and drives forward like some unstoppable Scottish bastard, hoovering up points as he goes. Shouldn’t we be trying something similar?
The voice of doom, then, is somewhat of an overreaction. More like the voice of could do better. Specifically, must do better in front of goal. An amazing thought for a club with five-ish international strikers on their books and a plus-twenty GD. But it’s a problem nonetheless. One that needs resolving. It’s the reason why Villa have joined Stoke, Hull and Wolves in clubs who’ve left The Lane, having rode their luck, completely untarnished. And it’s only Saturday’s opponents on that list which one could go someway to forgive. It’s forgivable in context, anyway. Unlike our other slip-ups, Villa have been pulling this trick all season long. They’re defensive behemoths. They don’t just park the bus, they erect a twenty-foot wall made of buses. Ten buses wide and three thick. It’s like a First National scrap yard. Not something easily breached, as United and many others have found out to their cost.
For all Tottenham’s dominance and genuinely marvellous build-up work, we came up short in the whites of Brad Friedel’s eyes and the reinvigorated frame of Richard Dunne. Watch a highlights reel of our chances and you’d be hard pushed to imagine how Villa could’ve escaped with a draw. But they did and Crouch, Defoe, King et al should’ve done much more with what they were given. Crouch misses far too much for my liking. We have an unnerving capacity to generate lots and lots of chances throughout the course of an afternoon- against most teams. Sadly, however, it’s becoming fairly customary that 3MP becomes the misfiring punch-line to all the good work. But then his link-up play is the cat’s pyjamas. He’s becoming a bit of an enigma, really, and I can’t make up my mind whether it’s one I like.
Anyway, if there’s a conclusion to be drawn from any of these witterings, then I guess it’s this.
5th in the League, still in the F.A Cup: it could be worse, couldn’t it?
And we’re certainly not finished, despite what you might read.
Wolves tomorrow. The season starts here.