Tottenham Hotspur: Predicting Spurs' Final 5 Games
Redknapp and Co. seem determined to test the patience and sanity of everyone still willing to call themselves fans of the capitulating train-wreck that is Tottenham Hotspur.
Where was the motivation at Wembley?
Are Luka Modric's thoughts already drifting to Sheik Mansour's pocketbook? Maybe Gallas felt it would be disrespectful to exert effort against his former club. Or perhaps Redknapp's pre-match pep talk was the announcement of his acceptance of the England position.
Whatever the cause, last Sunday's lackluster performance against Chelsea, which resulted in the somewhat-misleading scoreline of 5-1 in favor of the Blues, saw Tottenham booted from its last chance for silverware.
Tottenham can blame Martin Atkinson's borderline corrupt decision to allow Juan Mata's non-goal all they want. But five goals? Tottenham's performance in the final 15 minutes was nothing short of a slap in the face of every Spurs fan.
And what are the excuses for every game since February? The goalless snore-fest against Sunderland? Spurs had 71 percent possession, but could not break Sunderland's parked bus.
And what about the 2-1 loss to Norwich? At home? Redknapp's response was basically, "Oh well."
In the end, the excuses do not matter. What matters is that for the second season in a row, Tottenham has fallen apart at the end of what looked to be a promising season. And the reasons are painfully similar: they've failed to finish off lower-table teams, they've failed to capitalize on other teams' slips in the table and they've generally looked like they don't care anymore.
This year, however, they do not have the excuse of a European hangover.
I cannot explain how or why, but there has been a catastrophic loss of confidence and ability in Tottenham, more than should be possible in a squad with so much talent, and the blame lies with everyone.
But let's stay positive.
Tottenham were handed a surprising lifeline on Monday when Arsenal lost to a startlingly-potent Wigan (yes, Wigan). The glimmer of hope for a third place finish remains intact—Tottenham can close the gap between the Gunners to two points on Saturday.
And Arsenal get to follow that up with a matchup against Chelsea.
There are five games left for Redknapp's squad to save face; as Tottenham have proved, anything can happen in five games. It appears to be a relatively easy run-in, but nothing's easy with the North East London side, which is compounded by the fact that Tottenham must win every single one of them to achieve Redknapp's "five wins to Europe" campaign.
And as Scott Parker correctly concludes, it's "Europe or bust" for Tottenham.
So which is it: Europe or bust?
April 21: Queens Park Rangers (Away)
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Prediction: Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Queens Park Rangers are desperate. The West London club are two points off the drop and are set to endure what looks to be a world-class relegation battle (oxymoron much?).
Tottenham, on the other hand, are not desperate. They should be, but they are not. Spurs are currently drawn level on points with Newcastle for fourth place. Sure, the gulf in goal difference is thicker than Benoit Assou-Ekotto's afro, but it won't matter if Newcastle surpass them in the table, which they very well might.
London derbies are notorious for their inability to "follow the script," so to speak, and motivation (read: desperation) will be the deciding factor in this one.
To stem the tide of losses, Tottenham needs to face a side that has no business playing the same sport.
Which brings me to...
April 29: Blackburn Rovers (Home)
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Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Blackburn Rovers
On April 10, Steve Kean's relegation-threatened side contrived to lose to Liverpool despite having a man advantage for a full hour, earning two penalties and playing at home. Oh, and Liverpool resting its entire starting XI.
Blackburn are hopeless. And they are just the tonic that Spurs need to find their footing.
I don't expect the Lancashire outfit to survive the drop this season after only narrowly avoiding it last season and a game at White Hart Lane will not improve their chances.
Not a single matchup across the pitch favors Blackburn. Other than Morten Gamst Pederson set-pieces, their only real weapon is Junior Hoilett, but both Tottenham fullbacks are more than capable of stifling the winger. Yakubu has (somehow) scored 16 goals this season, but his ponderous pace will prove an easy exploit for Tottenham's athletic center-backs.
On the other side of the pitch, Blackburn have conceded three goals in three straight losses; even Tottenham's sputtering offense should find the holes in their porous backline.
I predict a win for Tottenham, though, as is their wont, it will not be as easy as it should be.
May 2: Bolton Wanderers (Away)
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Prediction: Bolton Wanderers 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur
The last four games between these two clubs have yielded sixteen goals total and I expect this match to follow suit. Unfortunately for Bolton, this goal glut will lean heavily in favor of Tottenham.
After their only defender of note departed for glory-seeking Chelsea in January, Bolton have slumped to the second-worse defense in the league. They won't be able to stop Tottenham's offense regardless of how severely non-committed Spurs might play.
And I feel comfortable in predicting that Adam Bogdan will not replicate him form from their March 27 F.A. Cup match.
Tottenham's offense may be going through a crippling dry spell, but back-to-back match-ups against the two worst defenses in the league would only pose a problem should Tottenham declare the pressure too much and forfeit the remaining games of the season.
Hopefully, that's unlikely.
Tottenham won't keep a clean sheet, but they will see off Bolton, who might be doomed to the Championship next season.
May 6: Aston Villa (Away)
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Prediction: Aston Villa 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
I fear Aston Villa.
Not because they will pose a threat to Tottenham on May 6 (they won't), but because they are Tottenham's future if Spurs fail to secure Champions League football.
Once upon a time, Aston Villa were up-and-comers, just like Tottenham. The 2009-2010 season saw them finish 6th, just three points behind Manchester City and six behind Tottenham. They were seen as a team of the future and for good reason: they were young and very talented.
But the following two seasons saw them sell every promising player in the squad and the result is alarming: the Midlands club is currently 15th and not entirely free of the relegation zone.
That's a massive drop over two seasons and their future does not look bright.
If Tottenham do not return to the top European stage, they will find it hard to retain their stars, who are already hinting at moves, and Aston Villa's bleak position now may be Tottenham's in two or three years.
Having said that, Tottenham will ease to victory against the Villains.
May 13: Fulham (Home)
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Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Fulham
Fulham have just two wins in 11 matches against the top six teams (a 5-2 goalfest against Newcastle and a 2-1 victory against Arsenal, both in January). Their losses include a 5-0 drubbing at home against Manchester United and a 3-0 loss at the Etihad.
The statistics would seem to favor Tottenham.
However, as I mentioned against Queens Park Rangers, London derbies are difficult to predict. And while Fulham have only won two of the matches against the top sides, they have also drawn four of them; they were the first team to take points off Manchester City back when they looked destined to life the league title.
Fulham's performance will rely heavily upon the form of Clint Dempsey while Tottenham will need to be at their attentive best if November 6 was indicative of anything.
This is the most difficult game to predict on Spurs' remaining schedule and I don't feel comfortable hoping for anything but a draw to end the season.
End of the Season Standing
Don't look, Harry.
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Prediction: t-4th (with Chelsea)
Third place is outside of Tottenham's grasp barring an epic collapse from Arsenal (fingers crossed). And ultimately five wins will not be necessary to finish in the Top Four (with the caveat of being tied with Chelsea on points).
Newcastle have only ever been relevant this season when they can be mildly annoying and I don't see that changing. Also, their run-in includes matchups against Chelsea, Manchester City and a finale at the giant-killing grounds of Goodison Park. Newcastle will fade.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have the Champions League to worry about and face the potential psychological scarring that results from playing at Camp Nou (and if they win, their focus will be heavily diverted from the domestic front). And after their shellacking of Tottenham in the F.A. Cup, they have the final against silverware-hungry Liverpool.
That adds quite a few more games to their schedule and the impact it will have on the season will be important.
However, given Tottenham's failure thus far to capitalize on other teams' dropped points, I see Chelsea winning just enough to tie their rivals for the final ticket to Europe.
And so it will come down to goal difference. At the moment, Tottenham have a +19 goal differential and Chelsea a +18. Those will surely rise and fall as quickly and as frequently as my blood pressure during the final weeks of the season.
So will Tottenham return to Europe?
My heart says yes. But my gut says no.