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Spurs Armchair Diary

Year 2010/2011   (Phespirit supports Tottenham Hotspur F.C. from the comfort of his armchair)

Spurs Armchair Diary, season 2010/2011. Last season was so positive, and finished on such a high with Champions League qualification, that there's a certain inevitability that this one can only be disappointing in comparison. The squad remains intact, however, with not too many of them over-exerted by the summer's World Cup in South Africa. Transfer window activity has been limited - just £7m for the largely unknown Sandro from Internacional of Brazil.
2010/2011 Final position:   F.A. Premiership - 5th

Saturday 28 May 2010   [15:26 BST]

Spurs season ends with two Roman Pavlyuchenko goals that serve to relegate Birmingham City and confirm a fifth-place finish in the Premiership. The 2-1 win wasn't vital to ensure Europa Cup football next year as Liverpool went down 1-0 at Aston Villa. It's nice to finish on a high, though. Here's the final table for 2010/2011:

1. Manchester United   (played 38, 80pts, +41)
2. Chelsea   (played 38, 71pts, +36)
3. Manchester City   (played 38, 71pts, +27)
4. Arsenal   (played 38, 68pts, +29)
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5. Tottenham Hotspur   (played 38, 62pts, +9)
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6. Liverpool   (played 38, 58pts, +15)
7. Everton   (played 38, 54pts, +6)
8. Fulham   (played 38, 49pts, +6)

Some major squad surgery will be needed in the summer. A few squad midfielders ought to be released, the likes of Jermaine Jenas, David Bentley and Jamie O'Hara (a good lad). With Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul and William Gallas established as first-choice centre-backs, there are tough decisions to be taken concerning Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate - both truly outstanding players devastated by injuries - and Sebastien Bassong, who is becoming restless at being so far down the pecking order. The priorities have to be (i) a new first-choice goalkeeper to replace the admirable but calamity-prone Heurelho Gomes, and (ii) an entire new set of strikers to replace the now-universally unreliable Roman Pavlyuchenko (moody), Robbie Keane (a fine striker, never prolific and now past his best), Peter Crouch (painful to watch), Giovani Dos Santos (too long in the wilderness) and Jermain Defoe (misses chances, which is OK when he's scoring other but not OK when he's not scoring and not passing either). There's a time for change, and the time is now.

Sunday 15 May 2011   [19:10 BST]

Liverpool 0 - 2 Spurs : Just when the last hope of finishing fifth in the league - and thereby qualifying for next year's Europa Cup - seemed to have evaporated, up crops this result. A first win at Anfield in almost eighteen years; only the fourth win there in the last ninety-nine years. And it comes despite Spurs having won only one of their previous thirteen league games, while Liverpool had won ten of their previous fourteen. Football remains as unpredictable as ever, and Spurs live to fight one more day. The season will be played out at White Hart Lane against relegation-haunted Birmingham City. Nothing is secure.

Sunday 8 May 2011   [10:34 BST]

Spurs 1 - 1 Blackpool : Another shocker of a result as Spurs' season tails off into nothing. Even this draw relied on one of Defoe's annoying speculative snap-shots from 25 yards finally hitting the back of the net in the 89th minute. Blackpool should have had Charlie Adam sent off for an awful foul on Bale yet he wasn't so much as booked, and even went on to score their goal from the penalty spot in the 76th minute. It's all besides the point, though.

This comes off the back of last weekend's criminal 2-1 defeat at Chelsea. Spurs had taken the lead, only for Chelsea to be awarded an equaliser right at the end of the first half even though the ball didn't cross the line, and a winner right at the end of the second half even though the player was offside. No lucks.

Spurs have an excellent squad and have enjoyed a thoroughly enjoyable season, but clearly some freshening will be needed during the summer. All the dead-wood out on loan should be jettisoned once and for all. Replacing the goalkeeper and the entire forward line wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Sunday 24 April 2011   [11:48 BST]

Spurs 2 - 2 West Bromwich Albion : Given the current form of both sides, a draw in this fixture was always fairly likely. This comes hot on the heels of the somewhat more satisfactory three-all (having been 1-3 down in the first half) at home to Arsenal. The result leaves Spurs fifth in the table, but with only one win in the last seven matches. This run started with the 3-1 defeat at Blackpool, and was followed by a 3-3 at Wolves, a 0-0 at home to West Ham, 0-0 at Wigan, 3-2 at home to Stoke (the only win), 3-3 against Arsenal and now this 2-2 at home to West Brom. That's just eight points from a possible 21, including matches against the bottom four teams. The remaining five games of the season include trips to Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Spurs will have to start doing exceptionally well if they are not to finish sixth behind Liverpool and miss out on European football entirely next year.

Thursday 14 April 2011   [19:50 BST]

Champions League: Spurs 0 - 1 Real Madrid : The inevitable happens. Even the home defeat was predictable, although whilst Gomes flapping a soft shot into his own net could hardly be considered a surprise, it did come as one of the more disconcerting moments.

So the Champions League adventure ends this year and maybe for a lifetime. Fourth place in the Premiership remains within Spurs' reach, but a very tough run in means that holding on to fifth place is likely to be challenge enough. At least last weekend's 3-2 win at home to Stoke broke the goal drought.

Friday 8 April 2011   [19:30 BST]

Champions League: Real Madrid 4 - 0 Spurs : Well that didn't go very well. Hardly a shocking result, however, particularly when Peter Crouch - the original silly daft sod - managed to pick up two yellow cards and a red inside just quarter of an hour. The remaining ten men did their best under siege but with no outlet to relieve the pressure up front it was inevitable the dam would burst severely. There are still many things to look forward to in the second leg, but qualification for the semis will not be among them.

More of concern is the current goal drought and its impact on league points.

Sunday 3 April 2011   [10:13 BST]

Wigan Athletic 0 - 0 Spurs : This one was even more predictable than the previous nil-nil. Bale is still injured, Van der Vaart has been unable to maintain the hot form with which he arrived, and the so-called strikers don't even look like scoring. With a trip to Real Madrid looming on Tuesday, it appears that the season will dwindle out here. The only saving grace for the Premiership is that none of the teams immediately above or below Spurs in the table managed a win either.

Sunday 20 March 2011   [19:52 GMT]

Spurs 0 - 0 West Ham United : A frustrating but predictable result. Spurs are the better team but currently afflected with misfiring strikers; the Hammers are near the foot of the table but have recently found a bit of form. Even so, would it have been too much to ask for just one of Spurs' three chances that hit the woodwork to have gone in?

In other news, the draw for the Champions League quarter-finals was made on Friday and pair Spurs with Real Madrid. This is perfect, almost the dream tie. Bucketloads of glamour and excitement in prospect, and even a faint glimmer of hope.

Wednesday 9 March 2011   [22:03 GMT]

Champions League: Spurs 0 - 0 AC Milan : That's a 1-0 final aggregate score, and the Spurs go marching on. Any expectations - and there weren't many before the start of the tournament - are now well and truly exceeded. Sandro was outstanding in midfield, Lennon tied up two men just through fear of his pace, and the centre-backs were rock solid. So it's now into the last eight with the likes of Barcelona, Shaktar Donetsk, Schalke 04, and probably Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Chelsea. Who ever would have thought just two and a half years ago?

Quick reality check: on Sunday it was 3-3 at Wolves.

Wednesday 23 February 2011   [19:21 GMT]

Blackpool 3 - 1 Spurs : Ye gods. Dismal, shocking and all that, but isn't it typical? As Harry said: "You can't keep missing chances like we missed and win football matches. And present goals to the other team, but we did, we gave a penalty away under no pressure, a scandalous challenge. And then after that we can't convert chance after chance. Second half it was incredible sitting there watching it, missing chances from four or five yards out like it was going out of fashion. When you've got good strikers who are goalscorers you expect them to stick them in. Balls dropping on their head, waiting for them to head it into the goal from five yards out and they're not scoring. It was just unreal."

So, strikers misfiring, defenders lapsing into moments of madness, yet the last match was a glorious 1-0 win at the San Siro against AC Milan, in the first leg of a last-16 Champion's League tie. So much is right with Spurs ..... but something is not. The defence will be fine when the five or six injured players are fit, but the whole strikeforce could happily be shipped out and a new lot brought in.

Sunday 13 February 2011   [11:11 GMT]

Sunderland 1 - 2 Spurs : The humiliating cup defeat at Fulham has been followed up by three tight but very important league wins. First a one-nil at Blackburn, then last weekend a stoppage-time 2-1 at home to Bolton, and yesterday these valuable three points on Wearside. All of these fixtures are exactly the type that in bygone years would have been banana-skins for Spurs, and there would have been no strong expectation for a win from any of them, but times have changed. It's good. Next up: back to the San Siro in the Champions League for tussle with AC Milan. Even in these improved times, that remains a banana skin.

Monday 31 January 2011   [22:55 GMT]

F.A. Cup Fourth Round: Fulham 4 - 0 Spurs : Atrocious. By all accounts woefully reminiscent of the first-half battering at Inter Milan earlier this season, with four goals and a man down at half-time being considered a let-off. Not a glimmer of positive spin to be put on any aspect of this shambles so there's nothing more to be said.

Sunday 23 January 2011   [14:55 GMT]

Newcastle United 1 - 1 Spurs : Never a particularly rewarding ground to visit, so having snatched the equaliser in stoppage time, this counts as a respectable result. Of more concern than this scoreline, or the 0-0 at home to Man United last Sunday, was the fact that Bale had to go off with a bad back early in the first half. Apparently he's been suffering for some time and will now be going to see a specialist. Spurs can ill afford to be without their star player due to persistent injury.

Sunday 9 January 2011   [18:22 GMT]

F.A. Cup Third Round: Spurs 3 - 0 Charlton Athletic : A solid victory against fallen London rivals. All goals came in the second half after an apparently lack-lustre opening forty-five minutes. Next up in the cup is a trip to Fulham, which will be an altogether more slippery banana skin.

Between Charlton and the previous match against Fulham came a 2-1 defeat at Everton. It's a pity the nine-match unbeaten run couldn't reach double figures, but the outcome wasn't an enormous surprise and shouldn't be counted as an enormous set-back. Everton seem to give particular attention to shutting Bale out of the game. This time it took the form of Phil Neville crippling him and forcing a substitution midway through the second-half with the match still at 1-1. There must be something to learn from the experience. Hopefully Bale won't be out for too long, if at all.

Saturday 1 January 2011   [17:00 GMT]

Spurs 1 - 0 Fulham : A Happy New Year starting the way the old one ended, with a home win and a clean sheet. That's nine matches unbeaten in the league now, the club's best run in eleven years. Let's hope this good form is not unsettled by the arrival of David Beckham, if the prodigal does indeed decide to ply his trade on loan at the Lane for a couple of months. Surely it would be a mistake to drop Lennon to accommodate him on the right. Perhaps central and a little deeper though, in the position currently occupied by the in-and-out Palacios but more in the old Carrick style.

Thursday 30 December 2010   [18:05 GMT]

Spurs 2 - 0 Newcastle United : The Geordies have always been a decent bet for three home points. The bonus here was Spurs' players showing a willingness to battle and a hitherto largely concealed ability to keep a clean sheet.

Monday 27 December 2010   [09:45 GMT]

Aston Villa 1 - 2 Spurs : That's a satisfying three points, as are any points earned three-at-a-time against Villa. They're in the doldrums at the moment but their players still have the potential to come good at any time. For Spurs, Van der Vaart returns and immediately bags a brace of goals. He must be odds-on as the club's player of the season, even against Bale. Can't be too critical of the referee for sending off Defoe but hopefully an appeal will get the decision reversed. All in all, a good start to Christmas fixtures. Fifth in the Premiership.

Sunday 12 December 2010   [19:29 GMT]

Spurs 1 - 1 Chelsea : All things considered, this is a score that fans should have accepted before kick-off. Even having taken the lead on fifteen minutes and held it through to half-time, the win never seemed quite probable. The reason eventually revealed itself to be Gomes. Predictable, really. He flaps at a Drogba shot to gift their equaliser, then concedes and saves a stoppage time penalty. He's worth a draw on his own, and remains the biggest wildcard in the team. He's a nice lad who has been on an incredible journey since joining Spurs, but perhaps its finally time to concede that, whilst he's achieved some outstanding peaks of form, he will never achieve consistency. And Spurs already have two other credible goalkeepers.

Better was midweek Champions League qualification at the top of the group. The 3-3 draw at FC Twente was typical of Spurs' form in the competition. Always good value for the neutral. The final group table looked like this:

1. Tottenham Hotspur   (played 6, 11pts, +7)
2. Inter Milan   (played 6, 10pts, +1)
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3. FC Twente   (played 6, 6pts, -2)
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4. Werder Bremen   (played 6, 5pts, -6)

Sunday 5 December 2010   [11:48 GMT]

Birmingham City 1 - 1 Spurs : Still not quite good enough. Despite dominating play throughout and going a goal up in the first half, two points were ultimately thrown away in the last ten minutes of the game. Spurs undoubtedly remain one of the best five teams in Premiership, but leads will have to be held onto in matches like this if they're to take a regular place in the elite group that top the table year in, year out.

Wednesday 1 December 2010   [19:18 GMT]

Lots of catching up to do since the last diary entry:

28/11/2010 - Premiership: Spurs 2 - 1 Liverpool
24/11/2010 - Champions League: Spurs 3 - 0 Werder Bremen
20/11/2010 - Premiership: Arsenal 2 - 3 Spurs
13/11/2010 - Premiership: Spurs 4 - 2 Blackburn Rovers
09/11/2010 - Premiership: Spurs 1 - 1 Sunderland
06/11/2010 - Premiership: Bolton Wanderers 4 - 2 Spurs
02/11/2010 - Champions League: Spurs 3 - 1 Inter Milan
30/10/2010 - Premiership: Manchester United 2 - 0 Spurs

In summary, from the bottom up: defeat overshadowed by refereeing incompetence; glory, glory night; the usual turnover; a drab draw; a sound victory; a blissful comeback from two down; confident qualification from the Champions League group stages; a happy late win in a match that looked like a sound defeat waiting to happen either side of half-time.

The two highlights are outstanding qualification to the next round of the Champions League with a game to spare and, of course, the pure undiluted joy of not only beating Arsenal but doing it on their dunghill from being two down after half an hour. It the first league win away to one of the so-called big four (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United) since 1993, and the first win at Arsenal in seventeen years. What a way to break both sequences.

Starting to pick up a few new injuries, but on the other hand a few old injuries are getting back to fitness. All in all, playing well and in good shape near the top of the Premiership.

1. Manchester United   (played 15, 31pts, +19)
2. Chelsea   (played 15, 29pts, +19)
3. Arsenal   (played 15, 29pts, +15)
4. Manchester City   (played 15, 26pts, +8)
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5. Tottenham Hotspur   (played 15, 25pts, +3)
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6. Bolton Wanderers   (played 15, 23pts, +6)
7. Sunderland   (played 15, 20pts, +1)

Sunday 24 October 2010   [19:01 BST]

Spurs 1 - 1 Everton : Disappointing not to pick up three points in what used to be a home banker but it's a fair enough effort after Wednesday's Champions League exertions away to Inter Milan, where Bale's fine second-half hat-trick secured an unlikely pride-salvaging 4-3 defeat with ten men. Prior to that, the previous weekend's 2-1 win at Fulham must be counted a very good result.

Thoughts on the season so far: as expected, the team was never likely to find the same run of form that took them into the Champions League last season, but the addition of Van der Vaart has been a real boost. Injuries to defenders (Woodgate, King, Dawson and - until this match - Kaboul) and inadequacies up front (useless Crouch) are the main problems.

Sunday 3 October 2010   [20:38 BST]

Spurs 2 - 1 Aston Villa : That's a good result. Villa aren't firing on all cylinders but their form is good and they are always good for goals. To secure the win, coming from behind, in a 3:00pm Saturday kick-off after a Wednesday night Champions League match, was no mean feat. Van der Vaart is looking a very, very good signing (both goals in this game). The next cult hero at the Lane?

Thursday 30 September 2010   [19:15 BST]

Champions League: Spurs 4 - 1 FC Twente : An outstanding scoreline to build very nicely on the 2-2 at Werder Bremen in the first match of the campaign. By all accounts the margin of victory was a tad flattering, but there it is. It's good to bounce back from Saturday's 1-0 defeat at West Ham, and the grim 4-1 AET home defeat to poxy Arsenal in the Carling Cup.

Monday 13 September 2010   [18:46 BST]

West Bromwich Albion 1 - 1 Spurs : After having had Dawson and Defoe ruled out of action for three months and six months respectively while on England duty during the previous weekend, it's a relief just to get through this match with the squad intact. Even that was far from a certain. Only today has it been confirmed that Modric will be fit to start at Werder Bremen in the Champions League on Tuesday, and not be yet another long-term injury.

This season's Premiership campaign really hasn't got started yet.

Saturday 28 August 2010   [18:28 BST]

Spurs 0 - 1 Wigan Athletic : The old trouble, and no surprise at all that it should re-occur in this match. After the euphoria of a 4-0 win against Young Boys to qualify for the Champions League group stages, and with reminders of last year's 9-1 demolition of Wigan, and on the back of Wigan losing their last three league games 18-0 on aggregate, this had upset written all over it. Like 0-1 against Stoke this time last year (even the goal time was the same, ten minutes from time) and the two soppy defeats against Wolves, there's no excuse. But it happens. It will be harder this year to get the wins against the big teams to compensate this season.

Sunday 22 August 2010   [14:18 BST]

Stoke City 1 - 2 Spurs : Second game of the new season after a goalless draw at home to Manchester City on the opening day. This repetition of last season's scoreline started with a lucky goal by Bale, then a poorly defended set-piece equaliser, followed by an outstanding volleyed winner by Bale, and finished with lots of pointless "did it or didn't it" debate over whether Stoke had the ball over the line in the dying seconds. No single photo or TV image has yet been produced to guarantee that at some stage the entirety of the ball had crossed. Gomes was fouled in the build up anyway, which wasn't given. Who cares? Spurs have three good points.

Next up is a very big match on Wednesday at home to Young Boys of Berne, as Spurs must attempt to turn around the 3-2 deficit from the first leg of this Champions League qualifier.