The consensus this season seems to be that Spurs are a club reborn. Previously considered one of the ‘Big 5’ they had spent a considerable period in the doldrums under a series of either staid (Goss) or over enthusiastic (Ardilles) managers. However the affable Dutchman Martin Jol seems to have achieved something that no one thought possible, in building a team that is ready to join the existing top four in being realistic challengers for a Champions League place. The longevity of that challenge is yet to be proved, but it seems likely that Spurs aren’t this season’s Everton and that they are pitching at the right level.
Our previous meeting, at the JJB, was the first real indication that there was a brick wall in the Premier League and we were about to run into it. Contrast that game with the previous weekend’s visit of Arsenal. One day, real hope that we could get something from the top teams, a couple later that hope brushed aside with relative ease by a Spurs team that never really had to get into gear to beat us. From that point it was obvious that we weren’t going to get anything at Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford without a massive slice of luck.
Things have changed a little since that game. We’re no longer a team on the up and will be hoping for some form ahead of next week’s game, they’re no longer mounting a challenge but looking to consolidate a top four position. There’s a suspicion that we’ve taken our eye off the ball whilst they’ll certainly be pushing hard for a win.
That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom. Key players have been missing recently and indications are that Lee McCulloch and Henri Camara may both play a part at White Hart Lane. Camara especially is a boost, and his return from an extended African Nations cup will add some verve to the very much one paced attack of recent weeks. It’s a fairly safe bet that Camara will start, the best that we can hope for from Lee is a place on the bench but that in itself is a good sign for the future.
The loan rules will also affect selection for this one and as Mellor returns from enforced exile against Liverpool, Reto Zeigler has to sit this one out. An unfortunate situation as he was one of the few who came out of the last game with credit. The picture looks even rosier when you consider that Chimbonda can also be added to the squad for this one.
Another boon for Latics is that Spurs seem unsure what their best options are upfront. Jol has decided that Rasiak isn’t one of them and fired the summer signing off on loan leaving Mido, Keane and Defoe fighting for the two places up front. The combination of guile and pace that Keane and Defoe offer is not Jol’s preferred option but is one that would cause our defence a lot of problems. If as expected he goes for the big man in Mido that could play into our hands leaving which ever little man plays along him little to feed off. Similarly, long balls through the middle from our boys will be lapped up by Dawson and King.
Our best chances in this game lay in being solid through defence and midfield, something we seem to have lost recently and a lesson we need to relearn quickly if we’re going to start winning again. If we can then hit the channels on the break we’ve a real chance of getting something out of this one.
You’d hope the players were looking forward to playing in this game, a last chance to prove something before our trip to Cardiff and some blessed relief from the JJB pitch. This isn’t one we’re going to be holding back in. The game won’t be thrill packed but I’d expect chances at both ends. If our chances are of the quality we saw in the second half last week then the presence of strikers should bring goals.
Spurs might be lining themselves up to joint the accepted top four, bit this remains our best chance this season to take something off one of the top sides. I’m not going to stick my neck on the line with this one but it will hopefully be a much better game from a Latics perspective than we’ve seen recently, anything less and a few players might be shocked by their absence from the team at Cardiff.
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