Arsenal’s draw in midweek has presented their North London rivals another opportunity they simply must cease in their home clash with Manchester City this Sunday...Following their 2-1 home win over Arsenal in the in the North London Derby in the first week of March, Tottenham pulled seven points clear of their cross-town rivals and were in complete command of third spot, while the Gunners were languishing in fifth place with 10 games left to play in the campaign. Now barely seven weeks on from that day, the shoe is firmly on the other foot.
With victory over West Bromwich Albion last weekend, Arsenal nudged a point ahead of Andre Villas-Boas’ men and with two more games to play before Spurs kicked another ball, looked all set to stretch that advantage to seven points. However, there was yet another twist in the tale in this enthralling battle for the Champions League places as the Gunners were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by a stubborn Everton outfit at the Emirates Stadium in midweek.
So, as it stands, Spurs are fifth with 58 points from 32 matches played, two points off fourth placed Arsenal and a further point behind Chelsea, who now occupy third spot thanks to their 3-0 thumping of Fulham earlier this week. This weekend it is Arsene Wenger’s turn to take his side to Craven Cottage, where their recent record does not make for make for good reading. Meanwhile, the Blues have a tough assignment on their hands as well as they visit Anfield.
The Gunners have won just one of their last four visits to Craven Cottage
Both these games represent potential banana skins for Spurs’ rivals. As such, it is imperative that Villas-Boas' side make the most of their opportunity by collecting the vital three points against Manchester City on Sunday at White Hart Lane.
In the Citizens, Spurs will face a side that is desperately trying to salvage what has been a most disappointing season on the whole. A whopping 13 points off the pace set by runaway league leaders Manchester United, the defending champions have failed to mount a challenge of any note this season. Their European adventure also failed to take off as they were eliminated at the group stages of the Champions League once again, having failed to secure a win in six games.
However, Roberto Mancini’s side, have, in all probability secured a second spot in the table and as such, logic dictates that the North Londoners have a greater need for the points. A positive result in this game is made even more important by the fact that Spurs still have to visit Stamford Bridge in early May, amongst other potentially tricky fixtures.
Worryingly for Tottenham though, their form coming into this crunch clash is nothing to write home about. Since the North London Derby win over Arsenal, the Lily Whites have won just one of their last four league games, collecting a mere 4 points out of the 12 on offer. This run includes losses to Liverpool and Fulham and a home draw against Everton, whilst their only win came thanks to a 2-1 away success at Swansea City. They also suffered an extremely deflating Europa League Quarterfinal exit at the hands of Swiss outfit FC Basel during this period, a tie that witnessed influential winger Gareth Bale pick up a knee injury that has seen him miss two weeks of action so far.
Spurs must avoid a repeat of last season's meltdown
However, such a late-season collapse is not new to the White Hart Lane-based side. Leading up to last season’s derby clash at Emirates Stadium at the back end of February, Spurs enjoyed a similar 10-point cushion over their neighbours and had the chance to put third spot in the bag after surging into an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Luis Saha and former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor. However, an inexplicable capitulation thereafter, saw them on the wrong end of a 5-2 scoreline.The defeat was a shock from which Harry Redknapp’s side could never really recover from, as they picked up a mere 16 points from their last 12 games league games thereafter. Spurs eventually sneaked into fourth position but were unable to make it into the Champions League owing to Chelsea’s sensational penalty shootout triumph over Bayern Munich.
To his credit, Villas-Boas has left no stone unturned to assure one and all that there will be no repeat of last season’s meltdown. Unfortunately for the Portuguese though, history seems to be repeating itself. However, the tactician will appreciate more than anyone else that Arsenal’s midweek slip has given his team another priceless opportunity to atone for past mistakes. A chance they simply have to grab with both hands on Sunday.
Bale will start against City
With Villas-Boas assuring that Gareth Bale would start against the Citizens, it is a shot in the arm ahead of the crucial fixture. Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon are also likely to make an appearance and that shall boost Spurs' chances of getting a positive result even further.
However if Tottenham allow a repeat of the events of an year ago, they risk been written off until they can prove they know how to cross the finishing line.
Can Spurs avoid a repeat of last season and seal a Champions League spot this term? Leave your comments below or get in touch ith the writer on Twitter @MrunalNakashe1