The international break is the most boring two weeks in the history of man. Back in the day, England playing used to be one of the greatest days on any football fans calendar but is now met with moans and groans about a dreaded fortnight of nothing to keep supporters “entertained”. Without Spurs on our beloved television, it’s a long and painful mid-season break, and one that brings the risk of injury to a number the clubs top stars while adding two more pointless encounters to an already hectic fixture list.
With that in mind, heading into the two-weeks of nothingness, Spurs have been in tip-top form as of late. Gone are the days of ‘two points from eight games’ malarky only to be replaced by two points dropped from the last eight games. And believe me, the fans are all too miffed about dropping those two points. But I am getting way ahead of myself in the terms of a season review, so far.
With the Everton game called off due to a mindless few who thought it was ‘sick’ to set cars on fire and burn down buildings, the first game of the season for ‘Arry’s boys turned out to be an away trip to Manchester United. Never a happy hunting ground for any team, West Brom were the only team to take any points away from Old Trafford last year, our start was always going to be a difficult one. And so it proved on the evening, going down 3-0 to the reigning champions courtesy of goals from Danny Welbeck, Anderson and Wayne Rooney.
As already mentioned, the Theatre of Dreams is never the easiest place to go at any point in the season and many fans had this game down for a loss from the off. But what was to follow proved to be one of the lowest of the lows as any Spurs fan can testify. Having gone from Perennial Champions League contenders to Premiership pace-setters is a testament to the money available to Roberto Mancini and he hasn’t wasted one minute trying to turn City in the British Barcelona. With Redknapp opting to start an unhappy Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar in the middle of the park, it was no surprise that the Citizens tore through Spurs like a hot knife through butter, Edin Dzeko smashing four past Brad Friedel, Sergio Aguero adding a fifth with a solitary Younes Kaboul strike nothing more than a consolation, at best, in what proved to be a miserable afternoon at White Hart Lane as Spurs buckled to a 5-1 defeat to a side that, just over 12 months earlier, were reeling at a 1-0 defeat to secure a Champions League spot.
The defeat kicked Redknapp and Daniel Levy into gear, who set about bringing Scott Parker and Emmanuel Adebayor to the Lane, two signings that certainly lifted the gloom surrounding the N17. But, due to another international break, the pair wouldn’t been in action for their new club until a trip to Wolves rolled around. Molineux is never a happy hunting ground for Spurs, never is any away trip for that matter, and having taken just one point from a potential six in the last two years, coupled with two confidence sapping losses, not losing was the best some fans could have been hoping for, especially as Wolves were going into their fourth game of the season unbeaten. But, with Parker and Adebayor on board, the team dug deep and, courtesy of goals from the Togolese striker and Jermain Defoe, a Spurs took all three points back to North London in a solid 2-0 win.
Next up for Redknapp’s team was a supposedly difficult home game against Liverpool. The Reds have invested a lot of money into their squad the previous two transfer windows, spending well over £100m in the process. But, they were no match for a Spurs that we’re brimming with confidence following the win over Wolves the week previous and after an early Modric strike, a goal which made it into To the Lane and Back’s top five goals of the season so far, from 25-yards after only seven minutes set the tone for the encounter. With both Charlie Adam and Martin Skrtel sent off either side of half-time, it was plain sailing for the home side as Adebayor added a brace after Defoe doubled the lead on the day as Spurs ran out 4-0 winners on a sunny afternoon in North London.
Another difficult away trip following the demolition of Liverpool as a trip to the DW Stadium loomed. Again, another stadium Spurs have struggled to pick up any points at recently but all the previous form went out the window as a rampant first half from the starting XI saw goals from Rafael Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale compounded a miserable first half for Wigan Athletic. Redknapp even admitted in his post-match press conference that the opening 45 minutes of the game was one of the best he has ever seen Spurs play. But, after the break, the travelling team took their foot off the gas and allowed Roberto Martinez’ side back into the match, courtesy of a superb Mohamed Diame effort. Nonetheless, following a Steve Gahouri red card, Spurs held on for all three points and continued their recent impressive up-turn in form.
The win against Wigan was perfect for the North London derby that was to follow a week later, and what a time to play Arsenal. Spurs were enjoying a three-game winning streak while the Gunners were struggling at the wrong end of the table. Despite a dominant midfield display from the away side, it was Van der Vaart who gave Spurs the lead five minutes before half-time. Some felt a hint of handball was evident but any Arsenal appeal fell on deaf ears. Nonetheless, Arsene Wenger’s sides’ dominance in the middle of the park finally came to fruition in the second half as Aaron Ramsey tucked away an Alex Song cross, after the Cameroon international lost his man and broke down the left flank. But, not to be outdone, Kyle Walker stepped up to the plate and, after dodging an ensuing Gervinho challenge, launched a fierce 25-yard-drive that flew past Szczesny in the Arsenal goal, in an effort reminiscent to Danny Rose’s fierce strike, two seasons before, and an effort which ended up top of To the Lane and Back’s top five goals of the season so far. Despite a late flurry of pressure, Spurs held on for the win and continued to heap pressure on Wenger, with many beginning to believe the shift in power between the two North London sides was changing.
Another dreary international break quickly followed suit and, after two-long weeks of no Premiership football, Spurs were finally back in action, this time away at Newcastle United. Redknapp’s side have rarely found St. James’ park, excuse me, the Sports Direct Arena and easy place to visit and the trip that Sunday proved no different. Taking a 1-0 lead into half-time, courtesy of a Van der Vaart penalty, Newcastle quickly responded courtesy of a Demba Ba header. Substitute Defoe restored the one-goal advantage with 20 minutes remaining, a superb turn and shot which made the cut for To the Lane and Backs top five goals of the season so far, but, with Newcastle desperate to continue their unbeaten start to the season, Shola Ameobi hit an unstoppable drive past Friedel four minutes from time, a strike which proved to be the end of Spurs winning run and the only points they would drop between September and today.
Keeping up Spurs’ travels, Ewood Park would be the next destination for the team and, despite it being a relatively difficult ground to head too, Spurs had won their previous two encounters at the stadium prior to this seasons fixture. It was three by 5pm that Sunday as Van der Vaart added two goals, one of which made it into To the Lane and Backs top five goals of the season so far, to his growing tally, Mauro Formica striking at the other end for the home team but, despite throwing the kitchen sink Spurs’ way, the players held on for a vital 2-1 win and a further push up the table.
After two away trips up north, it was back to White Hart Lane for the second London derby of the season, this time QPR the team to make the short trip to N17. A game that had previously been billed as one Spurs would ‘banana skin-it’ in fact turned out to be a comfortable 3-1 win. Bake struck twice, his second an absolute beauty that made To the Lane and Backs top five goals of the season so far, with an excellent Van der Vaart goal, stolen off Ledley King, sandwiched in between the Welshmans superb efforts. Jay Bothroyd got one back for the R’s after his half-time introduction but it wasn’t enough to prevent Spurs from taking all three points from Neil Warnock’s side.
It was proving unbelievably hard to stop Spurs in their tracks, and despite the best effort to prevent Redknapp’s players’, under orders from Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan, to halt the unbeaten side, Fulham’s attempt to do so failed to bare fruit. Goals from Bale, Aaron Lennon and Defoe was more than enough to stop fans from joining Redknapp in the heart clinic, even though many at Craven Cottage, and at home, were unbelievably close to ending up in a bed alongside the Spurs boss. A Younes Kaboul own goal was the best the Cottagers got to upsetting the odds, a massive thanks to Brad Friedel on that behalf, meant Spurs, once again, came away with all three points.
It is proving to be a habit of the players to dig deep to pick up the three points needed, the grit and determination that has been missing in recent seasons. With Parker and Sandro available to Redknapp, it is their ability to break-up play in the middle that has brought Spurs along in the past 12 months. Now a much tougher proposition for teams, it is hardly surprising that eight games have past and Spurs are yet to register a defeat since the 5-1 humbling of Manchester City back in August. Things could have been much different had Parker and Adebayor, even though he can’t play against his parent club, been signed prior to the opening day defeat to Manchester United.
Nonetheless, the players deserve huge credit for the way they have picked themselves up and dusted themselves off following the aforementioned double defeat to the Manchester sides. Thus far, then, it has been a hugely successful campaign and here is hoping that when Aston Villa travel to White Hart Lane on the 21st of November, the unbeaten run can stretch to nine.