Upon hearing that Arsenal had drawn 3-3 at home to Norwich City on Saturday, everyone knew the ball had fallen firmly in Tottenham Hotspur’s court in the race for third place. Not playing until Sunday, a trip to Aston Villa for that matter, it was a game that a win over a team that looked desperately short on confidence would see Spurs leapfrog the Gunners in third spot.
But, with Spurs being Spurs, they had to go and make it difficult. Granted, there was very little Brad Friedel could have done about Ciaran Clark’s goal after it deflected off William Gallas’ big bald head, but a massive 22 shots compared to Villa’s four meant the away side dominated for much of the game.
Despite ending the game with 10 men after Danny Rose’s best attempts to completely obliterate Alan Hutton’s shin, Spurs still ended up with over 60% possession over the entire game and a massive 19 corners against their Premier League counterparts. Yet, only Emmanuel Adebayor could break down the Villa from the penalty spot in a game that ended 1-1.
What does the result mean?
Had Spurs picked up maximum points, with Newcastle United losing 2-0 to Manchester City, a top four finish would have all but been secured, with the North Londoners goal difference superiority over the Magpies. Furthermore, a win at Villa Park would have seen Spurs leapfrog Arsenal into third place leading into the final game of the season.
As it still stands, a win at home to Fulham could be enough to secure a finish in the top three, should Arsenal fail to beat West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, a game that is Roy Hodgson’s last in charge of the Baggies before he departs for England and one that the home side will be keen to win in order to deliver a decent send off to their manager.
However, it shouldn’t have to go down to the last game of the season to determine whether or not Spurs secure a top four finish. I regularly refer back to that 5-2 loss to Arsenal back in February and the poor run Harry Redknapp’s side went on as a result, but a win over Villa should have been enough to drag the club over the finish line.
This is the same Villa side that has won just once in their last 15 games, and even that was a last minute win over Fulham back in March. After Norwich surprising Arsenal on Saturday, a win was an absolute must; especially with Chelsea able to secure safe passage to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League should they overcome Bayern Munich in Germany next weekend.
However, like a number of deciding factors, everything is set to go down to the last game of the season. The third relegation spot, the Premier League title and the hunt for a top four finish. As mentioned, Arsenal travel to West Brom, Newcastle travel to Everton and Spurs host Fulham. It can be argued that Spurs’ game is the easiest out of the three, but the Cottagers shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially when playing the North London side.
Fulham at home
Martin Jol’s triumphant return to White Hart Lane. His first game back at Spurs since the 2-1 defeat to Getafe in the UEFA Cup in 2007. Naturally, it will be good to see him back at the Lane for the first time in almost five years, but it is important that all chants are directed towards the team and not the Dutchman. Yes, he deserves a round of applause for his time spent with the club but, since then the club has moved on and the fans should too.
Back to the match at hand, Fulham at home isn’t going to be an easy task, having won three of their last four games including an impressive 1-0 win away at Liverpool. The Cottagers still have a lot to play for heading into the last game of the season, with each position in the league worth an extra £800k from the Premier League.
Furthermore, with only one point separating Fulham, Liverpool and Everton, a place in the Europa League is still up for grabs. They still have a lot to play for and will Jol will be hoping to take all three points away from N17; Fulham will be looking to leave White Hart Lane with a positive result.
They have enough quality going forward in the likes of Damien Duff, Moussa Dembele, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Clint Dempsey to hurt Spurs and in the backline, Brede Hangeland and Philippe Senderos will be doing their upmost to ensure Adebayor, Rafael Van der Vaart, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon don’t test Mark Schwarzer. For those thinking it will be a walkover, it most certainly will not.
Last game’s for some?
Adebayor could possibly be playing his last game in a Spurs shirt on Sunday, whilst Rose and Niko Kranjcar could have already played theirs by the time the final whistle blows against Fulham Adebayor’s loan spell ends once the final whistle goes, Rose is suspended following his red against Villa and could be sold at the end of the season and Kranjcar could possibly be off over the summer due to a lack of first-team football.