Like any rational Spurs fan, I spent much of the last week in varying degrees of anxiety over the fitness of Harry Kane, and scoured the internet on a daily basis for news of just how long our best player was going to be out for. While the beginning of the week didn’t look promising, the immediate build-up to our Sunday kickoff against Southampton was positive; with reports on Friday-Saturday indicating Kane wouldn’t be out for more than a month. When one factors in that this coming fortnight signals another international break, there really wasn’t a better time for the lad to go down injured.
Still, every game without Kane promises to be a bit more nerve-wracking than necessary and this past weekend’s match was no exception. After racing out to a 2-0 first half advantage, Spurs slipped into something a little too comfy and allowed James Ward-Prowse to score a laughably simple mid-second half equalizer. From there, the visitors to White Hart Lane looked the more likely to score again, but Pochettino’s men held out for a narrow 2-1 victory. The result anchored Spurs firmly to second place, especially given that Arsenal dropped points on Saturday and the City-Liverpool match ended 1-1 later on Sunday. Short of Chelsea or United dropping points, it was about as good a weekend as Spurs could hope for, and winning without Kane will have given the team great confidence going forward.
The question now is this: how far can Spurs carry the win streak without Kane? Furthermore, where will they wind up come the season’s end? The action of this past weekend offered some insight as to the answers to such questions, and this Spurs fan is all too happy to dissect them in detail.
On life-support: Arsenal
If Sunday was a good day, Saturday was a great day. One of the few advantages of being a state-side football fan is that Britain’s mid-day kickoffs are often my first order of business in a day. I wake up, occasionally make it out of bed but not always, and flip on the TV to find Premier League action filling the first 4-5 of my waking hours. This weekend’s fixture list brought me the distinct pleasure of watching Arsenal get soul-crushingly beaten by humble Tony Pulis’ West Brom, a result that leaves them dangerously adrift of the chasing pack for top 4. Even with their game-in-hand on most of the teams around them, it looks an increasingly tall order for them to put together a run that outpaces their rivals and lands them back in the Champions League positions.
Now, this Spurs fan knows far better than to call them completely out of the race (or catching up to us, for that matter) this far before the season’s end. But Arsenal are up against more than just math at this point. Their form has completely deserted them, the manager is in perhaps the worst position he’s been in within the last decade in terms of job security, and the fans are rapidly losing patience. The thought of Wenger being sacked by Arsenal has been a ridiculous notion for just about my entire career of football fandom, yet at this point if they don’t part ways with the Frenchman I’m not sure their players have the desire to pull out the types of gutsy performances they’re going to need to get themselves back in the top 4.
In the mixer with Spurs: Everton, Man Utd, Liverpool
No surprises here, with the exception of Everton. Ronald Koeman’s men make this section at the expense of Arsenal not necessarily on the strength of their points total, but certainly on the upward trajectory of their form. The Toffees put four past another bunch of poor blokes this weekend, continuing a string of good results that has them nipping at the heels of United and Arsenal.
United meanwhile have quietly slipped back into contention, though their injury and suspension list at the moment is nothing to wag a finger at. They’re getting results when they matter, though, and young players like Lingard (who scored quite a pearl this weekend) are filling the void of their more experienced unavailable comrades. When they have their full complement ready to go once more, I expect them to push until the last day, having it out with Liverpool and Arsenal for the last spot among the Champions League positions.
Liverpool are an enigma to me at this stage, because every time I see them play I think “Wow, they look slick.” The results, however, aren’t always there. Barely a month ago, they played Spurs off the pitch and won convincingly. Against City on Sunday, though, they hustled and bustled their way to a mere 1-1 draw. That’s not to say dropping points away at the Etihad is catastrophic; indeed it is far better than most teams dare to hope for. But it did serve to highlight a consistent weakness of theirs over the course of this season, and that is the Jekyll and Hyde nature of their form. I think we can all agree a consistent Liverpool would perhaps even be above Spurs right now, but whether that Liverpool shows up for the last 10 games of the season remains to be seen.
All-but guaranteed: Man City
City didn’t play well on Sunday for long stretches, but they still managed to keep an energetic Liverpool side from beating them on their own turf. On the back of a difficult exit from European football last week, it looks to me to be precisely the kind of steadying result required for them to regroup and make a renewed push for guaranteed Champions League football next season. Talent-wise, they’re definitely the scariest of the current contenders in my book. Aguero, De Bruyne, and Silva are so good that if any of them catches form at the right time, they alone could carry City to 2nd or 3rd with relative ease. For that reason, I don’t see them dropping below 3rd position for the rest of the campaign, and I view them as Spurs’ most direct rival for second position behind Chelsea. Their next match against Arsenal could all but end their opponent’s hopes for a top 4 finish, while the following weekend’s fixture with Chelsea could shake up the title race if it goes their way.
So all that said, who’s nabbing those top 4 positions? I’m going to conservatively call this one as Chelsea winning the title (brave of me, I know), with Spurs following close behind in 2nd and City/Liverpool rounding out the top 4 at 3rd and 4th, respectively. The next few weeks will tell for sure, though, with many of the contenders facing do-or-die scenarios against their direct rivals for the European promised land. But hey, as long as Spurs keep winning, the rest doesn’t terribly concern me!