It might not be an advisable bet but Tottenham Hotspur could move up to second place in the Premier League tomorrow night. They would need three favours today, and an even unlikelier margin of victory over Liverpool at White Hart Lane.
The scenario is fantastic but the fact is that Spurs, after their November trauma – three league games, one point, no goals – have played their way into form, and dragged themselves back into the fight.
Just three weeks ago, Spurs were shredded 6-0 at Manchester City – in what Lewis Holtby called a “disaster game” – prompting questions about their manager Andre Villas-Boas’s future. Since then, though, the team have rallied, with three away wins, the better of a home draw with Manchester United and then Thursday night’s blitzing of Anzhi Makhachkala.
Spurs are still finding their voice, certainly, and will be for some time, but they are looking more like a coherent team, who can fight when they need to and who can score goals. They have managed 12 in their last five games now and are beginning to spark that mutual understanding which is the basis of attacking play.
“It is very positive for us,” said Holtby, after the 4-1 win on Thursday night, “and we have to keep that momentum going now. We have had four good games, we have bounced back from that disaster game at Manchester City.
“We played against Manchester United at home, where we had a lot of pressure on us, had a good result but unfortunately we didn’t win that game, but we could have. Then we had two difficult games [Fulham and Sunderland away] against teams who sit with their backs to the wall and it wasn’t easy, but we won both. Now we are ready to play Liverpool.
“Confidence is now up to a level where we can play against a very good Liverpool side, who will come here and give us a battle,” he added. “But we are up for it, and we have to play our attacking football.”
That confidence and trust in one another is what Holtby identified as the main reason for Spurs’ attacking improvements, which he hopes they can take into the intense Christmas period.
“It is the belief in ourselves and the way we want to play,” he said. “The movement up front, the numbers in the box have changed.”
Holtby’s midfield scurrying is becoming a feature of this Spurs side, after three strong recent performances, with Mousa Dembélé and Etienne Capoue also starting to find form. Liverpool’s midfield must do without Steven Gerrard for the next four weeks and, with no away wins since September, they could well be vulnerable.
“In the last couple of [home] games you have seen how deadly they are, especially with [Luis] Suarez up front in cracking form,” Holtby said. “But we have the ability to stop him, and if you see their last [away] game, they lost against Hull City, and defensively they did really well against Suarez. We have to do similar things.”
Derby ticket row: Spurs fans disappointed
Tottenham supporters are disappointed after being allocated fewer tickets than they hoped for next month’s FA Cup third-round tie at Arsenal on the evening of Saturday 4 January.
Spurs applied for a 15 per cent allocation of tickets – 9,000 – but wrote on their website last night that after “lengthy conversations” with Arsenal, they would be provided with only 5,186 tickets (8.64 per cent), on security grounds following previous cup fixtures this season. The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust said it was “disappointed” with the news.