With 54 points and eight league games left to play, Andre Villas-Boas sat down last Friday and set his Tottenham side a target of 70 points by the end of the season in an effort to counteract the club’s tendency to fall apart post-Easter. Clever thinking, Andre: I like it. But in the target he set, conversely, lies the key to his team’s downfall. Why go for something so low, Andre? With 24 points to play for before you beat Swansea on Saturday, why not aim for 91 points at the end of the season? Too many people allow mathematics to limit them (in their minds, me underpaying for my shopping every week is probably ‘stealing’). And if you’re going to choose a number to aim for, Andre, at the very least don’t choose a round number, because that if doesn’t make targets feel arbitrary, what will?
The 70 point target demonstrates both a lack of ambition and lack of confidence at Spurs. This isn’t how you break that habit of finishing seasons a couple of months earlier than everyone else. I feel partly responsible for Villas-Boas’ uncertainty in dealing with the issue as I was the one who initially suggested the whole 70 points thing to him as a joke: as such, I’m going to have to step in with some suggestions about how to go about constructing a better sprint finish. Here are five ways Tottenham can end the season on an even better note:
1. Acquire a positive role-model. Arsenal will do.
Most people will be aware that St Totteringham’s Day is the day, every season, when it becomes impossible for Tottenham to catch Arsenal in the league (and if you were not, then this was a subtle device for making you aware; I’ve done this kind of thing before, you know). This phenomenon has occurred every year since 1995, even in spite of several horrendous starts to seasons from ‘The Arse’, as they prefer to be called when they are not within hearing distance. Arsenal, then, are the perfect role models for Tottenham.
I can’t see any genuine reason why Villas-Boas shouldn’t be directing his players and Tottenham fans to try and be more like Arsenal. “Study The Arsenal,” he should say, “they are what we must become.” How better to beat Arsenal than to become Arsenal? Well, to be honest, that would probably end in a draw, but you get the gist. And role models are good in general: I’d never have become the man I am today if I hadn’t watched American Psycho over and over again on repeat until I wept blood. There is an idea of an Ethan Dean-Richards. Some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me. Only an entity. Something illusory.
2. Learn to love yourself.
Tottenham haven’t failed in the past because the team’s been bad at football; self-doubt was the culprit under Martin Jol and Harry Redknapp. The team and fans have believed that they don’t deserve that Champions League place. Ask them: they were relieved more than anything when Chelsea won the Champions League and knocked them out of this season’s tournament before it had even begin. The Spurs’ season ruined by the infamous ‘food-poisoning’ incident on the final day against West Ham didn’t actually involve some dodgy lasagne; it was ruined by players emotionally over-eating lasagne. This is footballing fact.
So the solution is for the club and team and fans to learn to love themselves a little more. How? A strict moisturising regime will certainly do more good than harm—how better to begin to believe in yourself than by achieving perfect skin (a la Villas-Boas himself – not a coincidence), another helpful lesson from Patrick Bateman. Beyond that, my own method is to spend a lot of time in the mirror reassuring myself that ‘I am going to be fine. Everything is going to be fine.’ And then I put my clothes back on.
People allow the pressure to get to them all the time. It’s understandable, and in retrospect I shouldn’t have told those kids that their game of park football was life or death. But pressure is the enemy when it gets out of control. Tottenham need to find a way to relax in the final stages of the season.
Part of this, I imagine, comes from the previous step. If the club can be more comfortable with itself, it can also relax. But if extra help is required, then Harry Redknapp’s experience with taking QPR out to Dubai for a ‘boot camp’ seems a good way to go. How better to achieve that sense of absolute calm than to allow the players to drink themselves into a stooper so that they can’t train the next day? If there is a better way, I can’t think of it, and I won’t try.
Is this cheating? Possibly. But if it works, go with it, which is the gist of all religious teachings, right? Granted, I’ve only skim-read.
5. Be good at football.
A lot of people forget that an extremely good way to win at football is to be good at football. Tottenham should remember this and try to be good at football. This is just an opinion, of course, please do not tear me apart in the comments for saying this one.
And there we have it. Five equally important ways that Tottenham can maintain their previously strong form until the end of the season. I knew we’d make it.
Andre Villas-Boas of course objected to my worrying about his side, stating “We believe in our team and we haven’t lost our confidence.” But then his pants set on fire and we all knew he was lying.
Hull City and Huddersfield Town fans protested together ahead of their game on Saturday. They rightly objected to the idea of ‘bubble matches’ in which “all away supporters must travel on designated transport, usually club coaches, from specific pick up points”. They were being backed by both Hull City football club and the Football Supporters’ Federation.
Coordinated travel is a novel idea, I’ll grant you, but treating people like criminals tends make them more, not less likely to act like criminals. Then, of course, there’s the fact that government seems to have no problem in imposing restrictions on poor people but will fight to the death to ensure that banks and big business remain deregulated. This ain’t fair or reasonable. One of these groups has done far more harm to society than the other.