Battling Birmingham expose Tottenham’s title frailties
Two more points dropped on the road for Tottenham as Birmingham secure a late point
WIN at home and draw away – it’s a tried and tested formula which normally guarantees a team success, and yet for Tottenham this season it may not be enough.
Saturday’s 1-1 stalemate at Birmingham leaves Spurs three points off their minimum target of fourth place, a result that, while no disaster, stands out painfully as a missed opportunity to move to within three points of the Premier League summit.
Tottenham are an irresistible force at White Hart Lane under Harry Redknapp, but it is away from north London, at grounds such as St Andrews where their fate is likely to be decided, and only wins will guarantee a repeat of, or improvement upon, last season’s fourth-place finish.
Harry Redknapp admits as much, but, having only recently talked up his side’s title chances, it was at his pre-match press conference on Friday where he gave his most revealing insight into how tough he feels the transition from top four to top promises to be.
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“It’s the old adage - win your home games and get a point away from home, but you need more than a point away from home to win the league,” admitted the Lilywhites boss.
“We’ve been to some tough places, we went to Stoke and won, went to Arsenal and won and so we’re in good form and playing good football.”
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“We have players who attack and sometimes we will go behind but you can’t write us off because there are goals in us.
“There’s always a chance we can come back. We have good spirit - a never-say-die attitude everyone wants.”
Tottenham may have established a reputation for comeback wins this season – Arsenal and Liverpool are the obvious examples – but it is another quality which was required against Birmingham, namely the grit to protect their 1-0 lead and grind out three valuable points.
But they couldn’t manage it.
After Sebastien Bassong gave Spurs an early lead, the visitors missed a catalogue of chances to score a second goal, and were punished for their own profligacy and hesitancy when Craig Gardner headed an equaliser eight minutes from full-time.
“I thought we could come here and win and, certainly at half-time, I felt sure we would,” said Redknapp after the match. “We absolutely dominated the first half but at half-time I felt we just needed that second goal.
“I said that there were more goals for us, so let’s not sit back, let’s be positive, keep going forward, keep playing, but we started dropping deeper.”
Tottenham’s temerity towards the end of the contest cost them two points, and, while the Lilywhites away form is far from disastrous, they have now dropped a total of 10 points at Birmingham, West Ham, Bolton and West Brom.
Those are not the results of a title-challenging side, even in this most open and unpredictable of Premier League seasons. Nor is Tottenham’s defensive record, which is still yet to keep a clean sheet in the league since the opening day of the season.
Success is relative, and if Redknapp’s team really do harbour ambitions of challenging for the Premier League crown, they must turn away draws into a wins.
It is a reality not lost on Peter Crouch, whose frustratingly ineffective afternoon summed up Tottenham’s display. “With the players we’ve got and the quality we have in all areas there is no reason why we cannot mount a challenge,” he said.
“But we aren’t as consistent as we should be – to be a title contender you have to grind out these results.
“We’re getting there, but Chelsea and Manchester United have had that for a long time and that’s where we need to be.”