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Daniel Grigg, London24’s Tottenham blogger
Monday, May 14, 2012
“Tottenham may have ended the run that hadn’t seen them finish above Chelsea since 1995-96, but the same record with Arsenal, stretching back even further to 1994-95, continues.”
Last week’s failure to win at Aston Villa had left Tottenham knowing no matter what they did on Sunday, Champions League qualification would no longer be in their own hands.
So while striding to a fairly comfortable 2-0 home win against a Clint Dempsey-less Fulham team, minds couldn’t help but by distracted by reports of what was going on at Goodison Park and more importantly The Hawthorns.
But all that hoping and wishing couldn’t stop the ball from going into the Baggies’ net once too often, as Arsenal scored in the second half to snatch a vital 3-2 win away at West Brom.
Leaving Spurs fans with an excruciating six day wait to find out whether for the first time in years, fourth might not actually be enough for Champions League football next season.
Tottenham may have ended the run that hadn’t seen them finish above Chelsea since 1995-96, but the same record with Arsenal, stretching back even further to 1994-95, continues.
In fairness Arsenal had fluffed their own lines and blown multiple chances to make third place more comfortable. Their poor results against QPR, Wigan Athletic, Stoke and Norwich City gifting Spurs the chance to reclaim third, before Tottenham’s own poor away form cost them again.
Spurs picked up 42 of their 69 points at White Hart Lane. They played as one-sided a game as you could ever hope to see against Blackburn in late April, before this weekend’s routine enough final-day victory over a Fulham side who should be happy enough with another top 10 finish that left them level on points with Liverpool.
However, while Martin Jol deserves big credit, one of his former goalkeepers during his Spurs tenure is unlikely to get the same.
Marton Fulop, again linked with Spurs’ attempts to qualify for the Champions League. Despite the fact he never played a single league match for Tottenham while he was at the club.
Loaned in by Manchester City as an emergency keeper in 2010, he stood between the sticks as Peter Crouch rose beyond Vincent Kompany to score the goal that took Tottenham into the Champions League.
Now, the keeper who’s gaffes and mistakes, conversely, might have contributed to Arsenal getting not just third in the league, but bragging rights in North London, a definite place in the Champions League group stage next season and the need not to go through the anxiety of the qualification round.
Tottenham still had a job to do themselves though, and they made it a lot easier with the early opener in just the second minute.
Emmanuel Adebayor linked up superbly with Rafael Van Der Vaart before providing the precise and necessary finish.
Possibly his last game in Spurs colours and certainly the last of this particular loan spell.
With 17 goals in 33 league games it represents an impressive, if not totally spectacular goal return when you look at what Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe, Dimitar Berbatov and even Darren Bent have managed in recent seasons.
But he backed up his goals substantially by the strong and pretty consistent work-rate and hold-up play. The kind of the latter that hasn’t really been seen at Spurs since Dimitar Berbatov left to join Manchester United.
Younes Kaboul helped head off, literally in some cases, with the help of William Gallas, the majority of the threats Fulham posed through their isolated yet still difficult to handle lone forward Pavel Pogrebnyak.
Spurs’ job was made a lot easier with only one of Dempsey, Bryan Ruiz and Moussa Dembele to deal with in the attacking midfield areas in and around the penalty box.
Though Sandro and Jake Livermore could probably have coped anyway, with both in the mood to harry and use up all their energy it seemed before the break for the summer.
Tottenham’s mini left back crisis, also never became so much of an issue once the game actually got going and Damien Duff was clearly struggling to have much effect down the Fulham right.
Gareth Bale simply moving back to his former position as an emergency left back at the start of the match, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Danny Rose both unavailable.
He coped with the extra defensive responsibility fairly comfortably, though it made him a little quieter than usual.
Instead Aaron Lennon was the one taking the attacking limelight and the attention of the Fulham defenders.
Not just his dribbling causing them headaches and confusion, but his efforts to get in crosses and dangerous balls into the box too. Jermain Defoe netting his 11th league effort of the campaign after a bit of luck.
And so what are we left with? An almost note for note repeat of 2009-10, commonly regarded as one of the best and most enjoyable seasons in recent memory.
Just a solitary point less in the final league table than 2009-10, just a single goal less in the goals for column and exactly the same amount conceded.
The same fourth place finish and the same humiliating FA Cup semi-final exit too.
We have to hope that Bayern Munich defeat Chelsea in the Champions League final next Saturday. We know they have the players, they have the home advantage and they have the history.
But will they have that massive trophy grasped firmly in the hands of German full back Phillipp Lahm.
Fingers well and truly crossed.