White Hart Lane men hope tough fixture list doesn’t derail season.
Tottenham had “a bad day” against Arsenal on Sunday but have the mental strength to bounce back starting with Manchester United’s visit this weekend, Rafael van der Vaart believes.
Van der Vaart expressed confidence on Monday that Spurs’ can draw a line under the 5-2 loss – his side’s biggest defeat against their north London rivals since 1978 – and secure a coveted third place finish for the first time in 17 years.
“This is football and we had a bad day, that’s all, it’s just a game and we lost,” said the Dutch international, who watched Tottenham throw away a two-goal lead at the Emirates to go in level at half-time before coming off the bench during the interval.
“For the fans and for us as players, losing against Arsenal always hurts – but we are still third,” he said.
“We’re still seven points ahead so we’re not worried.”
“It won’t be difficult to lift ourselves. Do we have the mental strength to put this behind us? Of course.
“Now we have a big week coming up against Manchester United.
“It’s always difficult after the international break but the confidence is there and we showed in the first half that we are still a top team.
“Manchester United are a strong team and always difficult to beat but we’re playing at home and we always play well at home.”
Tottenham’s only defeat at White Hart Lane came in August, when City crushed them 5-1.
Spurs were beset by on and off-field problems at that time and immediately bounced back to win 10 of their next 11 league games, roaring right back into the title race.
Van der Vaart admitted Sunday’s collapse may have been the final nail in the coffin for their challenge.
“Of course, you always hope but Manchester City are winning their games so easily, especially now we have lost, so maybe the title is over,” he said.
“Third is our main goal now and I’m really confident we can finish there.”
Goalkeeper Brad Friedel admitted Tottenham got what they deserved against Arsenal.
Friedel told his club’s official website, www.tottenhamhotspur.com: “Arsenal, no matter what kind of form they are in, have some good footballers. We gave them way too much time and space.
“It was the snowball effect. We couldn’t stop it.
“We were trying to communicate things on the pitch but it was one of those games, a very uncharacteristic performance from us.
“We have to hope it’s a one-off, rip it up and move on to United.”