The Five For Fourth

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Boggs can’t believe his eyes as he looks at the league table, but as with every good Spurs supporter he knows it will all end badly. But just how?

I still can’t get over it. I just can’t. End of February and Tottenham are not only well clear of relegation and managed to keep the same manager they started the season with, we’re in bloody fourth!

But it’s Spurs and things for us are never easy. For one it seems that our usual Christmas slump has only been delayed a few months, with three last-minute goals against us in three matches ensuring that over the last 6 matches the club is 15th in the Premiership form table. But the real worry is that there are no less than four other teams fighting to take the final Champions League spot from us and look more than capable of doing so. Bolton, Arsenal, Blackburn and West Ham are well placed to shatter our dreams and claim what has become the holy grail for the majority of the Premiership. Not only that, but of COURSE Tottenham still have to play every single one before season end to ensure we will have ample opportunity to have it all go tits up.

So what do I make of these other would-be Everton’s? Well, in order of the threat they pose:

1) Bolton

Yes. Bolton. I hate Fat Sam. And I hate Bolton. But they are damn good at what they do and at this stage of the season you need to be able to grind out the results you need regardless of injuries, venue or weather. Ol Fatty’s group of thugs and should-be-retired stars have been trained physically and especially mentally for exactly this situation. They’re also two games behind the rest of the pack and should they win those they would find themselves sitting in fourth right now. The only wild card is whether they suffer any effects from their UEFA cup campaign. Their two games in hand leave them extremely well placed. DAMN YOU FAT SAAAAAM!!!

2) Blackburn

Mark Hughes is finally starting to work his magic. After an indifferent season last year, the side have added cohesive attacking football to their 90 minutes of graft and now truly embody their feisty manager from his playing days. Craig Bellamy’s return will see him fresh after long injury lay offs is crucial to their efforts as he’s probably one of the Premiership’s biggest threats when fit, while Morten Gamst Pedersen continues to impress (especially as his injury last week seems less serious than first thought). The team is high on confidence, especially after beating Arsenal last week, and – like Bolton – have exactly the mentality and tactics to do well in the last third of the season.

3) Arsenal

Surprisingly, for once it is not my extreme bias as a Spurs supporter that has Arsenal in only third spot. Five points off the pace, they’ve shown relegation form over the past six matches, still have the distraction of Europe and have shown this season a rather surprisingly inability to deal with clubs willing to fight tooth and nail for the results they need. The final run-in will be littered with clubs battling for something – be it survival, European football or pride – and the Gunners may again find themselves coming up short against teams willing to battle for every ball and every inch of space. Of course, of all the clubs competing for fourth they still arguably have the most talent. Though with the exclusive of one Frenchman the rest of the squad currently is either drastically off form or too young and inexperienced.

There have also been some real questions marks raised this season with, rather hilariously, Henry himself coming in for some heavy criticism from supporters. Plenty of off-field drama and pressures mean that the Gunners are easily in the worst overall situation of the five competing teams. They also have the most to lose, no Champions League football would almost certainly see Thierry Henry leave the club as well as put extreme pressure on the club’s finances as they continue to try and pay off the new Emirates stadium – the knock on effects could be disasterous (deep breath Boggs, don’t get too excited!). Unfortunately they probably do have the talent, manager and experience to be optimistic of getting the job done.

4) West Ham

I guess it is a little strange that the team lying top of the Premiership form table would be my last pick to end up fourth, but it’s difficult to pick a newly promoted team to upset the established sides. Then again, West Ham are flying so high with confidence and do have plenty of experienced Premiership players to help steady the ship. Perhaps it’s not so far fetched that they would continue their run all the way to the top (well, fourth from top). But I just can’t see it happening, but a UEFA spot would be well deserved after the attacking football they’ve played week-in and week-out.

But it is typical of a Spurs fan that the best part of this whole situation that it is not my Tottenham’s chance of Champions League football that has me excited, it’s that in the great likelihood that they fuck it up there is still such a tremendous chance that Arsenal will be beaten to it. It’s almost sad that the shite my own club has fed me over the years have driven me to care more about the downfall of our rivals than any success we may be attaining ourselves, but then again who cares it’s still fucking brilliant!