This Changes Everything
When most fans look at the turning point of the 2016/17 season for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, many may look to the January 4th midweek night match at the Lane defeating league leaders Chelsea FC by a score of 2-0. It is an obvious choice. Against Chelsea, Spurs played one of their strongest matches against a squad going for a record breaking 14th consecutive win and a squad many have pegged to run away with the Premiership.In one moment of greatness Spurs demonstrated they can compete with the best squads in the league and are legitimate contenders for the top four and the Champions League. In one win they passed Arsenal in the table, broke Chelsea’s win streak and moved into third place in the table. When the season is done and dusted many will look to the Chelsea win as the match that changed it all.
However, Chelsea at home will not be the true turning point of the 2016/17 season. West Brom at home is the true turning point.
It was Saturday, January 14th and an early afternoon in north London. Spurs were welcoming Premier League stalwart West Bromwich Albion to the Lane. Spurs were coming off of a boring and uninspired 2-0 victory against Championship squad Aston Villa in the FA Cup and the team was on cruise control. Most of the first team had sat out the first 2017 FA cup fixture for Spurs and were rested but potentially gaining rust that can prevent a top squad from rolling over a middle of the table squad like West Brom.
The die was cast. It was a classic trap game for Spurs. It was the exact type of match where they’d typically drop points. It was the type of match, when coming off of a big win, where they’d flub and give a mediocre performance. The match would be played against a West Brom side which had become synonymous with “draw” for Spurs. A squad that parks the bus in such a way the old Spurs would have had difficulty breaking it down. Spurs had the potential to move up into second place in the table with close competitor for second Liverpool forced to play a tough match on the road against Manchester United. Spurs were looking ahead to a tough Manchester City fixture on the road and, down the road, to an important Liverpool fixture.
This was the exact type of match that the old Spurs would drop points and position on. It would have been the type of loss or draw that would lead the opinion writers and commentators to shrug and say, “Well, that was Spursy.” Many would look to a loss or draw in this match as evidence that Spurs as club do not have what it takes to compete at the top of the league.
This was not the old Spurs. This time the Lilywhites did not cave to the pressure. On the back of a Harry Kane hat-trick Spurs propelled themselves past West Brom in the most professional manner to a 4-0 victory. Without receiving a card, they broke down a Tony Pulis-led squad that frustrates its opponents by clogging the path to goal with bodies. They unlocked a defense that, at the beginning of the 2016/17 season, would have given Spurs’ offense fits while struggling to break through with even one goal. Instead they made West Brom look like children playing amongst men.
Perhaps it is time to alter what it means to be “Spursy”. The definition should now mean a squad that shows discipline and professionalism under pressure. Now it should mean a squad that can win the season-changing matches and not skip a beat when faced with more modest challenges that are necessary to overcome before achieving greatness. This dominant performance in a trap game against West Brom just might be enough to change Spurs fans’ faith in the direction of the club when push comes to shove.
Clearly a case could be made that defeating Chelsea was the true turning point in the season. Without a doubt it was a monumental match for Spurs and one that forced the media to finally take notice. It was a match that seemed to increase the likelihood of a top four finish and, dare it be suggested, a possible run at the league. However, the breaking down of a mighty mid table Tony Pulis squad on an early Saturday afternoon just might be the breakthrough that was the real difference maker of the 2016/17 season for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. This changes everything.