Tottenham not proving able to earn their spurs
WHATEVER pretensions Tottenham Hotspur have to a place in English Premiership football’s elite, they must surely be placed on hold in the light of last weekend’s salutary experience at the hands of their North London rivals Arsenal.
Tottenham’s abysmal capitulation, an act formulated by some particularly odious acts of selfdestruction, raised significant question marks not just against the individual abilities of the Spurs players but the strength of their mental fortitude.
It reminded us of the yawning chasm that continues to exist between the top four and the alsorans in the Premiership.
In the world of the former, where riches estimated at a minimum of £30 million (R360 million) await those who qualify for the prestigious Champions League, mistakes cannot be tolerated.
For sure, every single one is hallmarked by the doom-laden ring of the cash register, denoting another potential lost million or two.
But in what we might term the world of midtable mediocrity, such errors are greeted with rather more beneficence.
Of course, no one wishes to see them fail, but they are regarded as no more than par for their particular course. But amidst the rarefied air of the Champions League aspirants they simply cannot be accepted.
That is the world Tottenham stumbled into at The Emirates last weekend.
To say they were found wanting would be the equivalent of questioning the Titanic’s wisdom of bumping into icebergs.
Tottenham’s sleepy defenders discovered that those who inhabit the world of the best simply cannot afford to make such calamitous errors.
Their concentration levels are on another planet to those accustomed to the middling regions of the Premiership table.
The key question for Spurs manager Harry Redknapp is whether he has the players able to negotiate that improvement with seamless elan.
The top players are at home under the fiercest of pressure but can those who have operated for most of their careers under lesser expectations, adapt as successfully?
Can they handle the searing mental pressures that are as tiring as any physical test, the 90minute-long rigid concentration that goes with the territory?
Plenty of players with oceans of talent have come up short in this particular category.
Precisely how that shortcoming is manifest is a matter for individuals – some resort to indiscipline through their frustration on the field, others seek solace in extra-curricular activities off the field.
But the best can accept the gruelling demands of expectation that accompany life among the elite. For sure, they will still make mistakes but on a far less regular basis.
And the sense of individual self-flagellation commensurate with any such errors is such that they are normally kept to the barest minimum thereafter.
Can the likes of Ledley King, Tom Huddlestone, Jermain Defoe, Vedran Corluka and Jermain Jenas adapt to these higher expectations and demands?
Or will Redknapp quickly come to the realisation that many of his players, while able to make Spurs a top-eight club, cannot transcend that step into the top four?
Only time will tell.