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Spurs’ title charge and the gulf that wasn’t there

08 March, 2019 — By Richard Osley

TWO weeks ago I was reading and learning with great certainty that Spurs were IN the title race, hustling the leaders, a force to be reckoned with.

This is quite an unsettling concept for somebody who has never seen Tottenham win the league.

There are some things you just go through life assuming are the way they are, and will always be the way they are: that Graeme Souness will never say anything nice about Arsenal, that Jamie Carragher will never say anything sensible about Arsenal and that Tottenham will not be champions at the close of the league season.

And yet here we were, I heard it from the lips of Jermain Jenas, another of the “experts” on the television last month, that Tottenham could still do it. We were assured they were IN the frame should Manchester City and Liverpool falter.

You can imagine the certain relief then, for the second time this season, when I sat down to watch Spurs play Arsenal expecting to blown away by these champions elect, these maestros, these high-flying Lilywhites, only to find that… yeah, they’re OK, good even, very good, but the best team in England? Really?

Settle down, just a little. This side got beaten 4-2 at the Emirates, and very nearly lost again to raggedy Arsenal at the weekend. An offside penalty saved them the embarrassment of that.

I would have thought this would be the fixture in which Tottenham would want to pull a showstopper, underlining a gulf between their neighbours and them.

Instead, they looked just as vulnerable, just as confused as Arsenal can be. Good, but nothing to say: Fair cop, they are a world better than us. In the two meaningful matches against Unai Emery this season, Spurs have been flat.

And Gunners fans should be encouraged. Arsenal are not even a full season through a post-Wenger rethink and they should be ripe for a derby hammering. They have more than held their own, and the team may well be better next season. In fact, until a time comes when Arsenal are dethroned with regular defeats in these matches and Spurs start filling their cobwebby trophy cabinet, dare I say it north London might still, maybe, be red.

Letters to the usual place (email if you disagree – and we’ll put your views in next week’s paper.

• EMMANUEL Petit called Shrokdan Mustafi the “king of blunders” after his rank clumsiness conceded another penalty against Spurs. That’s one World Cup winner dirt talking about another World Cup winner but Petit is right and it’s hard to see how Mustafi has played so often for Germany. Mustafi isn’t such an old boy. He’s 26 – plenty more years left for plenty more rash fouls. Hopefully, they won’t all be conceded in Arsenal shirt.

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