Sunderland Vs. Tottenham Hotspur.
I have to say it is difficult to have too many complaints as a Spurs fan, though I know some will always find a few, however unreasonable or unfounded. One defeat in nine and that an injury time loss at Everton is a very impressive run of form to see us sit nicely in fourth place and there is a definite feeling that AVB is working well with the players and they are embracing his methods, which will hopefully see us be even better in the second half of the season, whether we bring in new players or not.
In contrast, I am still awaiting more evidence as to whether Sunderland's three wins in four are proof of a revival in form and fortunes or just a lucky spell to take them towards the mid table positions of respectability. Of course (again) beating Man City at home is a real eye-catcher, but City look far from invincible and perhaps were the architects of their own downfall as much as Sunderland can take credit. The other two wins against Southampton and Reading are perhaps expected and anything else could easily be interpreted as reasons to continue talk of relegation, as opposed to being an improving team. If we consider before those wins, it was one win and seven defeats in the previous eleven, so are we on a revival or simply getting lucky?
On paper Sunderland have genuine quality and for me has massively under-performed this season. Take away the goals of Stephen Fletcher and they would be in real trouble and perhaps recent and much delayed improvements from Adam Johnson and Stephane Sessegnon have made Martin O'Neill's side look more dangerous as an attacking force, but despite creating much more, you hardly feel they are a team that will score enough to get two or three goals to win a game, so perhaps if Spurs score one, that might well be enough to get at least a point as long as we play to our ability. In defence and attack, losing Danny Rose will also be a big loss, but perhaps Tottenham's gain as they will surely look to exploit the loss of Rose who has been sensational for Sunderland all season.
Tottenham have to take great heart from the Boxing day victory at Villa. Sure Paul Lambert's team were rubbish and I expect far better opposition tomorrow, but overall, we played really well and could easily have scored more than four, which despite a weak opposition, is always a big boost, knowing that as a team you are gelling and playing well. I always feel that just before or during transfer windows, you either see teams up their games as players fight to prove they can do a job or they get downbeat knowing that new faces will cause upheaval. At this time, I feel that Spurs know what they need and understand that any new arrival will be for the benefit of the squad as opposed to established players being dumped. Would it be a shock to any of us to know that Dawson, Huddlestone and perhaps one or two other already know their fate, but as they are not regulars, wont rock the boat and will be professional enough to play their part if needed.
Again we are in that position where perhaps we need to rest one or two, but do you make radical changes to a team that win 4-0 in the last game? Perhaps we can see Caulker or Dawson come in for Gallas, whilst perhaps Dempsey or the much improved Sigurdsson will start over Defoe or more likely Adebayor in attack, but otherwise would we expect too many changes? In defence, I feel that retaining Naughton at left back is an ideal foil for the left footed Adam Johnson, therefore it also pleased Jan Vertonghen in allowing him to retain his place in the centre. As for BAE, is he fit enough? If so why not use him against Reading in midweek?
Of our rivals, all have losable games, with WBA away to United, City away to Norwich, Arsenal at home to a Newcastle side that will hopefully be buoyed by their performance at Old Trafford and Everton at home to inform Chelsea, a win will certainly do wonders for Tottenham's claims for 4th place and I feel that if we play as we have been, we have a very real chance of getting all three points tomorrow and finishing 2012 in a top four position has to be considered a great place to be after so many changes in the last six months...