Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Tottenham - the Final Day Conundrum

Thirty seven matches played, the hard work done, but Spurs' destiny for the season now depends on those final day results.  To be guaranteed a place in next season's Champions League Spurs must finish in third but if Chelsea win this year's competition, it will be via the final play-off round in August.  

Battle for Champions League finish
For ninety minutes last weekend against Aston Villa, Spurs were in control of their own destiny.  Arsenal's home draw with Norwich City had provided them with the opportunity to leapfrog Arsenal and move into third position if they could get three points at Villa Park.  The draw which seemed to satisfy Harry Redknapp, once he knew that Newcastle United had lost to Manchester City handed the initiative back to Arsenal with one match remaining.

Season 1995 - 96
Chelsea's defeat at Anfield on Tuesday evening removes them from the equation for third, fourth and fifth.  Spurs will finish above Chelsea for the first time since season 1995-96.  That was a season when Gerry Francis oversaw our eighth place finish with Chelsea in eleventh.  The Spurs' team included Ian Walker and Teddy Sheringham who were ever presents, Chris Armstrong, Justin Edinburgh, Jason Dozzell, Colin Calderwood, Dean Austin, David Howells, Ronnie Rosenthal, Ruel Fox, Clive Wilson and Gary Mabbutt.  Darren Anderton started six games, making a late successful claim for a place in  the England team for Euro96 by appearing in the last four games of the season and scoring twice in a win at Leeds United.

Battle for the Champions League
Tottenham, Arsenal and Newcastle United are in contention to finish third, fourth or fifth in the Premier League.  With one match to play, Arsenal hold the advantage with a single point lead over Spurs who are one point ahead of Newcastle.  The goal difference column again gives Arsenal a one goal advantage over Spurs with Newcastle the poor relations in this regard.  Let's hope that Spurs will not regret strolling through two goal home victories earlier in the season when they had created sufficient opportunities to have recorded a significant win.

If Tottenham win against Martin Jol's Fulham team who are currently in ninth place with 52 points,  they would finish with 69 points.  That would mean that Arsenal would have to take all three points at West Bromwich Albion where Roy Hodgson will have his last game in charge before taking over as England manager.  If Arsenal were to lose then Spurs would finish third with the other placing dependent on Newcastle's result at Everton.

If Tottenham draw then their near neighbours can remain above them with a draw or a single goal defeat as they have the goal difference in their favour.  Defeat by two goals and Spurs would gain the advantage over Arsenal but Newcastle could move into third with a win at Goodison Park.

If Spurs lose at home to Fulham for the first time since August, 2003, their best place finish would be fourth as long as Newcastle have failed to take the three points from Everton.

For Spurs to have any chance of finishing third Arsenal must not win at the Hawthorns.  To be certain of Champions League qualification Spurs need to be third as Chelsea have the opportunity to deny the fourth placed team by defeating Bayern Munich in this year's final.  If they were to win, the third placed team would have to take part in the final play-off round in August.

The need for Spurs to finish third and Chelsea not to win this year's competition is immense as Tottenham's summer transfer dealings, both in and possible outs, would be greatly complicated by having to wait for the guarantee of the finances associated with reaching the Champions League Group stages which Daniel Levy will require before committing outlay on top players who will be reluctant to sign unless they also have that Champions League guarantee.

In past seasons the final day excitement usually centred on which teams would be dropping out of the Premier League.  This season, however, there is the contest between the two Manchester clubs to win the title, there is the battle between Bolton and QPR for the Premier League lives but there will also be a very intriguing battle for the Champions League.  There are sure to be twists and turns on Sunday with the final outcome continuing to be uncertain until after the Champions League Final in Munich on 19th May.

Spurs and Arsenal need to take care that they are not so focused on their own local rivalry that they overlook the north-eastern threat from Newcastle who could easily come up on the outside as they have over the past couple of months and snatch the cherished prize if the London clubs don't perform on the day.


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