Van der Vaart has lifted Tottenham.
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While it is too early to suggest the wheels are coming off Tottenham’s quest for a second consecutive fourth place finish, there is significant proof that the dual demands of Champions League and Premier League are already taking their toll.
A flat and predictable performance against a Sunderland side who (despite equipping themselves well to nullify Tottenham’s attacking quality) are still the same side that conceded five goals at Newcastle just 10 days ago, is just the latest.
When Rafael van der Vaart finally gave Tottenham the lead in the 64th minute, the reaction of the crowd was one of rampant relief. White Hart Lane erupted as though everyone knew Tottenham were out of jail.
But, unlike Manchester United, who scraped past Wolves with a late Park Ji-Sung winner, or Chelsea, who had Branislav Ivanovic to thank for a winning header which handed Chelsea a scarcely deserved win at Blackburn last weekend, Spurs again lacked the ingenuity to craft a winner and are currently imprisoned by inconsistency and, at times, complacency.
Harry Redknapp’s comments, two weeks ago, that his side are just two major signings away from being title contenders are already beginning to look foolhardy.
Instead, an almost comical breakdown of communication between William Gallas and Younes Kaboul saw Spurs surrender another two points, with Asamoah Gyan inflicting another dent to the Tottenham master plan.
A killer instinct, so vital at the level Tottenham now find themselves at, remains absent and, although the returning Jermain Defoe may provide some much needed ruthlessness in front of goal (Van der Vaart cannot be expected to dig Tottenham out of a hole every week), dropped points against Wigan, West Brom, West Ham, Everton and Bolton indicate that the rot has already set in.
It is a dichotomy for Spurs, particularly Redknapp, who it should be remembered is also sailing on unchartered waters.
But whereas Wenger, Ferguson and Ancelotti all have the experience of at least a Champions League final under their belt, you get the impression that Tottenham are making up the rules as they go along.
Redknapp has called upon Bentley, Kranjcar and Sandro in the past two games to alleviate the pressures of his A-team, many of Tottenham’s most talented young players are on loan. There are 15 in total.
The euphoria of their dismantling of European champions Inter Milan was a night that will live long in the memory of Spurs fans, but those same fans will tell you that nights like those are meaningless without the bread and butter victories in the Premier League.
With Manchester City lurking and Liverpool beginning to flex their muscles again, the bottom line is that another shot at the Champions League may be reliant upon a swift exit this time around. But try telling Tottenham fans that.