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Monday, 10 March 2014

North London derby is Spurs last chance

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The Premier League is a very long campaign and most teams endure ups and downs during the season, but Spurs have endured a more rollercoaster time than most. At times they have looked smooth, composed and ready for the breakthrough - and alternatively, shoddy and lacking spirit when the mood takes them.

Their capitulation (Tim Sherwood's words) at Chelsea has finally brought matters to a decisive point. There are no more second chances if the team is to get back into the Champions League - beating Arsenal this Sunday is make or break.

Two defeats in three Premier League games has brought the squad to this pass. The feel-good factor from the Europa League win over Dnipro has soon dissipated; in fact, Spurs might have shot themselves in the foot with that stirring comeback at White Hart Lane.

Spurs redSpurs will be playing a strong Benfica side on Thursday night. Tim Sherwood will be thankful they start at home, but Arsenal will be making a relatively short trip to Munich on Tuesday. Even with the journey, it offers the Gunners a lot more time to prepare and rest for Sunday's clash.

Spurs fans might bemoan the effects of the Europa League, but there can be no acceptable excuses. The season is on the line on Sunday and if the squad wants to be in the big event next season, a victory has to be manufactured.

Thus far Spurs have fallen short in the matches that mean most and sit in fifth for a reason. They have suffered two fearful batterings from Man City, taken one point from six against Chelsea and lost to both Arsenal and Liverpool.

Six matches against the current top four delivering one point from 18. The double conceded to West Ham might have been the most frustrating to the fans but the matches against the top four show why Spurs don't deserve Champions League football - yet.

The players have to prove that as a club Tottenham have what it takes to reach set goals , despite setbacks. Yes, they were desperately unlucky two seasons ago when Chelsea's unexpected Champions League win dumped them to the Europa League but in fourth place that can happen - in third it wouldn't.

And the knock-on from that was the inevitable loss of Gareth Bale, but one man doesn't make a team. There was a lot of spending in the wake of his move to Real Madrid and talk of a balanced squad covering all the bases - but it hasn't translated to wins over their main rivals.

Manchester United, Southampton and Everton have all been beaten at some point to keep the team in fifth spot, but effectively they have just become the 'best of the rest'. A win over Arsenal is the minimum to sustain top four ambitions and they will probably have to go to Anfield and win on March 30 as well.

White Hart Lane has seen its share of near misses in recent seasons, but finishing outside the top four in 2013/14 would be a criminal missed opportunity.

Manchester United will surely not remain the confused, transitional side that they have been this campaign and Chelsea went into the season with limited aspirations. Another year of Mourinho magic can only enhance their strength. And Liverpool appear to have the potential to kick on and become even more difficult opposition.

Reaching the top four will be tougher still in 2014/15 so Sherwood's squad simply must turn over Arsenal on Sunday. The manager has been applauded for galvanising the team post-AVB but the result at Chelsea calls into question whether a deal of progress has been made.

Six defeats in 17 games in charge is a far higher percentage of losses than his predecessor. If players like Emanuel Adebayor are enjoying their football so much more under Tim Sherwood they need to dig out a win for him against the Gunners.

A season and a few careers will be on the line on Sunday.

Article by Hugh Larkin

Calling all Spurs fans: Is Hugh right? Is the Arsenal game make or break for you? Can Spurs dig out a result for their manager? Is Sherwood the right man for the job? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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