Wednesday 24 January 2018 / 02:35 PM

Spurs must remove mental barrier

Spurs are doing pretty well this season, eh?

Harry Kane has found his scoring boots again, and the young side seems to be gelling together really well.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men lie in fifth, three points behind fourth-placed Manchester United, and given that Leicester are still in the top four and Chelsea are down in lower reaches of the table, you’d have to argue that there’s a good chance Tottenham could earn Champions League football this season.

Except, I’m almost certain they won’t.

Call me a cynic or a pessimist, but having watched Spurs over the last 10 years, I think I know how this season will play out.

You see, Tottenham have improved a lot over the last decade, but barring one season, they’ve bottled it when it comes to truly dining at the top table.

Simply put, they’re not able to genuinely compete against the big teams, even though in most cases, they’re as good as them.

Take the latest game at Arsenal as a case in point. Spurs were better than the Gunners. A lot better. They scored first, and until the 77th minute, it looked like they were going to gain a fantastic scalp.

Then they went and did a Spurs.

It is my contention, that Tottenham simply don’t have the mentality required to properly mix it with the big boys. Man for man, they’re as good as Arsenal; and on Sunday, they were better.

But the difference is the mentality. When a quality team – a City, a Barcelona, a Bayern Munich – gets in front in a big game, they’ll invariably win. Not always, but most of the time.

When a team like Tottenham gets in front in a big game, you can tell that the whole team is on the verge of panic. Even though the three points are within their grasp, none of the players see it like that.

They seem to play with a pessimism that indicates that they know they’ll concede. Rather than a confident strut, it’s a terrified limp; a desperate hope that they won’t incur a goal.

The impact that has on their ability to retain a lead is really, really significant.

A good contrast is the Manchester United side of the late-1990s and early-2000s. Time after time, Ferguson’s team rescued games that appeared lost, or turned one point into three by scoring late in the game.

It happened with such alarming regularity that everyone knew that it wasn’t a fluke.

It was a victory of mentality. They knew that they could score, and they believed it so strongly that almost nine times out ten, they knew that they would score.

Tottenham are the absolute opposite of that. They’ve got the ability to close these games out, but they haven’t got it mentally, and until they do, they’ll keep banging their heads against that glass ceiling.

A bold prediction, which could be wrong: Spurs will stay there or thereabouts this season, but will miss out on Champions League football at the 11th hour. It’s happened tons of times already, so why not again?

I’d love to see Spurs truly experience success, but unless they can change their mentality and start dining at the top table, it ain’t gonna happen.

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Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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