Tottenham must overcome ghosts of Wembley past in FA Cup semifinal

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: A General view of Wembley Stadium prior to the Aviva Premiership match between Saracens and Harlequins at Wembley Stadium on April 8, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: A General view of Wembley Stadium prior to the Aviva Premiership match between Saracens and Harlequins at Wembley Stadium on April 8, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images) /

Managers and players alike will often tell people how inconsequential a historic run of poor results at a particular venue is. 

Their psyches remain unaffected by a historic poor run of form, they’ll profess.

Let’s hope that’s the case as Spurs play at Wembley in their FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, a recent house-of-horrors for Tottenham.

While Mauricio Pochettino and his tight-knit crew will deny vehemently that their psyches have been damaged by their poor run of form at Wembley, lingering adverse and negative thoughts still have a way of rearing their ugly head.

It’s an unavoidable – and natural – side effect of the human mind. Negative experiences naturally spearhead anxiety, nervousness and apprehensiveness. What’s more crucial for Pochettino’s men is how they deal with, and combat, such cynical vibes.

Wembley – Spurs recent house of horrors

England’s national stadium hasn’t been particularly hospitable for Spurs recently. Tottenham have won one of their last eight games at Wembley, one of which came against CSKA Moscow when both teams had already been eliminated from Champions League.

The Lilywhites were outscored 15-7 in those eight matches.

Spurs, before that consolation win, lost six on the bounce, including twice to Chelsea. They were upset 5-1 in the 2012 FA Cup semifinal and 2-0 in the 2015 League Cup final to their bitterly loathed west London rivals.

Tottenham have uncharacteristically conceded six goals in four games at Wembley this season, a stark contrast to their scintillating defensive record at White Hart Lane. Tottenham have allowed a paltry eight goals in 17 matches at the Lane in the Premier League this season.

Dele Alli has also endured some hardship in his early days at Wembley. The 21-year-old was shown red in the Europa League knockout match with Gent on Feb. 23. His dismissal hampered Spurs chances of advancing to the next stage of the competition.

What’s wrong with Wembley

What is it about Wembley that brings out the worst in Spurs?

Firstly, the library-like atmosphere at the national stadium certainly doesn’t help matters. Supporters find it difficult to ramp up the volume and make their usually boisterous impression felt.

And then there’s the pitch size. White Hart Lane,100 x 67 metres, is the second smallest pitch in the Premier League. Contrastingly, Wembley is 105 X 68 metres, or six percent bigger than the Lane.

You’d think the big pitch would favour Spurs speed, skill and youthful exuberance. It certainly does when Tottenham have the ball.

But playing at Wembley isn’t as effective for Pochettino’s high energy, fast-paced press. it’s more difficult to relentlessly press high and cover the vast expanses of the Wembley playing surface for the duration.

Spurs, however, are not the same team that last took to Wembley’s lush pitch. They’ve matured and grown in spades as a collective. Belief is high in the Tottenham camp. And so it should be.

With all the negative sentiment now out of the way, here’s why Spurs will face, and conquer, their Wembley demons.

How Spurs will turn their Wembley form around

Tottenham are running riot over all comers in the Premier League. They are indisputably England’s best team in the last two months. Winning seven top-flight games in a row will inject the confidence required in monumental games like Saturday’s offering.

Plus, Spurs are a young, energetic outfit, one that learns quickly from previous mistakes. Alli will be more motivated than ever, determined to show the world that he’s a player for the biggest stage.

Next: Tottenham's date with Chelsea looms large

Spurs are destined to put their recent Wembley memories behind them and will face the ghosts of Wembley past head on during Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal, taking their recent anguish out on a fragile Chelsea side.

In doing so, Spurs will exorcise their demons, advance to the FA Cup final and pave the path for a bright, sparkling Wembley future.