Back to the business at hand for Spurs, who make the short trip across London for an encounter with in-form Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Palace struggled to adapt to Sam Allardyce’s relegation-prevention philosophy in the inchoate stages of his reign at the club. The dark, menacing clouds that blanketed Selhurst Park for so long are well and truly gone.
Disciplined and brimming with confidence, Palace are one of the in-form Premier League teams. They are fourth on the form table, winning four of their last six matches. In eight recent matches, Palace have lost only one, winning six during that span.
Beating the big boys
Palace certainly aren’t plagued by an inferiority complex, nor are they in awe of the Premier League perennial powers. Improbable wins against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have catapulted Palace into recent prominence.
Allardyce’s men first did Spurs a favour by upsetting Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. Though thoroughly dominated, Palace – thanks to Christian Benteke and Spurs potential target Wilfried Zaha – were clinical in front of goal.
They followed that unlikely, yet impressive, result by comprehensively out classing Arsenal 3-0 at Selhurst Park. It was Palace’s most complete 90 minutes of Allardyce’s tenure. Palace on Sunday completed the trifecta, defeating Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield. Benteke came back to haunt his former side, scoring both goals at his old stomping ground.
Now playing to their potential, the days of underachieving are long gone. Palace have found the structure, discipline and hard-to-beat mantra Allardyce teams are renowned for.
Palace home form
If there is a slight chink in their recently reinforced armour, it’s Palace’s home form. Palace own the third worst home record in the top flight, with five wins, nine losses and two draws. They’ve gained 17 from a possible 48 home points.
They’ve been better lately, however.
In their last six at Selhurst Park, Palace have three wins, two draws and a loss. They last tasted home defeat in a woefully poor showing against Sunderland on Feb. 4. The Black Cats feasted on an impotent Palace side.
Palace haven’t lost in four games since that embarrassing defeat, keeping clean sheets against Watford, Middlesbrough and Arsenal while erasing a 2-0 deficit to take a share of the spoils against Leicester.
Finally buying into the gaffer’s structured, well-organized defensive 4-2-3-1 system, Palace have eradicated their former propensity, under Aland Pardew, to concede goals in bundles, many of which came at the death.
The Christian Benteke factor
Everyone knows, when playing Palace, who poses the biggest threat going forward. Christian Benteke, a key element in Palace’s attack, is the main reason they’re surging up the table. Benteke has scored five goals in as many games, most notably bagging a brace at Anfield on Sunday.
The giant Belgian is most dangerous in the air from set pieces and dead-ball situations. Six of Benteke’s 14 goals this season have come from his noggin. Only West Ham’s Michail Antonio, with seven headed goals, has more than Palace’s powerful forward.
Former Spurs manager Tim Sherwood said on Football Today recently that players cower when faced with battling Benteke in aerial duels.
Strong, fierce, powerful and enormous, Benteke has all the necessary traits to wreak havoc on opposing defences.
Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen know a full-blooded physical encounter is forthcoming.
Spurs recent away form
Spurs recent winning streak is well documented. Tottenham have won a club record seven successive matches, outscoring teams 22-4 during the streak. Five of those seven wins, however, have come at White Hart Lane.
That’s not to say Spurs aren’t competent in acrimonious environments.
Spurs are the fifth best away team in the top flight in 2016-17, winning six, drawing six and losing three. In the last six away matches, Spurs have three wins, two draws and a loss on their travels. The sole defeat was a 2-0 loss at Anfield on Feb. 11.
That was Tottenham’s last loss.
Four of Tottenham’s last six matches are away from the Lane so it’s imperative to successfully weather Palace’s early – and initial – siege.
Once Spurs establish control, they’ll be able to dictate play and avoid becoming the latest big fish to flop against Palace.