Stoppage Time: A case of history repeating for Tottenham?
By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor
(Sports Network) - Tottenham's 1-0 home defeat against Fulham on Sunday could be described in a number of ways.
Spurs midfielder Scott Parker said his side "just looked a bit flat."
Lackluster, dull, tired and lifeless are also words that spring to mind.
But maybe the most troubling description of yesterday's disappointing outing was that it looked, well, familiar.
Tottenham fans have become too accustomed to the club getting off to a promising start, only to see their high hopes come crashing back to Earth following an ill-timed slump in form.
Last season Spurs looked to be a near lock to reach the Champions League as the club sat five points off the top of the Premiership in February.
However, Tottenham proceeded to take only two points from a five-game spell in the month of March, while losses to Norwich City and QPR in April dropped the club out of the top three.
Most years fourth place would have been good enough, but Tottenham's slump put the team in a position to be nudged out of Europe's top club competition by Chelsea, which finished sixth in the league last year but qualified ahead of Tottenham after winning the Champions League.
"We can't hide from what has happened in the past but must make sure we avoid it again," Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas told The Sun. "It's been a difficult month. But if we can find our form again, our confidence, our wins, then we can stop that cycle. We just have to carry on fighting and work hard."
Unfortunately for Spurs, it will take more than simply hard work to reverse history.
The month started with big wins over Arsenal and Inter Milan in the Europa League, but since that time, losses at Liverpool and Inter followed before the most disappointing result of the bunch on Sunday against Fulham.
Last season the rigors of a 38-game Premiership grind seemed to wear the club down, and in recent games, those signs have once again resurfaced.
Tottenham is a side that has plenty of quality in its starting 11, yet unlike some of its bigger-spending neighbors at the top of the league, the club doesn't have the kind of depth that lends itself to competing on multiple fronts at this point in the season.
When a team like Manchester United or Chelsea loses a key player to injury, generally there is someone who is ready to step in without too much of a drop off.
But at Tottenham, losing someone like Aaron Lennon for a few weeks tends to have a bigger effect, as we are seeing now.
Midfielder Gareth Bale has been nothing short of outstanding this season, but he can only carry the club so far before someone else - like one of the team's out-of-form strikers - needs to offer some support.
The trio of Jermain Defoe, Clint Dempsey and Emmanuel Adebayor has combined for 17 goals in the league this season. However, over the past nine games they have managed to net the meager total of one goal.
Not only is the form of the team's strikers working against them, but Spurs will face a difficult schedule in the upcoming weeks that includes a trip to Swansea City before games with Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City, who each reside in the top six.
Tottenham currently sits four points clear of rivals Arsenal for fourth place, but the Gunners have a game in hand and have a propensity for managing to sneak into the top four year after year, which doesn't bode well for the team from White Hart Lane.
Failing to remain in the top four this season would represent another case of heartbreak for Tottenham fans, which is nothing new at this point.
But in addition to the financial implications of missing out on the Champions League, the club is also likely to lose its most prized asset, Bale.
Last season it was playmaking midfielder Luka Modric that departed London for the promise of Champions League glory at Real Madrid.
And if history does indeed repeat itself this year, it is quite possible that Bale could follow his former teammate to Spain, with Madrid being mentioned among a host of potential suitors throughout Europe.
The 23-year-old Welshman is a dynamic player who the club would love to build around. But it will be tough to keep Bale when all you can promise him is another year in the Europa League.
Over the course of the next two months the team will take part in some big games against strong opposition.
Yet sometimes history can be the biggest hurdle to overcome.