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Began In '96

Drawing Level: Tottenham stumble out the gate

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By Joe Schackman

In an instant, Tottenham’s summer of good vibes was over. The club must now put its Derby loss behind it and focus on the long term.

In sports, things can change in an instant.

You never know when that change is coming, and you never know from where: it could be an injury, a trade or transfer or an off-field incident. Or, it could be a short trip across North London on the wings of £107 million that ends in a 1-0 loss.

Deep breath. Gulp. Deeper breath.

It’s these situations where sports fans must cling dearly to the virtue of patience. There are always more games to be played. There will be more success than disappointment. Even if that wasn’t very comforting for Spurs fans last Sunday at the Emirates.

Tottenham came off a promising summer, due in large part to the £107 million brought in by once-undersized left back and current Most Expensive Transfer in Football History Gareth Bale. The club transformed itself into what seems a distant cousin to the one that finished just behind Arsenal last May. And compared with the 2010 squad, it is unrecognizable. That is a good thing.

But that success placed a giant bullseye on White Hart Lane and the Tottenham Triumvirate of Daniel Levy, Franco Baldini and Andre Villas-Boas. Where Spurs spent their summer working toward a top-four finish, the rest of the league was occupied with taking them down a peg or two.

That culminated with last week’s 173rd North London Derby, one in which Tottenham seemed poised to win. Fans and journalists had already labeled Arsenal an utter disaster. The club found itself thwarted at every turn in the transfer window, and came away with nothing. It then frittered away any remaining goodwill with an opening home loss to Aston Villa. Arsenal were down, just in time for Tottenham’s ascension.

Then things changed. Ninety minutes and one goal later, and everything we thought we knew no longer applied.

Tottenham must now answer the awkward questions, while Arsenal spend the next couple weeks all smiles and laughs. The club’s sudden good fortune grew when news broke of negotiations with German midfielder Mesut Özil. The Gunners landed their man less than 24 hours later.

Deep breath.

It might not feel like I’m working my way to this conclusion, but I’m nevertheless confident that Tottenham are going to be okay. In fact, they’ll be more than okay. Working seven new players into the mix takes time. Last year’s top five goal scorers are no longer in the starting 11, and the reworked midfield will take time to jell.

And despite the loss, it wasn’t all bad. Nacer Chadli showed flashes of talent on the wing. Andros Townsend looked like he’d learned a thing or two from Bale, cutting in from the flank to let loose a few shots. Keeper Hugo Lloris was in fine form and Jan Vertonghen was a rock as always in front of him.

The Derby loss and the Özil transfer, on top of the official announcement about Bale’s departure, made for a salty Sunday. But there were always going to be speed bumps, and the first ones just happened to come at the Emirates.

There are still 35 matches yet to be played. Arsenal is coming our way next time, and by then all of Tottenham’s glitzy new signings will be ready. Things can change real fast in this game.

Deep breath.

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Joe Schackman is an editor and co-founder of Began in ‘96. He is attempting to turn himself into a European football fan.