From Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – Spurs needed two wins this week to take the top-four battle into the final week of the season.
If Arsenal had won on enemy territory on Thursday night, then Mikel Arteta’s Gunners would have clinched the final Champions League spot. But Tottenham stood tall and crushed their greatest foes 3-0 on a memorable night in north London.
Next up was a Burnley side scrapping for their Premier League lives, and as many predicted, this was not a straightforward task.
The last time Tottenham went into a home game with the chance to get an important one over Arsenal was against Brighton last month, similarly an early kick-off. A combination of nerves and a lack of intensity meant Graham Potter’s men emerged as deserved winners that day.
That same uncertainty was felt going into Sunday’s encounter with the Clarets, amplified by Antonio Conte’s admission that a stomach virus was in the middle of ripping its way through the squad (which forced Dejan Kulusevski into a mere 15-minute cameo).
Spurs started the game brightly and it looked as though they would sooner or later be rewarded for their endeavour, but Burnley reacted well to these early blows and did incredibly well to take the sting out of the game.
The hosts were awarded a controversial penalty when Ashley Barnes was judged to have illegally handled the ball at the back end of a 53-minute first-half and Harry Kane made no mistake from the spot.
Though that should have been a nerve-settler, Tottenham clearly lacked composure just after the break, making a series of strange errors as Burnley ramped up the pressure.
Ultimately, Spurs weathered this period and while they weren’t exactly free-flowing with their attacks, they were the better team and didn’t wilt under the pressure.
It’s hardly a massive achievement to keep the side that’s 17th in the Premier League table at arm’s length, but there’s a long history of top-four challengers losing their cool down the stretch. Tottenham got the job done this week and that can’t be understated.
Conte appears to have put a broken club back together again, uniting a dressing room that at times looked like they hated each other and a fanbase that has been fractured in the post-Mauricio Pochettino era. We won’t truly know until season’s end whether this is a bond that will last, but at this stage the signs look promising even if Tottenham miss out on Champions League football.
They are now two points clear of Arsenal, who must win at a boisterous St James’ Park on Monday to wrestle fourth-place back from Spurs. Not for the first time, these rivals’ seasons and futures are going down to the wire.
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