Despite Semi-Final Defeat, Tottenham Can Hold their Heads High

After succumbing to their seventh consecutive FA Cup semi-final defeat in a row on Saturday, it may seem as though Tottenham will never overcome that one last hurdle. Since their last semi-final defeats to Portsmouth in 2010 and Chelsea in 2012, Spurs have been through a revolution as a club and as a team.

Unlike in 2010 and 2012, Saturday’s result had nothing to do with Tottenham’s now famed “soft underbelly.” Following the game, Mauricio Pochettino admitted that the scoreline did not fairly reflect the balance of play: “If you see the game without emotion, you will see that Tottenham played much better, but they were clinical.”

He only corroborates the statistics which show Tottenham hogging 63% of the possession. Even more starkly, Chelsea scored four goals from five shots on target; a strike rate which Spurs can only hope to replicate. For periods of the game, Pochettino’s men had their opponents at the throat but used a butter knife. The lack of clinical finishing cost them dear in a match in which they put the opposition defence under pressure several times.

Split seconds

In an occasion of such grandeur, split-second moments ended up costing Spurs another trip back to their supposedly cursed Wembley. When Willian opened the scoring in the fourth minute, many expected Hugo Lloris to tip it around the post. But when the Frenchman gambled to go to one side of the goal, the Brazilian picked out the far corner and caught the ‘keeper wrong-footed.

When the team sheets were announced, there was a prolonged period of confusion as to where Ben Davies was, and who would occupy the defensive spot on the left-back.

Immediately after kick-off, it was clear that the in-form Son Heung-Min was ordered to do so in a wing-back role. Was he supposed to expose Victor Moses, Chelsea’s right-wing-back, or was Pochettino was merely trying to accommodate the South Korean? In any case, it backfired when Son lunged in on Moses, who took the invitation and hurdled Son’s legs to go down and win the penalty. Regardless of whether there was contact between the two, it was an incredibly foolish decision by Son to dive in as he did.

When highlights of the third goal are reeled back, it is clear that no one was ordered to go out to mark Eden Hazard on the edge of the box. It was possibly Son’s job to mark the mercurial Belgian, but when he made way for Kyle Walker, he was clearly unaware of the set piece instructions with which Pochettino surely briefed his team before the game. As for the fourth and final blow, there was simply no stopping Nemanja Matic’s once-in-a-lifetime strike.


Aside from their trips to Wembley, Tottenham have transformed in three seasons under Pochettino. In his first season, they reached the League Cup final; last season, they pushed champions Leicester all the way, only to crumble in the final few weeks; this season, they seem flawless at times and still have a chance to win their first league title since 1961.

Not long ago, avoiding a negative goal difference was seen as an achievement at White Hart Lane. Today, Spurs have a +46 goal difference. In the last five years, the club’s net spend has been just £1m; compare that to their rivals at the top of the table. Perhaps their most impressive achievement this season is that they have won six league games by four or more goals.

In the lead-up to Saturday’s semi-final, Pochettino said at his press conference:

“If you analyse where we came from, it’s a fantastic time for Tottenham. Tottenham is not building in an artificial way. It is not about putting in money, money, money and build a fantastic team. Tottenham is genuine, a very natural process, and it is so exciting because it is unique in the world.”


Unlike Chelsea and Manchester City, Spurs have been through the test of time to produce an imperious squad as they have. Money isn’t being poured into the club to buy trophies. Instead, they need to be earned.

Although Pochettino is in his third season, it must be remembered that Sir Alex Ferguson did not win a title at Manchester United until his fifth season. After that, silverware flooded into the club. Pochettino has come agonisingly close to the League Cup, the Premier League and now the FA Cup. It seems only a matter of time before Tottenham discover that killer instinct to claim their first piece of silverware since 2008.

Like their new stadium, Spurs are rising in stature day by day and week by week. With every heartbreak at the last hurdle, this magically young Tottenham team learn more and more. Pochettino, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and the rest of this Spurs side are here to stay, and the club should not back down any time soon.

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