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Big Chance for Tottenham Tomorrow

Tomorrow’s Carling Cup final at Wembley represents the first chance at meaningful silverware this year in England. The Community Shield, whose winner does get a trophy, is generally considered to be nothing more than a glorified preseason exhibition match. I think I can safely say that tomorrow’s game will be anything but an exhibition, and it should be a great 90 minutes (perhaps more) of action.

Both Tottenham and Chelsea will be pushing to win this game, there’s no doubt about it. Chelsea are the defending champions of the Carling Cup and will obviously want to repeat. I’m not sure how much I buy into the opinion that they have an obligation to play their best team, but manager Avram Grant likely wants to put his own stamp on the team and win his first trophy in charge of the West London club.

This game appears bigger for Tottenham though, and for good reason. The goal of the other 16 teams in the Premiership is to break the stranglehold of the “Big Four”. The only way to do that is by winning these cup competitions and trying to sneak into the top four in the league like several clubs are seriously bidding to do this season.

Spurs have been a new and improved club with Juande Ramos, who replaced Martin Jol as manager in late October 2007, at the helm. The North London club is 14-8-5 in all competitions under Ramos and have undergone changes in their roster and in tactical preferences. Spurs are playing with more passion and confidence and seem hungrier to win than they had been during Jol’s last few months in charge.

Tomorrow’s game also represents a route into Europe for Spurs, who are unlikely to get back into the UEFA Cup through their league position this year. If they don’t beat Chelsea, they’ll have to win this year’s UEFA Cup to earn their way back into Europe’s second-tier club competition. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that winning one game is more likely than prevailing from 16 teams in a knockout tournanent.

I’ve got Spurs winning this game 3-2 in a victory not only for the club itself, but for every other Premiership team outside the “Big Four” as well. It’s important to the competitive growth and progression of the league that someone besides Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United win something. The fans who want to see the same four teams win year after year are in the minority. As a neutral, I obviously don’t count myself in that group and will be rooting for Spurs tomorrow.

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  1. Michael

    February 25, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    You make legitimate points and I see your argument, I honestly do.

    But because you’re an Arsenal fan, of course you’re going to be supportive of dynasties and the same teams always winning because that applies more to your club.

    Dynasties do make for high TV ratings, as we’ve seen with the Patriots and Yankees here in the States. Most people are watching them and hoping for them to lose however, not cheering for them to win again.

  2. Michael

    February 25, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Alex Hleb,

    The difference between US sports and the Premiership, and most of the top leagues in Europe for that matter, is that the same teams don’t always win or make the playoffs.

    I’ll go through this with you sport by sport, since I’m a fan and have a favorite team in each of the leagues you mentioned:

    MLB: Since 1997, seven different teams have won the World Series, and ten different teams have reached the World Series and lost.

    NHL: You mentioned the Canadiens as having won 24 Stanley Cups, but the last of those came in 1992-1993 and they haven’t had a sniff of it since then. Again, since the 1996-1997 season, seven different teams have won the Cup and ten different teams have reached the Cup finals and lost.

    NBA: You mentioned the past 20 years, so we’ll go with that, but the NBA is a bit different because of special, once-in-a-lifetime players like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Tim Duncan.

    I see your point regarding the NBA, but within those two other leagues, you’re incorrect. The thing is is that even when “dynasties” have been present where teams win two or three championships in a row, their opponent is usually different each year and every year brings different teams to the playoffs.

    There have been countless occurrences over the past 10 years in which the champion from one year in a given sport doesn’t even make the playoffs the next year because of things like free agency, trades, etc.

    All I can tell you is that for the most part, parity drives American sports and that’s why they’re more exciting. Races to make the playoffs go down to the last game every single year and playoff series are usually best-of-five or best-or seven, not one-offs or two-legged affairs like we see in England. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m just things are different here than they are in England and Europe.

    I’m neutral, as I’ve said, so I want to see competitive balance and different teams winning things and being successful. I don’t necessarily have a problem with a group of five or six teams being better than the rest more years than not, but when those teams are 10-20 points better, that makes for uncompelling viewing and it renders the last month or so of the season relatively meaningless.

  3. Alex Hleb

    February 25, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    you want dynasties because theyre easier to cheer for. thats why liverpool, chelsea, man u, and arsenal, chicago bulls, lakers, yankees,etc. are so popular around the world even in 3rd world countries. its easier to cheer for them. and they people love cheering for the underdogs and losers. thats why newcastle united, chicago cubs, boston red sox(before 2004), and chelsea(before 2005) were so popular as well. people love cheering for the underdogs, its why college sports are so popular, because theres so many schools, so many under dogs.
    so if we rid sport of the disbalance caused by the “top four”/dynasties, and inevitable losers/underdogs, and balance sport so that every year theres parity, we come find ourselves not wanting to watch anymore.
    look at the past world series ratings as theyve gone down since the yankees stopped winning. when they were back in 1998-2000, the ratings were at all time highs. its the allure of the dynasty vs the underdog that draws people in. this years superbowl was one of the top rated ever with the undefeated patriots dynasty vs the lowly underdog giants.

  4. Alex Hleb

    February 25, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    so what was the best thing that happened when blackburn won? nothing. its forgettable. thats how the epl would be if every team won every other team. so what now with everton in the top 4. who cares? the everton fans? so what they make it to the champions league, then they get drawn within the same group as barcelona and they dont make it through to the knockout rounds and theres one less english team in the champions league. forgettable again. but if everton went on to win 3 titles in 5 years, then it would be interesting.

  5. Alex Hleb

    February 25, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    dynasties are inevitable. look at the us sports. they share all their revenues and are communists, but in the mlb the ny yankees, boston red sox, emerged as have in the nhl with the montreal canadiens with 24 titles, and the detroit red wings, in spoiled lemon ball with the packers, cowboys, patriots, and in basketball with the celtics, lakers, bulls, knicks. within the past 20 years of the nba, who has won? detroit 3 times, lakers about 5 times, boston about 4 times, bulls 6 times, spurs 4 times. i think having the same teams win is inevitable. while people want parity(sp), why is it that the epl is the most popular sporting league in the world? why is formula 1 the most popular racing league with a guy named schumacher always winning, even though there are alternatives with parity(sp)? lets say it happened that every team in the next 20 or 30 years, won the title in their respective sport, but would it really be that interesting? i dont think so, because part of the draw is cheering for the under dog or cheering your team to keep winning to keep their prestige. its the way of life.

  6. Dave M

    February 25, 2008 at 11:36 am

    “The fans who want to see the same four teams win year after year are in the minority.”

    Not in a minority – they’re nonexistent.

    Anyone that pulls for Manchester United wishes for only disgrace for Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea. In fact, I would be thrilled to see a new “top four” emerge: Man United, Tottenham, Rovers, and Everton (in that order, mind).

    Everyone at my house was thrilled to see Chelsea go down yesterday.

  7. Alex Hleb

    February 24, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    i knew it, youre a spurs fan.

  8. zulkifly hairi osman

    February 23, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    spurs must win for the fans and the players themselves …if they win the carling cup,they will avoid the not important tournament that is the intertoto cup…may the ghost of 1967 haunt chelsea.

  9. Michael

    February 23, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Wow, great preview DennyK.

    For the sake of the game itself, I’m hoping Spurs score first so that Chelsea is drawn out and has to attack. That would make for an entertaining affair because both teams are quick and have very talented players up front.

  10. DennyK

    February 23, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Excellent stuff, I completely agree that all the neutrals should want a Spurs win.

    Additionally, if they do I imagine it will be an infinitely more interesting match than if Chelsea grind out a 1-0…

    There is a really long and detailed preview of the game over here:
    Worth a read, especially the matchups which will be interesting to watch out for.

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