Nobody ever truly considered Spurs to be genuine title contenders because of what was bubbling below the surface. Yesterday’s defeat to Burnley saw the weaknesses finally crack.
As Mauricio Pochettino launched a tirade at Mike Dean at Turf Moor after the game, but what he said became largely irrelevant. Whatever words were used could have been supplemented with his frustrations, and by association, the frustrations of countless Spurs fans all over the globe.
At the end of the day, individual games have incidents. They didn’t benefit from it yesterday and they might see the lucky side of human error next week.
But, it doesn’t come down to that. It comes down to the fact that Pochettino’s superb management skills and good temperament have kept Spurs relevant until this point.
This was him knowing that.
Son Heung-Min has played about 200 games of football this year, avoided military service, played in countless international tournaments over the last couple of years and really hasn’t had a break in 18 months.
When Harry Kane went down, Son was the one they asked to produce. He did, time and time again. That well was beginning to dry.
So, they brought back Harry Kane far earlier than they should have. But when your alternative is Fernando Llorente, you can almost understand it.
None of these issues matter on the base of things, though. You have to dig a bit deeper. Why are Spurs, a title contender in waiting, relying on rushing back the best pure number nine in the world?
Why are Spurs, a title contender in waiting, still relying on someone as indifferent to football as Llorente to fill that void?
Why are Spurs, a title contender in waiting, only seeing their issues rising to the fore now? The reason is simply because their manager has done everything in his power to maintain a stable base of identity on the pitch and motivation for his players off it.
If you ask the question – why were Spurs a title contender in waiting at all – then the answer simply lies in the lap of the Argentine.
Given absolutely no investment in January to try and close the gap that was left by a lack of ambition and good preparation, Poch’s hands were tied.
But more credit is due to his character for not even batting an eyelid. He knew the gig he took and he’s happy to see it out until the bitter end.
Spurs were heavily hampered by World Cup participation. They were heavily hampered by a stadium deal that both takes the gloss off the supposed hallowed turf of Wembley and future motivation to reach domestic cup finals. This also affected their home-field advantage.
Nothing has been in place for Spurs to succeed, so the fact they’ve lasted this long without a rant from Pochettino is incredible and a real measure of the man himself.
Mike Dean isn’t the target; he was simply a vehicle for Poch to unleash months of frustration with his own board and happened to be at the centre of a minor incorrect call on the day.
Spurs might well get a penalty next week that they don’t deserve. But none of that is relevant – it just masks the grim reality that is Tottenham Hotspur at board level right now.
Human error doesn’t discriminate, but failing to prepare certainly leaves you at a loose end.
The title challenge that had no right to be one has finally come to an end and it’s nobody in a dressing room’s fault.