Welcome to the penultimate 667 Report of the season. And how good it is to write it after such a sparkling set of results.
How It Works
Ignoring the old cliche of taking it one game at a time, I look at the season in two lots of 6, 6 and 7 games. At the end of each batch I compare this season's results with the same games last season. The promoted teams are paired with last season's relegated teams. Now read on...
The Story So Far
A very poor start to the season saw us recover to 28 points at the halfway stage, the same as last season. In the fourth batch of six games we ended up three points behind, and with 15 needed from the next possible 18 points just to maintain that, it seemed inevitable that we would slip further behind.
Now Read On
But we did it! Our disastrous run continued as we started this batch of six games with the away loss to Sheffield United, whereas we'd won at Birmingham last season. But then we went and won the next five! Woo hoo!
Everton, Bolton, West Ham, Watford, Reading, home, away, it didn't matter as we went on our best sequence of results since December 2004. This batch ended with last Sunday's win over Reading, which means with 48 points this time, we are only 3 points behind last season's figure of 51 at this stage. Bearing in mind that we've also played 20 Cup ties, that's not too shabby.
At most other times, 5 wins from six would be an improvement, but that's what we got from the same six games last season, with the loss at Sheffield United being offset by the win at West Ham.
The Next Batch
It's the business end of the season, squeaky bum time, when big games become big big games. Pick your cliché. Anyways, with the last 21 points to play for, a decent return will see us back in the UEFA Cup.
If it's a Chelsea/Man U FA Cup final, 7th place will mean qualification. With that in mind, I think 60 points will be enough this term. So that's another 12 needed.
Can't see us getting much at The Bridge, especially as it falls between our UEFA Cup games with Sevilla. So we have to repeat last season's wins at Wigan and Charlton, or get more at Boro. The home match against UEFA rival Blackburn on May 10 could be a play-off game.
Looming over all these fixtures are The Goons on April 21. Some would take winning this 5-0 over UEFA qualification, but I'm not one. Yes, a win would be nice, but let's not get distracted from the main objective.
Four wins and two draws from these seven games last season gave us 14 points. The same again would do nicely.
Bolton - I think they'll cling on to 5th, despite tricky games at Arsenal and Chelsea. They could even do us a favour by beating Everton. Or losing to them.
Everton - I see them going on a good run, with occasional hold-ups at home to Man U and away at Chelsea.
Reading - I'm still expecting them to fade like a Wigan or Charlton, but they keep going. Liverpool (H), Bolton (A) and Blackburn (A) all lie between them and a place in Europe.
Blackburn - The late run dark horses, but they may be starting from too far back to make it. After Man U (A) they have to go to Newcastle and WHL, but could win all four in between.
Newcastle - an indifferent season despite some big money buys. I love writing that. They still have to play Arsenal (H), Portsmouth (A), Chelsea (H) and Blackburn (H) so I can't see them making up enough lost ground.
Portsmouth - Home games with Man U, Liverpool and Arsenal still to come, plus Euro-rivals Newcastle (H) and Everton (A). Can't see them getting into double figures for points from those.
Those who live by the crystal ball must learn to eat broken glass, but where's the fun if once in a while you can't point at someone in a Nelson Muntz-type style and shout "Ha ha!" ?
With that in mind, I think the UEFA Cup places will go to Bolton, Everton and Tottenham, possibly in that order.
The Rolling Form Guide
The Rolling Form Guide looks at the results of the previous six games as we go into each match. A maximum of 18 points are possible.
The RFG (see below) shows a spectacular upward trend as we have 5 wins from the last six games. Only Chelsea and Man U have better (6/6), while Arsenal have 10 of a possible 18 points - and Liverpool only 8.
As our loss is the oldest game in that sequence (Sheff Utd away), even if we lose to Chelsea we will still have 15 points from the last 18 next week as well. So that's some comfort as we have what must be the shortest break ever between two games, with the Seville game ending around 10pm Thursday and the Chelsea game starting at 12.45pm on Saturday.
We've hit form at just the right time; if we can keep going over the next six weeks we could have our best season in yonks.
COME ON YOU SPURS!