Spurs must learn from past failings
Pochettino's men have to learn to take their chances if they are to taste title glory
WEST HAM 1
(Michail Antonio 7)
It could have been the perfect 44th birthday present for Mauricio Pochettino.
The English Premier League's summit was within reach.
Leicester City had dropped two points the night before, Arsenal capitulated to Swansea, while Manchester City were swept aside by Liverpool.
And then, much like the bubbles that continue to swirl around Upton Park, Tottenham blew it.
Put simply, when the pressure is on, Spurs continue to prove that they cannot handle the heat.
When first place beckons, north London's Lilywhites are perennially second best.
Events of yesterday morning (Singapore time) suggest that those old habits may continue to die hard as they stand on the cusp of a potential watershed moment.
Tottenham have yet to experience the dizzy heights of leading the EPL table beyond the formative months of the season.
You have to go back as far as 1964 in the annals of history to find the last time such giddiness was allowed to engulf White Hart Lane.
At the first sign of trouble, the transition from back-seat to centre-stage appears to have engulfed Pochettino's charges at a time when they should have signalled their intent.
As Leicester hoovered up both top spot and plaudits, Tottenham had worked diligently towards an inevitable ascent.
That quiet forward-planning in anticipation of the opportune moment to usurp the Foxes as this season's unlikely champions looked set to pay dividends.
Yet when it arrived, against West Ham, they were a far cry from the energetic side that had become as great a surprise package in this season's battle for the top as Claudio Ranieri's league leaders remain.
Even the side which administered a 4-0 thrashing to Slaven Bilic's side earlier in the season was unrecognisable against the incarnation which was erratic and paralysed by nerves at Upton Park.
Not since they succumbed to food poisoning in their fruitless pursuit of Champions League qualification exactly a decade ago have Spurs endured a more chastening setback to their season in London's East End.
The sense of occasion appeared to have got the better of them even before Michail Antonio's early strike secured victory for the Hammers.
The 17 points accrued from losing positions were but a distant memory.
Their Midas touch had eluded them, with no shots on target in the first half.
Harry Kane, too, appeared to have lost his mystique when their solitary shot on target belatedly arrived.
It was symptomatic of their shortcomings that the pattern was repeated across virtually every on-field department.
Even the often impenetrable Hugo Lloris proved off-key in something as menial as his goal-kicking.
PAYING THE PRICE
They paid the price for allowing themselves to be shifted from frontrunners to the back foot - harassed, hounded and frustrated for the opening 45 minutes by their hosts in a nightmarish prelude to tomorrow's do-or-die showdown with Arsenal.
The favourites tag will invariably weigh heavier on the shoulders of this youthful side more than any of their predecessors.
Events across London have done little to dampen that sense that Arsene Wenger's faltering Gunners head into this clash as the underdogs.
Such uncharted territory will be a shock to the system of a squad whose average age is the lowest in the EPL.
Lessons must be learnt if history is to belong to them, rather than Leicester.
It’s another derby on Saturday and we’re looking forward to it. We’ve been good at home in recent times, so we’ve just got to keep playing the way we have. We’re confident. We feel we can beat anyone in the league. We’ve just got to go out and put in a better performance than tonight.
— Tottenham striker Harry Kane