By Chris Harris
Two-nil, and they messed it up. Tottenham fans will no doubt be reminded of the night their side squandered a healthy lead to Arsenal in the Carling Cup Semi-Final when the North London rivals reconvene at White Hart Lane on Saturday. And the language will probably be rather more colourful.
But come mid-afternoon, Spurs supporters might be enjoying the last laugh. Martin Jol's team have not lived up to the standards they set in the Premiership last season - when they pushed Arsenal all the way in the race for fourth place - but they have challenged for a trio of cup competitions and look far more competitive this term.
The emergence of Dimitar Berbatov as one of the top-flight's most impressive strikers has given Spurs a focal point their attack has lacked in recent years. And with England winger Aaron Lennon improving all the time, amid a core of hungry, young players, the future looks bright at White Hart Lane.
We asked James Callow of the Tottenham Journal for a Spurs perspective ahead of the North London derby. Read on to find out why Jol is so popular, why a home win would mean so much on Saturday, the areas Spurs must address this summer and the contenders to fill the void at left-back.
THE STORY SO FAR
"There has been a lot of progress made but the main concern for the fans is that, while Spurs are a better team and are now competing on all fronts, they are still not capable of beating the top teams. Take Bolton. On their day they are capable of beating anyone at home. Everton have had a few scalps as well and so have a few teams lower down, but Spurs haven't really done that. Why? It's difficult to say. On the other hand it has taken good teams to beat Spurs in the cup competitions - Arsenal, Chelsea and Seville. Spurs were really quite good in Europe this season so it's not a disappointment when you consider how they have improved. But it is slightly unclear how they will get better. That's why Saturday is a big game, a win against Arsenal would appease a lot of people especially after the Carling Cup Semi-Final defeat. As for Martin Jol, he has the backing of the fans. He's very popular and has a lot of charisma. The fans feel that Jol is in touch with them and that means a lot. However, Jol does need to take Spurs to a Cup Final or challenge for a top-four place next season."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"Berbatov has been a definite hit. Pascal Chimbonda has perhaps been more consistent, he didn't need the settling-in period that Berbatov needed and is very good going forward, but Berbatov is one of the best strikers in the Premiership, if not the best. He's also a very eloquent guy. He sounded quite human when he said you don't always know when you're in form but you take the good times and play as well as you can when you are in form. Berbatov is a confidence player and when he gets used to the Premiership he will get more consistent. Ledley King is also consistent but he can't really be considered as Spurs' player of the season because he's been injured so often."
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
"Clearly there's a massive shortage on the left wing. Steed Malbranque may be a good player but there's not much debate that the team set-up does not suit him. He is right-footed and so is Spurs' first-choice left-back, Young-Pyo Lee. That makes Spurs rather predictable. They could also benefit from a bit more power inside. There's no question that Berbatov is a fine player but teams like Arsenal and Chelsea worked out a way to stop Lennon and Berbatov and Spurs don't really have another weapon. Spurs can be one-dimensional at times."
"Robbie Keane is unlikely to play so Jermain Defoe should come in, that's an obvious change. King is back and will play but there is a problem at left-back with Lee out for the season and Benoit Assou-Ekotto unfit. Ricardo Rocha is an option there because he probably won't be needed in the centre with King back. Stalteri is back as well so he could play on the right with Chimbonda on the left. In midfield Jol's preference is to go with Jenas, Lennon and Zokora with either Malbranque or Tainio making up the four. Malbranque is the best option when he's on form and is more attack-minded, but Tainio might get the nod on Saturday."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"Tottenham made a good account of themselves for much of the Semi-Final but that's not enough when you can lose the game in a few minutes. It would mean a lot for Spurs fans to win this Saturday. If they look back on the season having beaten Chelsea and Arsenal, to some degree it would make up for not winning a trophy."
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